Published on March 1, 2014
TRAVEL AGENT THE HOW-TO MAGAZINE FOR ICs, OSRs & HOME-BASED TRAVEL AGENTS MARCH 2014 Tips, Tools & Techniques The ART of Selling Travel from HOME AN SMP TRAINING PUBLICATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS – IC MARCH 2014 4 EDITORIAL: Down Home Customer Service 5 ARE YOU ON THE LIST? 6 HOME-BASED CUSTOMER SERVICE 2014 9 THE SEARCH FOR SERVICE 10 GEN Y SERVICE INSIGHTS 13 POINTS OF CONTACT 14 FOUR CUSTOMER TYPES 15 EXPRESSIONS & ACTIONS 16 SELLING THE INVISIBLE 18 SOCIAL SERVICE 20 SERVICE AMBASSADORS 21 BE THE ONE 22 BUILDING RAPPORT 23 MICRO GIGS 24 TRAVEL FREE 25 THE PUZZLED WORLD 26 TRAVEL 2 JAPAN – Steve Gillick’s e-Magazine 27 NEW TOOLS 28 KEEPING YOU SHARP 29 MARKETING TIP 30 MARKETING TIP 2 32 HOST AGENCY LISTINGS AND SOURCES Advertising in IC Travel Agent reaches the serious business-minded travel agent. Promote your products and services via video, audio or generic text and images. IC Travel Agent is marketed direct to over 4,000 travel agents plus thousands more via social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, trade contacts, partners and educational institutions. Your ad includes a BONUS How-to-Sell article. Full page rates range from $300 to $425 based on number of insertions. If it’s not yet 5pm where you live, you still have time to make one more call, close one more sale or e-mail one more promotion! Selling travel from home does not have to be a puzzle when you read IC! Find the host agency that best suits your needs. Share your money making ideas in IC and help your IC colleagues. CONTACT Steve Crowhurst firstname.lastname@example.org 250-738-0064 www.ic-travelagent.com Publisher: SMP Training Co. www.smptraining.com Contributors Steve Crowhurst IC TRAVEL AGENT is owned and published by Steve Crowhurst, SMP Training Co. All Rights Reserved. Protected by International Copyright Law. IC TRAVEL AGENT can be shared, forwarded, cut and pasted but not sold, resold or in any way monetized. Using any images or content from IC TRAVEL AGENT must be sourced as follows: “Copyright SMP Training Co. www.smptraining.com” SMP Training Co. 568 Country Club Drive, Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada, V9K-1G1 Note: Steve Crowhurst is not responsible for outcomes based on how you interpret or use the ideas in IC TRAVEL AGENT. T: 250-738-0064.
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Steve Crowhurst, CTC, Publisher Down Home Customer Service Just like your Mama’s cookin’! I’ve never forgotten my Alberta roots. That’s where I landed when I immigrated to Canada back in 1970. Coming from England and an area where service was something people remembered prior to World War 2, service in Alberta was refreshing. I remember on a return visit to the UK, when I was looking for a pair of shoes, there was a nice pair sitting on a rack outside a high street shoe store. I walked in and said to the clerk, “I’d like to see those shoes on the rack outside the store…” and the response was, “Well why didn’t yer bring ‘em in then!” I’ve had a few service challenges along the way and it often seems that the God of Service has chosen me to suffer in order to perfect something. So now I don’t shy away or get upset at poor service, I learn from it. Sometimes you end up laughing as the situation is just so bad, but then it’s easy to imagine how some situations would actually send someone else over the top. They leave and return with a gun. In Alberta it was a different story. You were greeted. It was friendly. You got thanked. You felt like a customer and eventually a friend. The level of down home, home based service you can deliver is staring you right in the face because you can decide on the service level without HQ red tape input. Enjoy this issue of IC TA, increase your service levels & your commissions. Don’t forget to check out the new titles at The Travel Agent’s Store. Here’s to your continued success! Best regards. Steve Crowhurst, CTC firstname.lastname@example.org www.ic-travelagent.com Click me to Opt-In to the NEW mailing list for SMP.
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Servicing a travel client in 2014 and beyond is going to push you closer and closer to all things social and mobile. Within that online and digital push lies the heart of what customer service really is all about and that, from the travel agent’s point of view, regardless of being homebased or bricks & mortar bound, is to think ahead for your clients. True customer service, given our access to current technology, is not to wait and service but to be proactive. You have to proactively promote yourself and your service, too. Here’s how it will work for you. Being On Their Team Most people, your clients, you, me, your friends and relatives we all have our “team” of people and companies we do business with and call on when we need help, information, a diagnosis, something fixed and more. niche market and has managed to secure a specific reputation for a service related offer only they seem to have. A professional travel agent is supposed to be on everyone’s team along with the lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, financial planner etc. If not then there is some serious selling to be done and what has to be told and sold is, in your case, your skills and talents, knowledge, travel provenance and your level of customer service. That’s the clincher going forward. So the question is put to you for 2014. What is it about your customer service that makes it different, best and set to attract more clients this year and beyond? Customer service as mentioned is not reactive. It cannot be a knee jerk response, it has to be proactive and that means you have thought about what your client needs and wants and moved ahead to discover and disclose before they go online. Every Agent Offers Customer Service Get Between Your Client and Their News In my workshops I ask the question about who has the BEST customer service. Every hand in the audience shoots up. Then I ask, what is it about their customer service that makes it unique. As you might expect, not much. Very little difference if any unless the agent is focused on a Every one of your clients, or most of them, will do their own research online before contacting you. That’s the way of the world today. In 2014 however you can sharpen your output by keeping your services top of mind – your client’s mind. To do this, you must strive to be first with the information before they go online.
1. News, Updates and Information Can you promise and fulfill on keeping your clients updated on the type of travel they prefer? This refers to you being your client’s news anchor when it comes to world travel. As I like to say, Whoever Owns The News WINS! That’s your mantra for 2014. Be first with the travel news that speaks to your client’s interests. 2. This Ain’t Spam One man’s interest is another man’s spam. But, if you send the right information to the right client, you’ll not be spamming them. You’ll be delivering customer service at the high end. The key is knowing what your clients want to know about. 3. The Latest Brochures Are In Here’s a lesson learned from automotive dealers. When the new car models are “here” everyone knows about it. There’s a lot of hype going on. When a new condo development is going up, same thing, there’s a lot of hype going on and everyone knows about it. When a new cruise ship is built and being fitted out… nothing. When a new resort creates a top of the line golf course… nothing. The only people to hear of these travel related topics would be travel agents. So what can you do? Try this: Follow the lead of the auto dealers and real estate agents and promote your new products like so: The latest, full colour, dream catalogues for 2014 are here now! Pick yours up in person or order here… The customer service action is this: you know your client’s preferences so you package the right brochures, and without being asked, you mail them to your clients. Include a hand written note, on deckle edged paper or card. That’s class and that is top notch service. 4. The “Where to Next?” Call This phone call can be preceded by an email, or the email can be used in place of the phone call. The reason you would use email instead of a phone call is this – your client may not be in a position to chat with you at the moment you call PLUS people, most people, are very protective of their time and being interrupted is not on their agenda. So email it is - followed by an arranged time to call. Your email will be timely and state something like this: “Hi Anne and Doug… part of my service is to review my client’s travel plans for the coming year and to that end I’m wondering if you have given any thought to where you might be travelling this year and when? Planning ahead allows me to secure special rates, negotiate upgrades and so on. So let me know whenever it suits you and if you need any help or want to discuss current trends, destinations and offers just say the word.” Most of your local competition would consider this email an invasion of privacy. It is in fact how a professional travel agent should be servicing their client base each and every year. A similar email would ask about the client’s Christmas vacation or trip to visit their relatives. These are precious events and as you know, there are only a few flights, trains and coach tours available for the holiday dates. 5. The In-Home Consultation Being home-based you have the option of visiting your client’s home to discuss their travel needs. If you do not offer this service at this time, now is the time to start. Retain this service for clients who you know well and who live in a safe area of your city. 6. Online Face to Face Your service should include Skype. It’s just a must have. The business version of Skype will cost you a few dollars a month and for that money you can have up to ten video feeds or ten clients on the same live conference call. The customer service component here is that you can suggest your clients call their friends and invite them to join in on the Skype session. www.skype.com 7. Flog The Blog If you do not yet have a blog, think about it. It’s a great way to talk about your service.
The Search for Service Wouldn’t it be great if you could just dial up service when you needed it? A quick search on a speed dial, tuning into an online service station, a service app to click to when you needed it. WOW. If only? And wouldn’t you believe it, there are service apps just waiting for that unhappy customer. They can download it, activate it and get even more flummoxed when the App doesn’t deliver! Here’s the key to the customer’s search for service: Now that’s a key that will turn a few locks and then some. Can you do what it says? Can you keep everything service related VERY VERY simple and direct? Meaning, make it easy for your clients to find you, talk to you, complain to you and have a go at you if that’s what would ease the service tension or challenge for your client. Phone, Feet & Email Despite life going self-service and mobile, when a customer is steamed you do not want them traipsing around the internet and socializing their complaint because they now have a bigger complaint which is – they can’t connect to you to complain!!! Keep it simple. Keep it very very simple. Make it easy for them to phone you, walk into your store, and or email you. Do not send your clients to an FAQ page, a community page, a Q&A page, a recording, or an App. Go With a Dazzle Line Delivering DAZZLING service means to offer your clients the quickest route to the answer and that would be you. So, if you can, open a telephone line with a mobile number that is your DAZZLING Service line. When a client calls that number they reach you no matter what. Same for email – it’s direct to a device that’s always on your person AND always answered. Live Chat Options Check online for Live Chat options and you’ll find many of them are able to handle phone, email and mobile all from one dashboard and the “live chat” features are tied to your website. What this means is this: when someone clicks on your website and in this case looking for your customer service department, their arrival on your site will flag and up will pop on their screen a Live Chat box. Their options would be to call or text chat – and the customer service rep’ which would be you, will be ready and waiting to service the call. Pricing ranges based on how much of a program you want to offer. Bank on $25 + / - per month. Live Chat Means Sell Some More The live chat feature means you will be in direct touch with your client. After you have handled their service issue and not all service issues are a complaint. Sometimes the client wants to upgrade and has a question they need an answer to right now. And that’s their only dilemma – they need an answer right away so they can decide and book. And you’re there to help. How DAZZLING is that? You’ve Got The Key… so now you can let your clients give it a turn when they need it. Use your social media connections to let everyone know about your DAZZLING service AND your new chat feature and for sure, more sales will unlock for you this year.
GEN Y Service Insights Guest Article by Mike Foster My son, Alex, is 19 years of age and one of the travel industry’s newest agents. I was curious to hear his millennial perspective of what good customer service is. Perhaps not surprisingly, his answers seemed somewhat “old.” In no particular order, he listed off a number of characteristics of what good customer service entails: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Provide a quick response Smile and be polite, happy and friendly Be helpful, and help to solve problems along the way when clients need it Provide good helpful information Be knowledgeable Be a good listener Go the extra mile; go above and beyond Be honest What surprised me is that I had been led to believe that the millennial generation was different - that they perceived things differently. Well, that was both right and wrong. The reality, I discovered, is that good customer service is timeless - we all recognize it. It seems that how it is delivered and accessed is what has changed. Serving the baby boomer generation Serving the baby boomer defined how travel businesses operated for decades - how we marketed and how we served the consumer. Customer service was based on hospitality and comfort. Typically, good customer service focused on politeness, friendliness and even status. The client would almost feel unfaithful and worry about being seen if entering a competing travel agency. Adapting to serve Generation Y We are now experiencing what is predicted as the next big consumer group – a larger group and with a bigger impact than the baby boomers – the Generation Y customer. These buyers – born between 1980 and 2000 – will also be bringing with them new expectations as to what good customer service is. This is a generation that feels and thinks differently about how they wish to be served and treated. Additionally, if they don’t find it, they are less likely to have patience with the service provider. They have options, and with a smaller world marketplace, they know where and how to find what and who they need. These new consumers have lived their entire lives with the Internet, hand-held devices, and a marketplace that extends beyond their neighbourhood, town, province, and even their country. These new travel consumers will shop in both old and new ways, but they buy in ways that we don’t always consider. You may think that you will not have to worry about serving the Gen Y traveller as there are plenty of baby boomers still looking to buy in the old fashioned way. However, don’t be surprised to learn that the Gen Y buyer will influence the way their parents and grandparents buy. My kids have been buying more and more online, and when they show off the bargains they find or that hard-to-find item, they are influencing how my wife and I shop. Competing in a new world How does one compete in this new world? While at the core, customer service can still be seen as efficiency, politeness, accessibility, etc.,
it is how customer service is delivered that has largely changed. This is good news! While in the “old days” we focussed on locations (and at great expense) we can now focus on being accessible, which is far less expensive and easier to do. In fact, today’s travel agent is better able to deliver the kind of service that a Gen Y (as well as their parents and grandparents) is looking for There is no agent more motivated than an independent contractor. With the tools, technology and systems that our industry has to offer, there is no better time and opportunity for someone motivated to deliver excellent customer service the kind each individual is seeking. While we may all have opinions on what is most important, it turns out that having the flexibility of being able to work when and where you wish makes it easier to deliver excellent customer service. Along with the understanding of what your clients feel is excellent service, it takes discipline, organization, and the ability to focus on the task at hand. Here are 7 ideas on how to get started … 1. Focus on what the client they needs, not what they already have access to: Don’t spend your time and energy on things that the client doesn’t need. For instance: Gen Y travellers have far better maps on their electronic devices than the ones in your agency. Focus on what they are looking for and what they feel is important - not on what your notion of important is. 2. Focus on the experience: Help your Gen Y traveller discover and enjoy the travel booking experience; don’t just focus on getting them there. For example, the typical Generation Y traveller views business travel not as a necessary evil, but as an employment perk and an opportunity to view the world. Always offer a business with pleasure option. 3. Understand customer selfdetermination: Allow your customers to control their own buying and service experience. Where old service models included structure and process, your Gen Y customer will be looking for a transparent model, and one that allows them to be served as they wish. You may have to trade the personal face-to-face interaction for being online and accessible 24/7. 4. Need for speed: Gen Y clients are adept multitaskers and put a premium on speed and convenience. Their customer service expectations are built on the instant gratification they’ve grown accustomed to from their online and smartphone experience. Be sure to advise your response time and make certain that it is a fit for them. Deliver on time (or earlier) than what you promised or explain otherwise. The Gen Y client will assume that they have been forgotten if they do not hear from you as promised. 5. Fast isn’t always important: Sometimes your customer wants the time factor to slow down. Perhaps no business illustrates this better than Starbucks. There is often a line up at the counter and yet they provide customized service with thousands of possibilities in preparing a drink that just a few years ago came with the options of: with or without cream and sugar. Gen Y wants all the options and with efficiency (not necessarily speed), the comforts of home, the company of others, and, (unlike the order number system of older food and beverage establishments), your name written on the cup. There is no “number 78” being hollered at Starbucks. The name is Mike, and in an increasingly numbered world, it is nice to have someone use your name. The good news is that the Gen Y consumer will pay for all of that. There are cheaper coffee outlets in our towns and cities, yet few, if any, sell as much coffee as Starbucks. Follow the Starbucks way; give your clients options, personalize your service, and act efficiently. If you do this and do it well, the cost of your travel products & services are less an issue.
6. Have and share your values: Gen Y clients are increasingly looking for valuebased options and purchases. They are more likely than previous generations to care about and do business with a person or company that cares about social values in a similar way. They care about the company’s social responsibility, its green profile, as well as how ethically it does business and treats people and suppliers. For example, we have an agent who donates a portion of every sale to a charity of the customer’s choice. Each year he comes up with three choices and at the time of each sale, asks his customers to choose the beneficiary of their purchase. His clients love that, and he stands out from the crowd. He also does good in the world, which is his goal, and the business seems to follow. 7. Communicate their way: The Gen Y client is typically far less formal that we baby boomers. They use different words and methods to communicate. They want to communicate in their own language and according to their own rules. They typically communicate in tweets, texts, photos, and other social media posts. If you want to reach them, you have be where they are and use their tools. Don’t be scripted, speak in their language, and to do so with authenticity. “…in an increasinglynumbered world, it is nice to have someone use your name.” Action Item Ask your own Generation Y / Millennial aged friends and family members to comment about the level and type of service they respond to. Ask about the best communication channel for them and how they prefer to receive their news and especially travel news. This Primary Data is information that is first-hand knowledge and quite reliable. Make changes to your Gen Y service plan based on the facts you receive from your survey.
Points of Contact Moments of Service Truth & Trust There are a number of terms to address the moment a customer comes into contact with you and your agency, your website, social media, marketing push, flyer, email and local ad in the community newspaper. Each is a point of contact full of promises. It’s the post contact that is important here and whether or not the client’s service expectations where fulfilled – and whether or not you fulfilled on the promise you promote. TASK: What is your promise? What does your marketing promise? Take a few minutes to think about every possible interaction, point-of-contact, you have with a client as they buy from you. List each and every step in the process and then record how you could make each interaction a better experience for the customer – to make sure you fulfill on the promise you promote. Include the ad & promotional content published by your host agency or HQ. Be sure you understand what they are promising too and can actually deliver on it. POINT OF CONTACT WHAT I COULD DO BETTER…
Four Customer Types Creative Ways to Manage Different Styles & Different Attitudes Four main behavioural styles are used to illustrate the types of behaviours that you might deal with on a daily basis and how you can manage each behavioural profile once you know how the individual operates / thinks / processes information etc. Check if your host agency has already profiled the core customer and perhaps presented the type of buyer by age, product purchased, most preferred destinations etc. Customer Types & Communication Styles HIGH DOMINANT tends to sit and stand upright writes short and sweet direct, candid and to the point uses few facial expressions speaks rapidly with a ‘know it all’ type of confidence sounds forceful without being loud eye contact usually intense interactions typically brief may appear at times to be insensitive to others biggest fear is to be taken advantage of may or may not engage in social media HIGH EXTROVERT speaks fast and loud writes long missives expresses strong opinions based on their intuition talkative and focus on the big picture not details dramatic in choice of language / story-telling can appear superficial through excessive talking can have a short attention span all over social media and loves to connect HIGH PATIENCE ask-oriented rather than tell-oriented (even when giving directions) uses a soft voice and expresses themselves tentatively uses little variation in vocal tone, inflection or volume chooses their words carefully fears conflict may or may not enjoy social media will be forgiving of your mistakes up to a point HIGH CONFORMIST tends to speak softly proposes ideas tentatively excels at combining others ideas with their own generally prefers compromise invites others to express themselves first prefers stats and facts a detail person versus images will use social media the proper way may migrate from you without telling you Read through the above personalities and work your magic on how you would deliver the best of service to each person based on their profile. The toughest nut to crack is always the High Dominant and you may need to mirror his or her style to do business with them – that means you must also become more dominant. Learn to read these profiles. Be ready when they appear in person, email or social media.
Expressions & Actions That Earn Customer Loyalty and Respect There is a great deal being written about ‘emotional value’ and ‘emotion selling’. Large companies are training their senior management in EQi (emotional intelligence) and how to create a ‘softer’ and more ‘in touch’ place to work. By following some of these key points your customer service model could be better for it. To express yourself with concern for the customer, followed by actions that support your concern you will build loyalty and respect. Generally the question of customer relationships is based on just how much the customer likes and trusts you. Customers like you when you connect emotionally, deliver added emotional value, demonstrate integrity and respond to their needs creatively and timely. In a nutshell there are Seven Likeable Face-to-Face Behaviours to explore. Here they are: The Seven Likeable Face-to-Face Behaviours The Emotional Eye The Emotional Ear The Emotional Voice The idea behind the 7 Likeable Face-toFace Behaviours is to use all of your senses to establish rapport, interest and eventually be able to deliver the most DAZZLING customer service possible. To make this happen you’ll need to fulfill on the following: Develop a high degree of alertness, awareness, empathy, finely tuned observation and sensitivity – tempered by experience not to overreact or rush. Integrity 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. Creativity The Feeling Mind The Emotional Energy Keep an eye open for and recognize your customers. Keep an eye on the customer – new interests? Have a sparkle in your eye. Show your feelings through your eyes. Maintain eye contact. Listen carefully to what the customer says. Learn from what your customs has to say. Tune into the customers emotion – tone of voice. Develop an awareness of your voice / tone. Modulate your voice to mirror the customers. Show genuine feelings in how you express yourself. Be demonstrative. Be utterly honest and trustworthy. Make customers feel that you appreciate them and want to serve them. Be inventive when it comes to your customer’s experience and enjoyment. Treat them as you like to be treated. Take an interest each customer. Inject positive energy into every interaction. Be aware of your own behaviours.
Selling The Invisible The title of this page is also the title of a very famous book, one of a trio written by Harry Beckwith. Worth a read. Here then we explore selling your service as opposed to a product or price and in the world of the home-based travel agent – YOU are the “service” your clients will be attracted to. But hold on for a moment, before you promote yourself, better make sure your service is 100% DAZZLING, that it is seamless, that you have all the tools you need provided by your host agency such as the Online Chat feature. Services You Offer and Service Here’s a brief list to ponder: Accommodation selection Affiliate program Always on communication Ambassador program Best resorts for (golf, family, partying…) Blog Bon voyage gifts Booking engine on your website Brand wear (ball caps with your logo) Business meeting arrangements Consulate registration service Cruise selection Cultural information Current brochures Custom FIT personal journey arrangements Custom personalized baggage tags Custom personalized ticket jackets Geographic advice Home sitting service Honeymoon planning Itinerary planning KRE (kidnap, ransom & extortion) Insurance Meet & greet services Niche specialty Private jet rentals Public speaking at events Referral gifts Social media connections Special event planning Tour selection Travel apps advice Travel insurance advice Travel photography tips Travel safety advice Travel safety gadgets and devices Wedding planning advice Welcome home cards As the saying goes, “Getting on the back of a tiger is easy, the difficulty comes in getting off!” In other words, many of these services are easy to start but tough to maintain. Create a list of services you offer at this moment and then think about how you sell these services to your clients. Selling services is selling an intangible and it remains so until it becomes real and that happens when something hits the fan. Let’s say your travel insurance advice is taken seriously. Your client purchases coverage and then falls ill overseas. Suddenly they are being treated in hospital and soon after that flown home on a private jet. It’s now tangible. At first your service offering was all words. No meat to them at all. Eventually the evidence that your advice and service are real, concrete and can be experienced, touched and felt, happens. It is this end result you are marketing not the chance of risk, but the outcome of your services and advice if, in this case, things went wrong and your client became ill during their vacation – or worse, they were kidnapped and held for ransom as many corporate executives are, or anyone wearing too much bling and off the main street.
If You Want To Stand Out, Stand Out! Adding The Visible You must want to attract business as that’s what so many readers email me about. The queries are mostly the same: “Steve how can I build my business? How do I win new customers..?” And there’s usually a statement that precedes the request for help and it goes like this: “When I purchased / joined the (franchise, group, host…) they told me it was easy… that everyone wants to travel. If that’s the case, why can’t I find anyone to book with me?” There is a movement going on that preaches less text and data and more imagery. This could mean you turn your invisible services into something visible, more tangible. The way to come at this is to think about the outcome of your services and then generate an image that conveys the outcome message – the reason to use you and the services you render. I usually respond with a statement along the lines of – what you were told is true, you just have to stand out, make some noise, attract people to you. Check out these ideas: Let’s go with your accommodation advice. You could write it, you could say it, or you could show it like this: The Local Travel Party: here’s where your athome business can work for you. You must be selective in who you invite, as you arrange a wine & cheese, a coffee & cake evening and invite your neighbours over to talk about travel. It’s like a Tupperware gone travel party. The Local Travel Authority: if you have something to say, say it in public. Get invited to speak at local events about travel. Perhaps hold the ‘local party’ event at the local book store, the art gallery or the Italian restaurant. Wear Your Brand: Time to buy a sweat shirt, tshirt and ball cap with your logo on it PLUS a travel with me statement. This is a subtle sell and it’s selling the invisible. Many times we’ve written about using a QR code on your marketing tools and especially on your t-shirt so passersby can “shoot” you with their smartphone and scan the QR code and then be whisked away to your website. Wear Your Website: Some people do not have a smartphone or they just prefer to read the text version of your URL. A quick win is to add the text version under your QR code. Why not… we’re talking service here. Make it easy for your clients to do business with you. That’s the key to the exercise. You mission now is to review your list of services. Decide which ones are too invisible and should come to the surface. Decide what image represents the outcome of your service/s and then go big with the imagery. Blog it. Post it. Start a conversation about it. Ask your clients to create the image of the outcome for you. Read Harry Beckwith’s book too!
Social Service As a home-based agent you will know that much of your customer interaction is still by phone and email – some surveys place this at 85%. You’ll have to review your own stats to determine what’s real for you. The challenge is social media and despite very few travel agents using social media as a customer service tool, the high profile of let’s say a complaint on Facebook is a very dangerous service situation unless there is a plan in place. A social service plan. What’s the story at HQ? One thing you need to know and the need to know is whether or not customers have complained online using Facebook or any other social channel about your host agency, their brand, a supplier or promotion. If there are unattended complaints out there and you don’t know about them, and you do business under the same banner as the host agency, then this could be the reason why you might not be receiving any responses to your emails or social marketing. Choose The Right Channel As you’ve read here before, check to see which social networks the majority of your clients prefer and then focus on that one channel as your social service outlet. You can supplement your FB social service model by adding an FAQs page to your website and also creating How-To videos for your agency’s YouTube channel. Keeping your clients up to date can often remove a complaint to be. Define Your Rules Of Engagement The challenge with social service is the viral and extremely high-profile nature of all complaints by social media channels. Not only that, but the online community and a certain profile of client believe whatever they read or view online and specifically on social channels such as YouTube. The thought process is: “Hey, it’s video, it’s live, it’s online, it has got to be real, the truth!” Whereas large companies have departments to An unattended complaint living out there online and sitting in a social channel can have magnifying effects on negative comments. This is the main reason why you need a social media customer service plan of your own. The rules: figure out how you will react to take care of sales and service, you are the oneperson do-it-all department. To make sure you do it right, when it comes so social service, you might want to search online for call center and contact center customer service information. You are the social customer-care team of one. complaints, to refunds, to when things go wrong and when the promise, your promise, was not fulfilled. You should also factor in when your host agency is targeted or a fellow IC under the same brand. You know how mass media works – everyone is guilty According to a survey by Dimension Data: Social media is used as the primary customer service channel by 36.4 percent of Gen Y consumers, only slightly behind email and text messaging; among Gen X, it's the preferred channel for 20.7 percent. until proven innocent. Respond In A Timely Manner This is a truism regardless of social media or not. No client, including yourself, likes to be kept waiting for a response and today, of course, we’re trained to expect an instant response. We know Social Media Customer Service gurus that a complaint can be sent viral in an instant, pass along this information: perhaps that’s your response time as and when you can meet the time requirement. Instantly.
Turn Crisis into Opportunity Acknowledge the mistake if there is one and only apologize for what you personally messed up. There are other phrases to cover apologizing for someone else’s or another company’s screw up. The concept of taking a complaint and turning it into an opportunity is old hat – it’s always been that way and way before social media came on the scene. It’s proven to be so, as long as you know how to do it. What you don’t do is use a softly, softly, honey coated, automated, generic spiel that comes across as 100% phony. Go with tuff love and handle the client’s complaint head-on. Forget the fluff and say, if it’s true: “Hi Joe, you are right on the money, we screwed up. No excuse, so let’s chat about what we can do for you.” If you can, take it off line from that moment on, or if the client wants it all out in the open... now is your time to shine with a straight forward approach. That said, your client will not want to post their personal data such as credit card numbers etc., on Facebook. Being real also means using your own name too. Because of the public nature of social media, it's important to keep it real, keep it honest and fully transparent at all times. You’re the BEST, thanks for taking care of me. “No problem Glenda, I’ve made the changes and you are good to go!” “I’ll let you post the outcome on Facebook, I’m sure your friends will be pleased for you!”
Service Ambassadors You can’t do it all. Sometimes you need help and more often than not, your clients are willing to supply that help. What they can help you with is spreading the word about the level of service you dispense to your clientele. Once they have tasted your high level of customer service which would be supported by your overall personality, knowledge and travel provenance and they report that they are extremely happy - then you can ask them to become a Service Ambassador for you and to represent you in the local community. Here’s how: A Service Ambassador is very much like an outside representative who works for you but they do not sell travel. What they sell, or a better word would be promote – what they promote is your level of service. When your Service Ambassadors promote you, it’s as simple as them saying, when in conversation with their friends and the topic of travel comes up, something like this: “… cruising, yes we’ve been on three already… tell you what, when it’s time to make your arrangements call our travel agent… the service is fantastic.” You can create a series of scripts and hand them to your Service Ambassadors to practice. Also you’ll need to advise them that they cannot sell travel or make any commitments on your behalf. So why would someone want to do this for you? What’s in it for them? The answer lies in what you can do for them when it comes time for them to travel. More than giving a discount, although that can work, the best arrangement is that you are able to add value to their trip. Discounting their trip by $100 is okay, but it doesn’t compare to a 25th floor room upgrade with an ocean view that you managed to arrange through your contacts. That is priceless to your clients. That is GREAT service and then some. Decide what your compensation package will be in terms of discounts or value-add and then set out your Service Ambassador terms so that everyone is clear as to how this role works. From there on the measurement is simple. Your Service Ambassador will let you know who they have mentioned your name to – email can deliver this information, then you have a record. A new client should always be asked, “How did you hear about us?” and their answer will usually include the name of your Service Ambassador. Let’s assume you have a team of 20 service Ambassadors – well right there you have a group tour waiting to happen. Arrange a special trip and price it right, make sure you are going along and promote it ONLY to your Service Ambassador team. Perhaps you arranged a few cabins on a short cruise or a repositioning cruise, or you knew of a tour that needed the last few seats filled and your supplier gave them to you at a rate. Whatever the trip was, you now have 20 people who can return to preach about the trip at the same time they promote your services. One of the key elements in this plan is Social Media and you’ll ask your Service Ambassadors to let all their social contacts know about you and your services.
Be The ONE Are you the ONE? Would you like to be THE ONE? If your answer was yes and yes then here’s a plan for you. It’s a spin-off from your Service Ambassador program if you happen to start one – or you can become THE ONE by starting your own referral system. It’s the SYSTEM that will work for you and create leads for you to follow up and close. What you will need to do then is create a lead generation / referral club. Be the one people call to book. Be the one that people refer others to. Be the one that people call to ask for help. Be the one that passes along the information. Be the conduit for your client’s friends & relatives. Gather your friends, business aquaintences and one or two influential clients and schedule a monthly meeting to explore who has met whom and pass on the names and contacts should there be lead potential. This idea works even better when you ask local retailers to join you and especially retailers who sell a product or service that travellers would use. You can feed their business and they can feed yours. All you need is the system and here’s one that might work for you. Click the image below to read.
Building Rapport Step one in customer service is building rapport. No rapport, no sale. No sale, nothing to service. You might generate a sale despite no real rapport with the client, but usually that sale is a one hit wonder. Some clients you cannot do business with and for some reason your personalities clash and that’s okay. They’ll find a travel agent they can do business with and you’ll not suffer the stress of trying to be what you’re not. In the world of social media, building rapport has a different connotation – there’s no shaking of hands. Let’s explore: The Word Engagement The word engagement has become one of those overdone, over used social media terms just like “basically” and “absolutely” and “let’s do this…” - too much reality show verbiage going on. But, in actual fact, it is about engaging the client by action and interest and that leads to building that all important rapport. Engagement Leads to Rapport To understand engaging a client and building trust and rapport you should make a study of how your clients react to you and your presentations, your offers, your emails and so on. What you are looking for is what works. What attracts your clients to you and the way you do business? You’ll find the answers in their emails, their face to face stance, the words they use, how they look at you and if your interaction with your client is never in person, then it’s their online personality and response you are judging. “…well wait until you see the image I’ve just emailed you... open it now and I’ll tell you more as you look at it on your screen…” Keep your voice upbeat and interested without repeating words such as “amazing” or “I’m so excited…” and you’ll do well. We Are Like Each Other Aren’t We! Somewhere in the conversation you will find common ground – could be a pet, an activity, children, a destination… and once that we are the same point is found, the level of rapport goes up and so does the trust. In The Flesh is Different The world of the home-based travel agent is online and off line too - many times meeting a client at a coffee shop, in a hotel lobby, at the host agency or at the client’s home. To those who thrive online with no face-to-face interaction meeting live and in person can cause a personality reaction. When your relationship with your clients is online and rarely in person then your voice is your biggest asset when you are in telephone communication. You’ll need to pace and lead your client by using various phrases and responses and using what is called ‘mirroring’ the client’s own words. There are three points to focus on here: your tone of voice, the speed at which you speak, and the way you articulate your words. Behind that comes the emotion behind your voice, whether you are confident and knowledgeable about the business. When meeting face-to-face rapport can be dashed in seconds with the wrong expression, look of eye, nod, hand shake and stance. For instance if a client responds with a phrase such as “I see what you mean…” they are usually making decisions from a visual point of view. For you this means not using facts and figures but images and image based words such as: The key is to become highly flexible and adaptive, picking up on the client’s moods and to create a positive situation. The more flexible you are the better your rapport will be. Your Voice is The Key
Micro Gigs and the Long Tail Have you heard of Micro Gigs? It’s a trend where someone, anyone, with a skill set offers to deliver on a service for a very small fee. The fee ranges from $5 to $100. Most are in the lower range. The concept came about as so many talented people were out of work that their skills were put online and for a low fee. The upshot was, they received dozens and dozens of requests and over the long term, generated income. So how could the Micro Gig concept work for you? This opportunity is one of those revenue generating schemes where you promote and sell your knowledge more than travel products. For the die-hard travel agent that may not sit well as their reason for being is to sell travel. The travel agent entrepreneur would be delighted to generate revenue, period. The travel agent Ng does not always have to sell product to maintain their job function, status or role. Making money is the name of the game and further to that, you’ll want to make it as much as you can with the least amount of hassles involved. Micro Gigs might be the answer. What you’ll need first is a price range and a list of services you will perform for those dollar figures. Start with your minimum pricing and let’s think what you could offer for that fee. Go with $25 as your lowest Micro Gig fee. What could you offer to do for $25 and it shouldn’t take you more than one-hour. Go with $50. Same question. Quick services you might sell at these rates: Client’s itinerary review Travel insurance advice Travel safety advice Geographic advice Create a custom itinerary Divulge specialty websites Counsel on anything travel related ?????? What you need now is a name for your new service… something like: TravAll or InfoDesk. Drill down to something catchy and in a couple of words, says it all and states what your new service is all about.
Travel FREE! The concept of selling travel, making a few bucks and travelling for free has been with us for a long, long time. I thought I remembered a book I had and went looking through my collection and sure enough there it was and here it is. This book is 30 years old. Printed in 1984. To read the book now in the present day and the current business model for a home-based travel agency a few things have changed. The changes are mostly related to where the revenue is coming from. The rest, believe it or not, is the same. The Travel Free information pitches the lifestyle of what the author labels as a Travel Consultant, the person who gets out and about to find the traveller to sell to, versus the agency bound employee who sits and waits for a call in response to the owner’s marketing expertise. Today a travel consultant is the title of that agency bound employee. An interesting switch over time. One thing that remains the same is the prospecting aspect that’s required to generate response that through selling skills will be converted into a sale. Yes indeed, prospecting day in and day out has remained constant all these years. The Travel Free title was relevant then, however today not so much. Sure there are free trips to be had, but nothing like there was 30 years ago. Back then, you could become a delivery person better known as a courier and you would or could be hired to carry blue prints to a building site somewhere around the world. Flight and accommodation paid for. On a local level you could be hired to deliver a car across the country and enjoy the scenery as you drove one way and flew home after the delivery. http://wikitravel.org/en/Air_courier To travel free today means you have to sell something. Sell a lot of something that is. Once you generate the sales your suppliers want to see, then you can write your own flight. Or cruise. Or hotel stay. You might also ask your preferred suppliers, “How much of your product do I need to sell in order to receive a free trip, flight, cruise…” Once you receive your answer you can make your plans to meet the imposed target. Some suppliers as you know offer a free this or that for selling a group of just 8 people. Thirty years ago you had to sell 25, 35 or 45 people to realize that free seat. Travel Free is a great lifestyle to aim for and if you can generate a cool $60,000 a year in your jeans at the same time then you’ve got the world by the tail. At the time this book was printed there were 25,000 travel agency locations in North America. On that level things have changed big time. The opportunity now is less competition and more people who want to travel. It’s not free but it is a bonus! Sell like you mean it and go FREE!!!
The Puzzled World For many newcomers to selling travel from home there is buyer’s remorse. This may be happening to you right about now. You’ve joined a host agency, paid your membership fees and now you see on the news the turmoil in the Ukraine, Sarajevo, the Middle East and then there’s the onboard virus making cruise passengers sick. What have you bought into you might be asking yourself. Well hang in there… Wartime Once More The Global Paradox Was Right Why the world turns as it does we don’t know. It seems to be the age of war once more and for some reason the age of very nasty people who hold the power. In the travel trade we pray for a better quality government and leadership in every country and not only for the people of each country to have a better life, but and this is very selfish, we want to send clients to new destinations and we can’t do that while there’s a civil war going on. John Naisbitt’s book, written many years ago now, laid it before the reader that the travel industry and the communication industry will at some point ‘rule’ the world. He also pointed out the movement of nations and the peoples of each nation wanting to return to their ‘tribes’ – and that has happened tenfold. Crisis = Opportunity Repeat this phrase to yourself every day when you watch the news and become dismayed with all the violence in such beautiful countries around the world. Once, when the peoples of the world have displaced their tyrants, and their lives even out as they should, then tourism is generally one of the first industries to return. You job and role is to be prepared for when this happens. The World Turns as it Must You would have thought that by now, mankind would be well on its way to a peaceful planet – but sad to say, it ain’t so. Yet. It’s coming. Tourism helps to build the peace as cultures share what they know and love about their country with others to visit. Your role is to market this cultural sharing. It means that ethnic regions long a part of a specific country want to break away and become their own country. Their way of life is different as is their religion, rites and so on. The Global Paradox predicted 2,000 countries by the time the world has morphed into the many countries per ethnic group. Imagine that filing cabinet of yours containing tourism literature on 2,000 countries. Missing Pieces of the Puzzle As a member of the retail travel trade, you are one of the pieces to the puzzle. Everything you do and say and post will help the world heal itself and in that process you will build a wonderful career as you help others travel the world. You will profit more than financially. You will be standing ‘there’ as events unfold. You will witness the world change as all the pieces find there spot. You have entered a dynamic industry that is the best in the world. Help make it so.
Travel2Japan! Celebrating the Joy of Discovering Japan January 2014 In this issue: The Galapagos of the Orient The Izakaya Way of Life Culinary Bliss in Tohoku The Namahage of Oga Yamadera: Spirits in the Sky Travel2Japan is a TalkingTravel.ca Publication
New Tools Marketing with Phone Cards Who thought that phone cards are still in use? Well they are and they have always been a great way to market your agency. Now, you can have your custom phone cards printed and this time they can be used on a mobile phone using the Phonecard app. Marketing with Bookmarks Bookmarks have always been winner as a simple marketing piece. Today you can use a ready-made template, add your own graphics, include a QR code at the top or on the reverse and send a bookmark to every client. If you are taking a group departure then you would adapt the images to suit the group theme. Book marks come in all shapes and sizes and range from paper to metal clips. For your luxury clients – make it leather stamped. Not paper. Take Payment on the GO! Ideal for ICs on the go and Ng travel agents who live ‘on the go’ and sell on the go and need to take payments on the go. Imagine chatting to someone on a beach and booking them onto their next vacation. Cost of sale 2.75% of the sale. Easy to take. Explore Square.com and process your customer’s credit card payments on the go.
Keeping YOU Sharp! Here’s an interesting test to keep your mind sharp for when you are engaged with a client and trying to close the sale, or negotiating with a supplier or just crossing the road. Say the text colour NOT the word. Try it as fast as you can speak. How did you do? What did you learn? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Keeping your wits about you when faced with something new or different is the key to survival and most certainly sales success. Always take time to think, read between the lines, take a “Hmm?” moment now and again.
Marketing Tip What have you got planned around the FIFA World Cup event? It’s a prime time to be promoting your tours to South America and to take advantage of the TV coverage as they showcase Brazil. FIFA World Cup 2014 begins on Thursday, June 12 and ends on Sunday, July 13
Marketing Tip 2 How much TV do you watch? If you are watching for a couple of hours an evening then you’ll be seeing the same ads that everyone else sees in your area. There’s a lesson to be learned from watching and listening to these very annoying, sometimes entertaining ads. One thing you learn as a travel marketer is what the big guys are doing to capture the eyes, hearts and minds of viewers, people that still read print magazines and their online fans and followers. The realization is that these companies, and not so much travel agencies, have spent millions on getting it right. So we can learn from what they deliver to us each and every night. Here’s how you might profit from their investment. Spin one off yourself: here’s a tag line using the Sportsnet theme of Fuelled by Fans! It’s the “fuelled by” that works as in makes the engine turn, followed by what oils the machinery… the fans. Try it: It’s travel fuelled by GREAT clients like you! Tours, fuelled by Travellers, like YOU! Cruising, fuelled by ocean lovers like YOU! Adventure travel fuelled by explorers like YOU! Next we have this large letter in a box with pre and post scripting. Can’t recall the ad as it happens (?) but I did remember the layout and here it is – repurposed to travel. These “stamps” would be pasted over your online brochures, or on your website where you are displaying tours & cruise products. The idea: you are trying to rate the tour and make it appealing by emphasizing the level, the quality etc. Watch telly this week and make notes as to which ad attracts you and why. Then repurpose it to travel.
CTC and CTIE New and Improved! Choose the certification that’s right for you! Long recognized as the gold standard in the travel industry, the CTC program has been totally rebuilt with fresh content on a platform that’s available 24/7. The new blended learning model offers interactive online courses, audio podcasts and white papers. Plus, now you can customize your learning experience by choosing one of 5 majors. Advance your leadership skills with the new CTIE program. Like the CTC, the CTIE curriculum is a blended learning model offering multiple media formats in an engaging learning environment. And it’s accessible 24/7. The content includes online courses, white papers and a selection of thoughtprovoking video interviews and presentations from leaders in their field. Our 12-month interest-free payment plan can fit into any budget. Travel Institute Members save 10 percent. www.thetravelinstitute.com
Host Agency Listings Well if you’re looking for a host agency you have a choice of around 160 to choose from. The list is shown below, collected from the three North American sources you see here. To connect to any of the listings below click to these three websites and explore the host listings there. For host agencies in Australia, New Zealand, UK and elsewhere, please contact your travel agency association for the information. A Ticket to Travel AAA Carolinas/AAA Vacations AAA Midatlantic AAA Vacations AARC (Agent Access Resource Center) AARC Host Travel Agency Academy Travel Inc. Accent on Travel Across The World Travel LLC Adelman Travel Advantage Travel Partners Air Travel Desk Akbar Travels Pmna All About Travel All Travel Company Alpha Voyages Altour Amadeus Agenta American Discount Cruise & Travel America's Travel Companies, Inc. Andavo Travel Anthony Travel Archer Corporate Travel Around the World Travel & Cruise Atlas Tour & Travel LLC Authorized Agents AVD Avoya Travel Bannister Travel Bay Center Travel BMD Travel and Tours Bob Jones Belize Holidays Breaktime Travel LLC Brennco Travel Headquarters Brownell Travel C&H International Cadence Travel Camelback Odyssey Travel Camelback Travel Casino World Travel CCVAdvantage CETC Travel Classic World Travel - American Express Clearwater cruises, tours & groups Conlin Travel Coral Sands Travel Corporate Travel Planners Corporate Travel USA Creative Travel Crown Cruise Vacations Cruise & Travel Masters Cruise Brothers Cruise Planners - American Express Travel CruiseOne Cruises and Tours by Brennco Cruises Inc. Cruises-N-More CTP/Rennert Travel CWT Vacations DATS Travel ,llc Demeure Design My Meeting & Travel Design Travel Inc Destination Wedding Travel Inc Dugans Travels LLC Durfee Travel and Tours Easy Escapes Travel Emotional wellness EWA Travel Expedia Cruise Ship Centers Family Fun Cruises & Tour First Class World Travel, LLC Flight Centre Associates Gateway To Magic Gifted Travel Network Global Travel International Great Southern Travel Great Vacations Great Vacations - Cruise Experts Green Motion Travel Gulliver's Travel Service, Inc. Hahn Blue Sky Travel Hara Group Travel
Imagine.Travel Incentive Connection Travel International Tours of Houston Jet About Travel KHM Travel Group Kingdom Magic Vacations Kirkwood Travel KVI Travel Land and See Travel LUXE Travel Luxury Travel Network M&J Travel Services Magical Moments Vacations Mei Travel & Mouse Fan Travel Meridian Travel Millstream Travel Modern Travel Services Inc Montecito Village Travel Montrose Travel Net Travel Ease Nexion Nexion Canada OASIS Ocean Sand Travel Outside Agents Ovation Travel Group Partners in Travel Passageways travel Preferred Host Agency Premiere Travel Prestige Travel Systems Pro Travel Network Protravel International Reenchen Naaden Tours & Trek Riverdale Travel Leaders Robinson Travel Agency Sanaa World Travel Sanborn's Travel Service SEACruises-Vacation Connection Select Sailings / My Interline Tempo Travel TerraMar Travel Inc The Dream Travel Group The Travel Agent, Inc. (Tzell Travel Group) The Travel Center, Corporate Travel The Travel Society, LLC Thomas Hogan Travel Travel Counsellors LLC Travel Dynamics Group Travel Experts, Inc. Travel Leaders - Market Square Travel Masters Travel Network Group Travel Planners International Travel Professionals International Travel Quest TravelOnly Travelwize TripGuy Travel LLC Unbridled Solutions UNIGLOBE Travel Center Unlimited Destinations US1Travel Vacation Time Travel Vacation.com VacationCentral.net Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc. WD World Travel/Candatravels.com WE Travel LLP Whimsical World Travel World Travel World Travel Management World Travel Service World Travel Specialists Worldview Travel Your Travel Center, Inc. If you are starting out now as an Independent Home Based Travel Agent, this might be the bundle for you!
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