Loyalty programs, also known as frequent buyer programs, have been around for a long time. But you might be surprised to know that many travelers don’t know about them. Here are five good reasons for travel advisors to spread the word to their customers, both leisure and corporate travelers.
1. Saves money for your clients.
Everybody Googles everything these days. And that’s often a good place to start. But it’s up to travel advisors to educate travelers that the best deals come through professionals who understand the intricacies of the travel business, including how to make the most out of customer loyalty programs.
Julie Rhodes, VIP/concierge travel consultant at Corporate Travel Planners, a Travel Leaders affiliate in San Antonio, Texas, said: “Loyalty programs are fantastic for the customer. Saves them money. Also saves travel agents time. It makes everything more efficient.”
She gave this example about a client and their car rental: “One client booked on their own. They went to Walmart to book. The car cost $100 for three days, but they tacked on an additional $200 for insurance - so it ended up costing double. With me, it would’ve cost $145. Consumers don’t understand … With a loyalty program, you’re getting the best deal - and you’re being serviced.”
What’s more, happy customers tell their friends. “If you have a loyalty program in place, you save [clients] lots of money on their car. They’ll tell everyone - it spreads like poison ivy. I won’t book a car without a loyalty number in place. The difference is outrageous. And it doesn’t cost the company [client] anything.”
2. Saves time for your corporate clients.
Time is a commodity for business travelers. Anything you can do to help them be more efficient can ultimately help them make more money and have more success.
“When clients call us to book, they’re in a hurry. They want to get the most efficient and the best deal. And they can get it for less with customer loyalty programs,” said Rhodes. “The client is happy. The travel agent is happy. It’s a win-win all around.”
Mike Edic, owner of Pioneer Travel, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, agrees: “You want your clients to have the best experiences they can, and corporate travelers don’t have a lot of time. The general public doesn’t mind standing in line [when they travel], but with corporate travelers, time is money.”
3. Gets all sorts of perks for your clients.
We all love getting things for free - and this is one area where loyalty programs shine. Edic explained that: “With cars, you can offer products where the company earns free rental days and the travelers earn free rental days. Travelers can double-dip. The client often doesn’t know.”
To illustrate, Edic had a client that was signed up with a loyalty program for four years and they didn’t know it. The secretary was booking online through Expedia - and both the company and the individual travelers were missing out on a bevy of freebies, in addition to the discounted rates.
When travelers show their loyalty, suppliers return in kind. Other perks include status upgrades, products upgrades, rewards points, VIP programs, and the ability to bypass lines.
Loyalty programs include many extras that travelers “don’t get when they go to the Walmarts of the world,” noted Rhodes. For instance, “If they don’t have the car you want, they downgrade you. But if you have a loyalty program, they upgrade you.”
One caveat about using loyalty programs, from Edic: “Be careful of becoming involved with too many of the same types of companies. Focus on one or two, max, or else you’ll spread yourself too thin.”
4. Offers enhanced reporting to corporate clients.
Monitoring T&E and enforcing travel policies are top priorities for corporate clients. In addition to reducing costs, loyalty programs help travel advisors provide more comprehensive reporting to their clients.
“We can monitor the spend and pull reports for the corporation that will have the spend broken down for each location and for the company overall,” said Tammy Hemsath, president of Midwest Managed Travel, in Saint Peters, Missouri. “If you use five different car rental companies, you can’t track and monitor the spend that well.”
5. Provides better service and better client relationships.
No one would argue with providing the best customer service as a general rule of engagement, in any industry. When it comes to travel, Rhodes said: “Let’s say there’s a blizzard and the client isn’t going to arrive in time to pick up their car. With a loyalty program, they usually know when the flight is delayed. It’s just easier to get ahold of a car company and get things done in a timely manner. And, it doesn’t cost anything. I can make changes. I can add a navigation system” - all things that clients appreciate.
Joe Lang, owner of Joe Lang Travel, in St. Louis, Missouri, also mentioned one of travel-related credit cards that offers many perks as part of its customer loyalty program, such as access to airport clubs, credits for checking luggage, and onboard credits. As for the benefit for the travel agent: “For me, it’s the relationship I develop with the client for mentioning that. The notice I give the client about benefits forms a really solid relationship. They’re much more likely to come back to me for tipping them off.”
He also recommended against pushing any one travel company because just because “it has a dollar sign attached to it.” It may not be in the best interest of the client. He said he always concentrates on what the client wants and needs.
Rhodes added: “To be really good at this, you have to have a servant’s heart … There are hundreds of travel agencies, Expedia, Google, so what makes me better? My experience and exposure … That’s what has you stand out from the rest: customer service.”
In the long run, loyalty programs can help travel advisors to be more efficient and better at doing their job. The result? Happier clients who are loyal to you.
FROM THE SPONSOR: Founded in 1947, National Car Rental® is a premium, internationally recognized brand serving the daily rental needs of frequent airport travelers throughout the world. National launched the car rental industry’s first comprehensive frequent-renter program – Emerald Club® – to further expedite the rental process. As a premiere global loyalty program, Emerald Club makes travel more efficient by offering members speed, choice and control with counter bypass and a choice of rewards. Members also have access to National’s Emerald Aisle, an exclusive section where they can select any vehicle, as long as they reserve as least a midsize car. St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings, the largest car rental provider in the world, operates the National Car Rental brand through its regional subsidiaries. Encourage your travelers to enroll in Emerald Club for their opportunity to enjoy special privileges reserved for frequent renters every time they rent. Visit www.nationalcar.com/TMR to learn more about Emerald Club or enroll.