Travel advisor Jennifer Jacob is not one to freely give out her phone number, and she rarely picks up the phone to answer unscheduled calls. She is, by intention, tough to reach.
If that seems odd for someone in sales, rest assured that there is a method to Jacob’s madness. It is a method she is happy to share with other travel advisors.
Jacob is the founder of Explorateur Travel in Deland, FL. Last September, five years after launching her agency, Jacob and inhouse social media and branding wizard Robin Brown, co-founded ‘TIQUE, a consulting service for travel advisors. The firm offers advice in the areas of branding, website, and systems design.
While Brown consults on branding and website design, Jacob’s consulting work with travel advisors revolves around streamlining their workflow to improve efficiency and professionalism. In her travel agency business, Jacob’s limited phone availability is a tactic in her efficiency toolkit. Here are a few of her efficiency tips for travel advisors.
Clearly define office hours and availability
At Explorateur Travel, Jacob minimizes phone interruptions and by limiting client calls to just two days a week and requiring those calls to be scheduled in advance.
This dramatically reduces the time she spends on the phone while allowing her to devote non-call days to servicing existing clients, contacting suppliers, and tasks like inputting information into Travefy and keeping track of invoices – all without feeling pressured to answer incoming client calls.
Setting clear boundaries around incoming phone calls not only improves efficiency but sets a professional tone, Jacob said.
Ask clients to self-schedule
Jacob recommends using scheduling software like Calendly to avoid time-consuming back-and-forth email exchanges to set up client phone appointments. When a phone appointment is necessary, simply email the client a link to your scheduling system and let the client choose an available time slot.
In this way, advisors use technology to free up their time for the important part of the job – designing exceptional experiences for their clients.
Don’t back down
Insist clients respect your approach to scheduling, even if they push back or try to work around your limits. And hold yourself to the scheduling system too, even when that requires undoing a longtime practice of always being available to clients.
“Every time you reinforce a scheduling system, it reinforces you as a subject matter expert and a true professional in the field,” Jacob said.
Eliminate passive inquiries
At Explorateur Travel, every prospective new client is required to submit an online inquiry form that asks detailed questions about the individual’s travel plans, preferences, budget, etc. Only once they have done so will an Explorateur travel advisor send an email inviting the prospect to schedule a 15-minute intake call.
Making the intake form mandatory forces customers to be accountable and creates buy-in, and this saves advisors from wasting their time on shoppers who aren’t serious, Jacob said.
It’s also another way for advisors to position themselves as professionals. “It’s reinforcing your brand. Your brand can be, ‘I am a formal professional service’ or it can be, ‘Call me whenever.’”
Leverage your CRM
A key focus of Jacob’s approach to streamlining workflow is client communications in the period after booking and before travel.
This is the period starting about 90 days before travel when advisors typically send clients a series of emails to generate pre-trip excitement, provide information guides and travel tips, and take care of practicalities ranging from special requests to sending out final documents and anticipating questions and concerns, including around Covid testing requirements and protocols.
This phase of the travel advisor’s job is where Jacob sees opportunities for big improvements in efficiency. The key is leveraging customer relationship management software to minimize hands-on labor in the sequential steps that are repeated for every client. “That’s where the magic happens in the workflow, and this is where automation comes into play,” she said.
Jacob’s consulting work with her travel advisor clients looks at how they can leverage CRMs like TravelJoy to automate pre-trip emails and tasks and hold them to a timeline for completing those tasks. Among the other benefits: greater consistency in service delivery, a high-touch experience for customers, and reduced stress for the advisor.
Passionate about setting boundaries
Jacob said she is passionate about setting boundaries around phone calls and making client communications more efficient.
Jacob understands that some advisors may find the idea of limiting client communications scary. But, she said, “the reality is that it does not limit the good clients from reaching out to you.”
It may even reduce your workload. “You’re getting really invested clients that are willing to take the time to get the experience you want to provide.”