Travel Agents

Penny Spencer: “Service is the new black”

With the internet shaking up essentially every industry, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of trying to do everything online.

Especially when booking travel online for convenience turns into spending six hours trying to find the best price for your flights.

Or researching for a holiday turns into spending eight hours trawling through Instagram and google maps street view, trying to spy on your celebrity crush.

But that’s beside the point.

Often, planning your trip online can become more of a time waster than anything else, and that seems to be what is driving customers back to agents.

To find out more about how agents can get the upper hand, we had a chat with industry legend and founder of Spencer Travel Group, Penny Spencer.

“In the last ten years since the internet came about, iPhone came about, social media has come about as well, now most people have tried all of those or their travel will be inspired by them,” Spencer said.

“But I believe that now it’s about service, it’s about talking to a consultant and then the consultant preempting everything for their trip.”

“And I believe now that’s what a lot of clients want, they’re time poor.”

“I always say ‘I don’t sell travel, I sell time’ because people are time poor and yes you can spend five hours on the internet looking for the airfares to London then what resort you’re going to stay at in Portugal but if you speak to a consultant that’s been to Portugal recently they can say ‘yep, that’d be perfect for what you want, and I would suggest room 25 because it’s got a view of the ocean.'”

“And not only that, its service behind that as well.”

“Knowing you’ve got someone on the phone if you need them at any point, we call our clients while they’re overseas to make sure everything’s going ok, just so they know they’ve got someone if they need anything so that’s back to service and caring,”

Emergency support in the event of natural disasters, or even just booking mix-ups, are predicted to be crucial to the travel industry, as things like climate change affecting weather and changing landscapes begin to affect travellers.

It can be a huge relief to know somebody has your back in case of emergency.

Spencer also emphasised the importance of mentoring staff members to help expand their career opportunities and retain them in their careers so they stay in the industry longer.

“There’s nothing worse than having people working in the industry for four or five years and people haven’t invested in them and then they move over to IT or something else. We lose that knowledge,” said Spencer.

“When I started my business, twenty years ago, two years into it I knew that I needed some help.”

“I’d always been a travel consultant, and a manager within my career and starting my own business I realised I needed to know more about business as such to get through the whole stage of having your own business.”

“So I did a government mentoring program for about a year and that was incredible.”

Recognising the importance of mentoring for career progression and creating a great working culture amongst staff, Spencer created her own mentoring program called the Travel Industry Mentor Experience, or TIME.

“I founded TIME about eight years ago,” Spencer said.

“I really wanted to start a mentoring program for the travel industry because I felt that in the industry, and in a lot of industries, you get to a certain point in your career whether it be five years or six years and you want to take that next step and get to the next level but you don’t actually know how to do it.”

“Also I thought that might be a way to retain people within the industry.”

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