With a nod to the growing importance of the travel agent channel, Universal Orlando Resort today rolled out a series of new resources for travel agents, including a specially trained team of customer service agents; live online chat on VAXVacationAccess.com, Universal Orlando’s travel agent vacation package booking website; and a texting service travel agents can reach from their phones any time, anywhere.
In what Universal Orlando calls its “outer U.S. market,” from states other than Florida, “the travel agent segment has been outpacing our U.S. business in general, and travel agents are definitely key in reaching the high end of the market,” Fernando Flores Kato, vice president of Universal Parks and Resorts Vacations, told Travel Market Report in an interview about the new program. “They really are great in showing customers how to add value and improve their experiences while they are here, and recommending the ancillary products that make the experience even greater.”
And Universal is “getting great lengths of stay from the travel agent packages” as well.
Recently acquired by Comcast, Universal has been building its offerings in Orlando, with an eye on the ultimate prize of creating a destination experience in its own right, totally distinct from Disney. New onsite hotels are in the works, and the third Universal park, Volcano Bay, opened this summer.
The services announced today are designed to “reinforce Universal Orlando’s commitment to the travel agent community” and offer “convenient, multi-platform assistance to travel agent partners whenever and wherever they need it,” the company said in a press release announcing the program this morning.
The new call center, open today, can be reached at 1-800-224-3838. The Universal website for travel agents continues to offer training modules, marketing collateral, vacation packages and offers, tickets and special deals.
Kato said Universal has seen “tremendous growth in the past couple of years as our destination has grown and we’ve added so many experiences, and travel agents have definitely been a key partner in helping us drive that growth.” While Universal has always serviced travel agents through its call center, the time was right to offer more specialized training and to build a closer relationship.
The growing importance of the channel and the growing number of options in the park “require training to help agents book epic vacations for their clients,” and Universal also wants “to partner with the community that is so key to our success and our growth. So we said we have to find a way to better support these agents,” Kato said. “We wanted to dedicate a team to provide a personalized, responsive service, to work closely with our field sales team and our training seminars, to provide a much more personalized service.”
In addition to providing support to agents while the customer is sitting right there, from a CRM perspective the system will make it possible for Universal to quickly identify its history with the agent or the agency, Kato said, “so we would know, for example, if you are a Travelsavers agency and how much business you do with Universal.”
The new call center has “20 seats that flex based on demand and time of day,” from 7:30 to midnight and based on seasonality. We don’t want travel agents to have to stand in the same queue as customers,” Kato noted.
The live chat option on the VAX platform, meanwhile, offers “a fast way to get to a human being to answer any question about pricing or offer suggestions,” as well as navigating the system and making the booking.
Universal Orlando also will continue to offer its Resort Specialist program on the Universaltravelagents.com website, which also offers downloadable marketing materials and a newsletter, as well as a complimentary ticket program for agents who complete the training.