Top 10 Things That Bad Travel Agents Don’t Doby James Shillinglaw /
We’ve been running a number of columns and articles here at TMR focusing on all the great things that travel agents do for their customers. Like any profession, however, there are still a few agents out there who don’t necessarily exhibit the qualities necessary to be successful.
Now I’m sure none of our travel agent readers has issues with what I’m about to list. If anything, you should just make sure you do exactly the opposite of the following and you’ll be fine. Here are the 10 top things that a bad travel agents does not do—and I welcome any additions to my list!
1. Does not listen to clients: The bad travel agent comes into a client meeting with an agenda. He or she simply wants to present trip options, possibly based on what is the most lucrative option to maximize revenue and minimize the time spend serving the customer. The good travel agent takes time to fully interview a client about his or her previous vacations, family status, desirable destinations, lifestyle, budget and more. The good agent also makes sure to do the same interview at regular intervals when booking a lifetime of travel for that client.
2. Does not actively market: The bad agent may put up a business website and engage in do some perfunctory social media, but he or she doesn’t develop a firm plan to acquire new customers and make sure new customers don’t jump ship to book with another agent. The good agent has such a plan in place. He or she sends out direct mail, email blasts, newsletters and even picks up the phone on a regular basis to “cold call” potential new customers and reach out to existing ones.
3. Does not know products: Yes, it’s hard to know every travel product in the market, which is why agents specialize in a few. The bad agent may try to sell everything—and may end up selling nothing. The bad agent also doesn’t try to experience the products he or she sells, so they really have a much harder time selling them. The bad agent also doesn’t take full advantage of the multitude of supplier training programs in the market today.
4. Does not know destinations: Again, the bad agent really may not have experienced the destinations he or she sells, at least not to the extent where they can truly relate their experiences to clients. The bad agent also doesn’t take advantage of destination specialist training courses to improve his or her knowledge of a country, region or city. It’s virtually impossible to sell a destination without having experienced it personally.
5. Does not sell groups: One of the most lucrative sales an agent can make is a group sale. Indeed, just by sheer force of numbers, a group sales is much more profitable than selling individual travel. So a good agent seeks out groups and markets to them, thus producing greater revenues and a profits. A bad agent has not figured out how to do this.
6. Does not sell preferred partners: Every travel agency works with preferred suppliers that provide contracted commission rates and customized service. A bad travel agent fails to sell preferred partners, picking suppliers that don’t have relationships with his or her agency. The justification is that the client wants to experience that particular product and the duty is to serve the client. But in doing so, the bad agent also fails to point out the benefits to working with a preferred supplier, which can offer preferential rates, upgrades, special amenities and more.
7. Does not follow up: A bad agent promises trip options and rates, but fails to deliver in a timely manner to the client, who then moves on to another agent. A bad agent also fails to follow up with the client after a trip that has been booked to see how it went. A bad agent does not regularly check in with a client to assess travel needs, even on special occasions that could be celebrated with travel.
8. Doesn’t get trained: A bad agent fails to constantly seek out education and training on suppliers, destinations and how to run his or her business better. Usually he or she complains there simply isn’t enough time to do this, because of the constant demand to book travel for clients. Without training, however, that business may eventually dry up. It’s very hard to retool in the travel business without training.
9. Does not seek support: A bad agent does not rely on fellow agents or preferred partners when he or she needs help in booking a client. Instead of using the resources available to get more information or expertise, a bad agent tries to go it alone, thus denying his or her client the benefits of a collective team approach to travel booking.
10. Does not develop relationships: One of the very reasons why agents are successful today is that they develop firm links to their clients and to their suppliers. They are the go-between, the negotiator and the emissary for travel. The bad agent fails to develop such relationships in any meaningful way.
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