Melissa Truskett won this year's Extra Mile award from ASTA.
When a gas leak emptied out an L.A. neighborhood last year, it changed the lives of not only those who were affected, but also of Melissa Truskett and her team at Montrose Travel.
When Truskett volunteered to work with SoCalGas to relocate thousands of customers, Montrose’s manager of groups, meetings and incentives knew she was getting into something big. But she didn’t quite realize how big.
“I managed the process of finding hotels for the customers, as well as reporting back to and being the liaison with the gas company—and it took over my life,” she says. “My team worked 18 hour days for months and months. Essentially we moved more than a thousand customers to more than 150 hotels in the L.A. area in the first three months, and then hundreds more over the next few months. The amount of time involved was astronomical.”
It all started with the first step, of course: creating a multidivisional team of 30 agents pulled from Montrose Travel’s group, corporate, leisure and even loyalty divisions.
And was it worth it? Absolutely, says Truskett. First of all, it won her the honor of receiving ASTA’s Extra Mile Award. For her agency, of course, the project proved to be “financially very profitable” and garnered lots of good publicity, as the story was on the nightly news for weeks on end. But beyond that, it was personally rewarding in a once-in-a-lifetime kind of way.
“We did our best to make some very unhappy people as happy as possible,” Truskett said, “and they were very grateful to our agents, who sympathized with them and helped them. There was just no option but than to just work flat out—we knew people were depending on us so we just kept plowing through.”
And in the end, she said, beyond the public recognition and the personal thanks from clients, “the whole gas-company project really stretched my abilities and those of my team. And once we were able to sit back, we were all very proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
So what’s next? She’s at ASTA, of course, accepting her award, and then off on a 400-person incentive trip to Barcelona. And that doesn’t seem quite as difficult a project as it might have last year.