I don’t know any agencies that own their own resorts, planes or ships. With that said, we must work with suppliers to provide travel advice to our clients. Yes, it’s a relationship. And like any relationship it is a two way street. Like a marriage, there is give and take. When one takes more from the relationship–often it ends in divorce. And so it is with travel suppliers. This week I am looking at what a good preferred supplier needs to bring to the table for agents. And in fairness, next week I will turn the tables and offer what we need to bring to the suppliers. Hopefully there will be no divorces in the process!
- Be responsive. Automation and technology has taken over our lives. As a good agent, I know all the tools at my disposal; but sometimes they are not enough. When you get an email or a phone call from me, please respond. You can be sure I have run into a problem and I need your help. My time is valuable as well. I am not in it to waste yours!
- Keep me up to speed. As a business owner, I have a lot of balls in the air to juggle. Keeping up with the changes can be challenging at times. When you make a major change (pricing, product, policy), please be sure to let me know so I can pass the information onto our mutual clients and anyone working for my company. Want to earn bonus points? Explain why the decision was made–it makes us feel included!
- Cut me some slack occasionally. S will hit the fan at some time! That is one guarantee of being in business. Mistakes will be made. A true partner will do what they can to mitigate a mistake. If I leave off a zero or two and sell a cruise for $100 by accident, I certainly don’t expect my supplier to eat that. But if you can waive a policy to give me a few more days on a payment, that can be huge in my book.
- Don’t dismiss us. We know you can (and do) sell directly to our clients. But remember, we still sell the majority of your product. It is hard enough to convince clients of our value, we don’t need you adding fuel to the fire. I have been told by airlines that they flat out do not like to work with travel agents. I was asked by a cruise agent as my last cruise was wrapping up to book my next one. Fair enough. I declined and said I’d be using my agent. And they said, “why use an agent when you can get a better price and more perks here?” Just stop it. There is plenty of business to go around.
- Don’t steal my clients. The corollary to point 4 is “don’t steal our clients.” We know that the best time to re-book a client is when they are having a fantastic time on their vacation. You are at an advantage because you are there! And if they want to re-book–please re-book them. But, please allow us the credit. After all, if it weren’t for us, that client would have likely been someplace else.
- Train your people. Ever go into the Apple store for a “Genius Bar” appointment only to discover that the “genius” is the pimply teen from your neighborhood just filling time making $7.75 an hour over summer? Yeah, don’t do that! One of the most frustrating aspects of this job is calling your company to address an issue and finding an employee that is unaware (or unwilling) to discuss it. Often we know how to resolve the issue, but simply are not granted access via an online portal. Either train them to do it; or give us the ability to do it ourselves–remember, we have likely been working this industry longer than your inside sales people.
- Keep it simple. IT geeks make things complex to insure job security. You will NEVER convince me otherwise. Unfortunately, we are an aging industry and complexity is not our friend. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is a great principle. Look at your sites and apps and portals and make sure that they are as user friendly as they can be. Don’t make us dig through pages and pages to make a payment. A great agent portal front page would have four options….”make a payment,” “make a booking,” “need information,” and “oh crap I need help.” Simple!
Do any of you have some more suggestions? Please leave a comment. And check back next Monday for what WE need to bring to the table!