The role of the travel agent has changed drastically over the past decade, and it’s becoming clear that basic customer service will no longer cut it.
To give you an idea of what it takes to be the best in your field, Ian Jones, commercial director of Avis Budget Group Pacific, has penned this piece on the changing nature of the industry and what agents need to do to keep up.
The ways we plan and book travel are becoming digitised and more efficient as the industry evolves.
Increased connectivity has paved the way for a more informed customer who expects more – and expects it fast. The role of travel agents and consultants in the industry has changed accordingly, adapting to fit the different set of needs customers now have.
A recent Jigsaw Research-Google Travel Study highlights this, finding that 77 per cent of trips booked by Australians were at least researched online beforehand, regardless of how they were eventually booked. This means that consumers and businesses are more demanding than ever before, and travel consultants have their work cut out trying to meet these expectations.
However, with this comes opportunity. By delivering an unrivalled level of customer service and going beyond what’s expected, some travel agents have not just survived but thrived in the face of the challenges that the dot-com bubble brings.
Excellence in customer service manifests itself in many ways – sometimes it’s a dramatic act that goes well beyond the call of duty. Other times it’s a series of small but memorable gestures, general expertise or consistent attention to detail.
Over the twenty-two years in judging the Avis Scholarship Program, our industry program designed to recognise and celebrate excellence in the travel industry, there are a handful of key characteristics that we’ve observed that underpin every successful application.
These include a genuine respect for the client, a talent for finding innovative and creative solutions, a determination to constantly exceed expectations and, most importantly, providing that personal touch.
Feedback from many consumers is that the convenience of internet bookings still can’t compare with the tailor-made, personal experience that talking to a travel expert can provide.
In fact, a US-based Forrester Research study found that a small but growing number of travellers are losing interest in travel sites. Only 46 per cent of respondents in the study said that they enjoy booking travel online – a significant decrease from previous years.
With this in mind, it’s crucial now more than ever that the travel industry consistently strives to raise the bar with an unrivalled level of customer service that will ensure our dynamic industry continues to evolve.
This year for the Avis Scholarship Program, we’re looking to hear from travel consultants across the corporate and leisure sectors who can showcase excellence in the highly complex and competitive environment that we now operate in.
For the first time, we’re now accepting applications via YouTube to get a real flavour for applicants’ enthusiasm and talent.
With a prize fund valued at $40,000, the winner will enjoy a range of experiences including international travel to Singapore to attend the Phocuswright Conference, professional guidance and access to training opportunities with organisations such as Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA).
Applications close this Friday, so if you’re an Australian or New Zealand travel consultant that prides themselves in exceeding expectations in customer service, we look forward to recognising your achievements in this year’s competition.