The start of a new financial year is the perfect time to look at your business with fresh eyes and consider how you can continue to engage with and meet the needs of your clients over the coming year and beyond.
ATAS recently completed extensive research about how consumers view travel agents. It highlighted consumer loyalty and fickleness when choosing an agency, with over 55% happy to consider different agencies for each new holiday purchase.
The research found that consumers value (and are more likely to use) travel agents who are able to deliver three key perceived benefits.
Benefit 1: Protected from the unexpected
Consumers want an agent who is:
- Available to assist and solve problems before and during travel
- Able to give financial reassurance
- Happy to help them navigate the often complex decision-making and planning a holiday can entail
Agents can address these needs by:
- Highlighting your ATAS accreditation. All Travellers Choice members are ATAS accredited. This is an easy way to demonstrate that your agency is reputable, financially sound and will give clients the support they need. Ask yourself: Is there an opportunity for you to better communicate your agency’s accreditation status in your marketing and during your in-store consultations?
- Making the most of customer testimonials. Word-of-mouth continues to be the number one form of marketing for service business - whether it be offline and in person or online via social media, review sites or feedback for your website. Ask yourself: How do you capitalise on the countless occasions in which you provide outstanding support and remove the worries associated with travel for your clients? Can you better represent this benefit in your marketing? A good, plausible testimonial showcasing your expertise in resolving client travel issues is a great advertisement for your business and its commitment to excellent service.
- Having a strong focus on meeting clients’ ancillary travel needs as part of the booking experience. Clients can become overwhelmed by the extra things they have to do before they travel – organising travel insurance, cash passports, visas and checklists. Ask yourself: How can you build on what you already do so that prospective clients feel you offer a ‘one stop shop’ for their holiday experience?
Benefit 2: Make it easy
Faced with a dizzying array of choices when booking a holiday, it's unsurprising that consumers are attracted to agencies, websites or those able to make their experience and decision-making process easy.
How can you simplify this experience for your customers?
- Review your end-to-end customer journey, including when clients first come into contact with your agency, before they travel, post travel, documentation, booking processes and how you communicate with them. Are there opportunities to improve?
- Promote and offer inclusive itineraries or fly and cruise packages - this can simplify and communicate great value for clients while also removing some of the decision fatigue they experience when researching and booking online themselves.
- Build upon your team’s sales and product expertise – this will ensure clients’ needs are well qualified and matched to appropriate travel experiences.
Benefit 3: Inspire with knowledge
In this experience-focused travel landscape, consumers are constantly looking for inspiration for their next trip. They are attracted to agencies with inspiring marketing that ‘puts them in the picture’. How can you better demonstrate your knowledge and experience to inspire and recommend unforgettable holiday experiences? Consider the following:
- Digital. 87% of Australian travellers use the internet to plan their travel. Are you as visible in this space as you should be? Travellers Choice can help with SEO and SEM campaigns to raise your profile with your target market while they are still at the planning and dreaming stage of their holiday booking process.
- Social Media. Does your Facebook or Instagram activity inspire followers to engage with your posts?
- Events. Although this an area where Travellers Choice members typically excel, how do you plan to connect with new and existing clients this year? What support do you need from suppliers or your BDM, and what can you build on from last year’s activity?
- Educationals. Are you making the most of staff travel? Utilise all the digital tools at your disposal to convey these inspiring trips and first-hand knowledge to your customers.
- Staff training. Which ‘in-demand’ destinations and products should members of your team improve their knowledge of? Do you have a culture of sharing travel experiences within your team so that a client can expect destination recommendations over and above the travel itinerary? Are you fully utilising Travellers Choice’s TC Connect and TC EXELL tools to share and improve your staff knowledge?
The best businesses in the world maintain and expand their customer base by continually looking inwards, ensuring they stay relevant, with a service offering in-line with the expectations of their customers. We all get busy, and it’s easy to get complacent, but taking some time to look, without bias, at the opportunities in your business is the best way to ensure you are giving customers what they want when they want it, so that they value the travel agent’s contribution to their holiday experience and return for more!
Words by Nicola Strudwick, General Manager Sales