Travel Weekly recently had a delightful exclusive chat with Flight Centre founder and Managing Director, Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner.
Having helmed the country’s largest retail travel operation for 36 years, the scale and success of Flight Centre is more than impressive. And while Turner is determined to grow even more, for now, it’s about flexibility and retention.
“Our big area and what we’re working on is what we call novice retention,” Skroo told TW.
“Making sure that we can get them through those first couple of years, through their apprenticeship.
“A lot of them will be avid travellers so they know their destinations but it’s how you look after customers and you match the experiences with the customers that’s important,” Turner emphasised.
Accordingly, Flight Centre has turned its attention to flexiwork.
“We encourage a lot of staff to use laptops and mobile to deal with customers – that’s crucial at this time – that means you can work more flexibly,” Turner added.
Bricks and mortar has the obvious restraints, however.
“If you work in a shop, that’s different, it needs to be manned seven days a week.”
So how to capture the motivation of those who work in the shopfront Flight Centre stores? Turner cited the work of behavioural psychologist Daniel Pink.
“The main thing you have at a shop level is people who have a purpose, a purpose to be there other than money – they’re passionate about travel, they love travel, they love dealing with customers, they like sharing experiences.
“Secondly, that they’re good at their job, they’re experts on the destination.
“The third thing we find important is people have an element of autonomy within guidelines – that you don’t tell them how to do everything in a minute step by step way – you give them boundaries.”
That seems to be the elements for success for agents behind the scenes.
“If you can get that right plus a good wage model, people appreciate it,” Turner explained.
“Flight Centre will be about volume and price but more about expertise.
“We’ve got to be providing customers with the right sort of expertise – the main thing is retaining novices.”