THE HOW-TO MAGAZINE FOR ICs, OSRs & HOME-BASED TRAVEL AGENTS
Tips, Tools & Techniques
The ART of
AN SMP TRAINING PUBLICATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS – IC MARCH 2014
EDITORIAL: Down Home Customer Service
ARE YOU ON THE LIST?
HOME-BASED CUSTOMER SERVICE 2014
THE SEARCH FOR SERVICE
GEN Y SERVICE INSIGHTS
POINTS OF CONTACT
FOUR CUSTOMER TYPES
EXPRESSIONS & ACTIONS
SELLING THE INVISIBLE
BE THE ONE
THE PUZZLED WORLD
TRAVEL 2 JAPAN – Steve Gillick’s e-Magazine
KEEPING YOU SHARP
MARKETING TIP 2
HOST AGENCY LISTINGS AND SOURCES
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10/29/13 2:18 PM
Steve Crowhurst, CTC, Publisher
Down Home Customer Service
Just like your Mama’s cookin’!
I’ve never forgotten my Alberta roots. That’s where I landed when I immigrated to Canada back
in 1970. Coming from England and an area where service was something people remembered
prior to World War 2, service in Alberta was refreshing. I remember on a return visit to the UK,
when I was looking for a pair of shoes, there was a nice pair sitting on a rack outside a high street
shoe store. I walked in and said to the clerk, “I’d like to see those shoes on the rack outside the
store…” and the response was, “Well why didn’t yer bring ‘em in then!”
I’ve had a few service challenges along the way and it often seems that the God of Service has
chosen me to suffer in order to perfect something. So now I don’t shy away or get upset at poor
service, I learn from it. Sometimes you end up laughing as the situation is just so bad, but then
it’s easy to imagine how some situations would actually send someone else over the top. They
leave and return with a gun.
In Alberta it was a different story. You were greeted. It was friendly. You got thanked. You felt
like a customer and eventually a friend. The level of down home, home based service you can
deliver is staring you right in the face because you can decide on the service level without HQ
red tape input. Enjoy this issue of IC TA, increase your service levels & your commissions.
Don’t forget to check out the new titles at The Travel Agent’s Store.
Here’s to your continued success!
Steve Crowhurst, CTC
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Servicing a travel client in 2014 and beyond is going to push you closer and closer to all things
social and mobile. Within that online and digital push lies the heart of what customer service
really is all about and that, from the travel agent’s point of view, regardless of being homebased or bricks & mortar bound, is to think ahead for your clients. True customer service, given
our access to current technology, is not to wait and service but to be proactive. You have to
proactively promote yourself and your service, too. Here’s how it will work for you.
Being On Their Team
Most people, your clients, you, me, your friends
and relatives we all have our “team” of people
and companies we do business with and call on
when we need help, information, a diagnosis,
something fixed and more.
niche market and has managed to secure a
specific reputation for a service related offer
only they seem to have.
A professional travel agent is supposed to be on
along with the
etc. If not then
there is some
serious selling to
be done and
what has to be
told and sold is,
in your case, your skills and talents, knowledge,
travel provenance and your level of customer
service. That’s the clincher going forward.
So the question is put to you for 2014. What is it
about your customer service that makes it
different, best and set to attract more clients this
year and beyond?
It cannot be a
has to be
what your client needs and wants and moved
ahead to discover and disclose before they go
Every Agent Offers Customer Service
Get Between Your Client and Their News
In my workshops I ask the question about who
has the BEST customer service. Every hand in the
audience shoots up. Then I ask, what is it about
their customer service that makes it unique.
As you might expect, not much. Very little
difference if any unless the agent is focused on a
Every one of your clients, or most of them, will
do their own research online before contacting
you. That’s the way of the world today. In 2014
however you can sharpen your output by
keeping your services top of mind – your client’s
mind. To do this, you must strive to be first with
the information before they go online.
1. News, Updates and Information
Can you promise and fulfill on keeping your
clients updated on the type of travel they prefer?
This refers to you being your client’s news
anchor when it comes to world travel. As I like to
say, Whoever Owns The News WINS! That’s your
mantra for 2014. Be first with the travel news
that speaks to your client’s interests.
2. This Ain’t Spam
One man’s interest is another man’s spam. But,
if you send the right information to the right
client, you’ll not be spamming them. You’ll be
delivering customer service at the high end. The
key is knowing what your clients want to know
3. The Latest Brochures Are In
Here’s a lesson learned from automotive
dealers. When the new car models are “here” everyone knows about it. There’s a lot of hype
going on. When a new condo development is
going up, same thing, there’s a lot of hype going
on and everyone knows about it. When a new
cruise ship is built and being fitted out… nothing.
When a new resort creates a top of the line golf
course… nothing. The only people to hear of
these travel related topics would be travel
agents. So what can you do? Try this:
Follow the lead of the auto dealers and real
estate agents and promote your new products
like so: The latest, full colour, dream catalogues
for 2014 are here now! Pick yours up in person
or order here…
The customer service action is this: you know
your client’s preferences so you package the
right brochures, and without being asked, you
mail them to your clients. Include a hand written
note, on deckle edged paper or card. That’s class
and that is top notch service.
4. The “Where to Next?” Call
This phone call can be preceded by an email, or
the email can be used in place of the phone call.
The reason you would use email instead of a
phone call is this – your client may not be in a
position to chat with you at the moment you call
PLUS people, most people, are very protective of
their time and being interrupted is not on their
agenda. So email it is - followed by an arranged
time to call.
Your email will be timely and state something
like this: “Hi Anne and Doug… part of my service
is to review my client’s travel plans for the
coming year and to that end I’m wondering if you
have given any thought to where you might be
travelling this year and when? Planning ahead
allows me to secure special rates, negotiate
upgrades and so on. So let me know whenever it
suits you and if you need any help or want to
discuss current trends, destinations and offers
just say the word.”
Most of your local competition would consider
this email an invasion of privacy. It is in fact how
a professional travel agent should be servicing
their client base each and every year. A similar
email would ask about the client’s Christmas
vacation or trip to visit their relatives. These are
precious events and as you know, there are only
a few flights, trains and coach tours available for
the holiday dates.
5. The In-Home Consultation
Being home-based you have the option of
visiting your client’s home to discuss their travel
needs. If you do not offer this service at this time,
now is the time to start. Retain this service for
clients who you know well and who live in a safe
area of your city.
6. Online Face to Face
Your service should include Skype. It’s just a
must have. The business version of Skype will
cost you a few dollars a month and for that
money you can have up to ten video feeds or ten
clients on the same live conference call. The
customer service component here is that you
can suggest your clients call their friends and
invite them to join in on the Skype session.
7. Flog The Blog
If you do not yet have a blog, think about it. It’s
a great way to talk about your service.
The Search for Service
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just dial up service when you needed it? A quick search on a
speed dial, tuning into an online service station, a service app to click to when you needed it.
WOW. If only? And wouldn’t you believe it, there are service apps just waiting for that unhappy
customer. They can download it, activate it and get even more flummoxed when the App
doesn’t deliver! Here’s the key to the customer’s search for service:
Now that’s a key that will turn a few locks
and then some. Can you do what it
says? Can you keep everything
service related VERY VERY
simple and direct? Meaning,
make it easy for your clients to
find you, talk to you, complain to
you and have a go at you if that’s
what would ease the service tension
or challenge for your client.
Phone, Feet & Email
Despite life going self-service and
mobile, when a customer is
steamed you do not want them
traipsing around the internet
and socializing their complaint
because they now have a
bigger complaint which is –
they can’t connect to you to
complain!!! Keep it simple.
Keep it very very simple.
Make it easy for them to phone you, walk into
your store, and or email you. Do not send your
clients to an FAQ page, a community page, a
Q&A page, a recording, or an App.
Go With a Dazzle Line
Delivering DAZZLING service means to offer your
clients the quickest route to the answer and that
would be you. So, if you can, open a telephone
line with a mobile number that is your DAZZLING
Service line. When a client calls that number they
reach you no matter what. Same for email – it’s
direct to a device that’s always on your person
AND always answered.
Live Chat Options
Check online for Live Chat options
and you’ll find many of them are
able to handle phone, email and
mobile all from one dashboard
and the “live chat” features are
tied to your website.
What this means is this: when someone
clicks on your website and in this case looking for
your customer service department, their arrival
on your site will flag and up will pop on their
screen a Live Chat box. Their options would be to
call or text chat – and the customer service rep’
which would be you, will be ready
and waiting to service the call.
Pricing ranges based on how much
of a program you want to offer. Bank
on $25 + / - per month.
Live Chat Means Sell Some More
The live chat feature means you will be in direct
touch with your client. After you have handled
their service issue and not all service issues are a
complaint. Sometimes the client wants to
upgrade and has a question they need an answer
to right now. And that’s their only dilemma –
they need an answer right away so they can
decide and book. And you’re there to help. How
DAZZLING is that?
You’ve Got The Key… so now you can let your
clients give it a turn when they need it. Use your
social media connections to let everyone know
about your DAZZLING service AND your new chat
feature and for sure, more sales will unlock for
you this year.
GEN Y Service Insights
Guest Article by Mike Foster
My son, Alex, is 19 years of age and one of the travel industry’s newest agents. I was curious
to hear his millennial perspective of what good customer service is. Perhaps not surprisingly,
his answers seemed somewhat “old.” In no particular order, he listed off a number of
characteristics of what good customer service entails:
Provide a quick response
Smile and be polite, happy and friendly
Be helpful, and help to solve problems along the way when clients need it
Provide good helpful information
Be a good listener
Go the extra mile; go above and beyond
What surprised me is that I had been led to
believe that the millennial generation was
different - that they perceived things
differently. Well, that was both right and
The reality, I discovered, is that good customer
service is timeless - we all recognize it. It seems
that how it is delivered and accessed is what
Serving the baby boomer generation
Serving the baby boomer defined how travel
businesses operated for decades - how we
marketed and how we served the consumer.
Customer service was based on hospitality and
comfort. Typically, good customer service
focused on politeness, friendliness and even
status. The client would almost feel unfaithful
and worry about being seen if entering a
competing travel agency.
Adapting to serve Generation Y
We are now experiencing what is predicted as
the next big consumer group – a larger group
and with a bigger impact than the baby
boomers – the Generation Y customer. These
buyers – born between 1980 and 2000 – will
also be bringing with them new expectations as
to what good customer service is.
This is a generation that feels and thinks
differently about how they wish to be served
and treated. Additionally, if they don’t find it,
they are less likely to have patience with the
service provider. They have options, and with a
smaller world marketplace, they know where
and how to find what and who they need.
These new consumers have lived their entire
lives with the Internet, hand-held devices, and a
marketplace that extends beyond their
neighbourhood, town, province, and even their
country. These new travel consumers will shop
in both old and new ways, but they buy in ways
that we don’t always consider.
You may think that you will not have to worry
about serving the Gen Y traveller as there are
plenty of baby boomers still looking to buy in
the old fashioned way. However, don’t be
surprised to learn that the Gen Y buyer will
influence the way their parents and
grandparents buy. My kids have been buying
more and more online, and when they show off
the bargains they find or that hard-to-find item,
they are influencing how my wife and I shop.
Competing in a new world
How does one compete in this new world?
While at the core, customer service can still be
seen as efficiency, politeness, accessibility, etc.,
it is how customer service is delivered that has
largely changed. This is good news!
While in the “old days” we focussed on
locations (and at great expense) we can now
focus on being accessible, which is far less
expensive and easier to do. In fact, today’s
travel agent is better able to deliver the kind of
service that a Gen Y (as well as their parents
and grandparents) is looking for
There is no agent more motivated than an
independent contractor. With the tools,
technology and systems that our industry has to
offer, there is no better time and opportunity
for someone motivated to deliver excellent
customer service the kind each individual is
While we may all have opinions on what is most
important, it turns out that having the flexibility
of being able to work when and where you wish
makes it easier to deliver excellent customer
service. Along with the understanding of what
your clients feel is excellent service, it takes
discipline, organization, and the ability to focus
on the task at hand.
Here are 7 ideas on how to get started …
1. Focus on what the client they needs,
not what they already have access to:
Don’t spend your time and energy on things
that the client doesn’t need. For instance: Gen
Y travellers have far better maps on their
electronic devices than the ones in your agency.
Focus on what they are looking for and what
they feel is important - not on what your notion
of important is.
2. Focus on the experience:
Help your Gen Y traveller discover and enjoy the
travel booking experience; don’t just focus on
getting them there. For example, the typical
Generation Y traveller views business travel not
as a necessary evil, but as an employment perk
and an opportunity to view the world. Always
offer a business with pleasure option.
3. Understand customer selfdetermination:
Allow your customers to control their own
buying and service experience. Where old
service models included structure and process,
your Gen Y customer will be looking for a
transparent model, and one that allows them to
be served as they wish. You may have to trade
the personal face-to-face interaction for being
online and accessible 24/7.
4. Need for speed:
Gen Y clients are adept multitaskers and put a
premium on speed and convenience. Their
customer service expectations are built on the
instant gratification they’ve grown accustomed
to from their online and smartphone
experience. Be sure to advise your response
time and make certain that it is a fit for them.
Deliver on time (or earlier) than what you
promised or explain otherwise. The Gen Y client
will assume that they have been forgotten if
they do not hear from you as promised.
5. Fast isn’t always important:
Sometimes your customer wants the time
factor to slow down. Perhaps no business
illustrates this better than Starbucks. There is
often a line up at the counter and yet they
provide customized service with thousands of
possibilities in preparing a drink that just a few
years ago came with the options of: with or
without cream and sugar. Gen Y wants all the
options and with efficiency (not necessarily
speed), the comforts of home, the company of
others, and, (unlike the order number system of
older food and beverage establishments), your
name written on the cup. There is no “number
78” being hollered at Starbucks. The name is
Mike, and in an increasingly numbered world, it
is nice to have someone use your name. The
good news is that the Gen Y consumer will pay
for all of that.
There are cheaper coffee outlets in our towns
and cities, yet few, if any, sell as much coffee as
Starbucks. Follow the Starbucks way; give your
clients options, personalize your service, and
act efficiently. If you do this and do it well, the
cost of your travel products & services are less
6. Have and share your values:
Gen Y clients are increasingly looking for valuebased options and purchases. They are more
likely than previous generations to care about
and do business with a person or company that
cares about social values in a similar way. They
care about the company’s social responsibility,
its green profile, as well as how ethically it does
business and treats people and suppliers. For
example, we have an agent who donates a
portion of every sale to a charity of the
customer’s choice. Each year he comes up with
three choices and at the time of each sale, asks
his customers to choose the beneficiary of their
purchase. His clients love that, and he stands
out from the crowd. He also does good in the
world, which is his goal, and the business seems
7. Communicate their way:
The Gen Y client is typically far less formal that
we baby boomers. They use different words
and methods to communicate. They want to
communicate in their own language and
according to their own rules. They typically
communicate in tweets, texts, photos, and
other social media posts. If you want to reach
them, you have be where they are and use their
Don’t be scripted, speak in their
language, and to do so with authenticity.
“…in an increasinglynumbered world, it is
nice to have someone
use your name.”
Ask your own Generation Y / Millennial aged friends and family members to comment about the level
and type of service they respond to. Ask about the best communication channel for them and how
they prefer to receive their news and especially travel news. This Primary Data is information that is
first-hand knowledge and quite reliable. Make changes to your Gen Y service plan based on the facts
you receive from your survey.
Points of Contact
Moments of Service Truth & Trust
There are a number of terms to address the moment a customer comes into contact with you
and your agency, your website, social media, marketing push, flyer, email and local ad in the
community newspaper. Each is a point of contact full of promises. It’s the post contact that is
important here and whether or not the client’s service expectations where fulfilled – and
whether or not you fulfilled on the promise you promote.
TASK: What is your promise? What does your marketing promise?
Take a few minutes to think about every possible interaction, point-of-contact, you have with a
client as they buy from you. List each and every step in the process and then record how you
could make each interaction a better experience for the customer – to make sure you fulfill on
the promise you promote. Include the ad & promotional content published by your host agency
or HQ. Be sure you understand what they are promising too and can actually deliver on it.
POINT OF CONTACT
WHAT I COULD DO BETTER…
Four Customer Types
Creative Ways to Manage Different Styles & Different Attitudes
Four main behavioural styles are used to illustrate the types of behaviours that you might deal
with on a daily basis and how you can manage each behavioural profile once you know how
the individual operates / thinks / processes information etc. Check if your host agency has
already profiled the core customer and perhaps presented the type of buyer by age, product
purchased, most preferred destinations etc.
Customer Types & Communication Styles
tends to sit and stand
writes short and sweet
direct, candid and to
uses few facial
speaks rapidly with a
‘know it all’ type of
without being loud
eye contact usually
may appear at times to
be insensitive to others
biggest fear is to be
taken advantage of
may or may not engage
in social media
speaks fast and loud
writes long missives
opinions based on their
talkative and focus on
the big picture not
dramatic in choice of
language / story-telling
can appear superficial
can have a short
all over social media
and loves to connect
(even when giving
uses a soft voice and
uses little variation in
vocal tone, inflection or
chooses their words
may or may not enjoy
will be forgiving of your
mistakes up to a point
tends to speak softly
excels at combining
others ideas with their
invites others to
prefers stats and facts
a detail person versus
will use social media
the proper way
may migrate from you
without telling you
Read through the above personalities and work your magic on how you would deliver the best of service
to each person based on their profile. The toughest nut to crack is always the High Dominant and you may
need to mirror his or her style to do business with them – that means you must also become more
dominant. Learn to read these profiles. Be ready when they appear in person, email or social media.
Expressions & Actions
That Earn Customer Loyalty and Respect
There is a great deal being written about ‘emotional value’ and ‘emotion selling’. Large
companies are training their senior management in EQi (emotional intelligence) and how to
create a ‘softer’ and more ‘in touch’ place to work. By following some of these key points your
customer service model could be better for it. To express yourself with concern for the
customer, followed by actions that support your concern you will build loyalty and respect.
Generally the question of customer relationships is based on just how much the customer likes
and trusts you. Customers like you when you connect emotionally, deliver added emotional
value, demonstrate integrity and respond to their needs creatively and timely. In a nutshell there
are Seven Likeable Face-to-Face Behaviours to explore. Here they are:
The Seven Likeable Face-to-Face Behaviours
The idea behind the 7 Likeable Face-toFace Behaviours is to use all of your
senses to establish rapport, interest and
eventually be able to deliver the most
DAZZLING customer service possible. To
make this happen you’ll need to fulfill on
Develop a high degree
of alertness, awareness,
empathy, finely tuned
sensitivity – tempered
by experience not to
overreact or rush.
Keep an eye open for and recognize your
Keep an eye on the customer – new interests?
Have a sparkle in your eye.
Show your feelings through your eyes.
Maintain eye contact.
Listen carefully to what the customer says.
Learn from what your customs has to say.
Tune into the customers emotion – tone of voice.
Develop an awareness of your voice / tone.
Modulate your voice to mirror the customers.
Show genuine feelings in how you express yourself.
Be utterly honest and trustworthy.
Make customers feel that you appreciate them and
want to serve them.
Be inventive when it comes to your customer’s
experience and enjoyment.
Treat them as you like to be treated.
Take an interest each customer.
Inject positive energy into every interaction.
Be aware of your own behaviours.
Selling The Invisible
The title of this page is also the title of a very famous book, one of a trio written by Harry
Beckwith. Worth a read. Here then we explore selling your service as opposed to a product or
price and in the world of the home-based travel agent – YOU are the “service” your clients will
be attracted to. But hold on for a moment, before you promote yourself, better make sure your
service is 100% DAZZLING, that it is seamless, that you have all the tools you need provided by
your host agency such as the Online Chat feature.
Services You Offer and Service
Here’s a brief list to ponder:
Always on communication
Best resorts for (golf, family, partying…)
Bon voyage gifts
Booking engine on your website
Brand wear (ball caps with your logo)
Business meeting arrangements
Consulate registration service
Custom FIT personal journey arrangements
Custom personalized baggage tags
Custom personalized ticket jackets
Home sitting service
KRE (kidnap, ransom & extortion) Insurance
Meet & greet services
Private jet rentals
Public speaking at events
Social media connections
Special event planning
Travel apps advice
Travel insurance advice
Travel photography tips
Travel safety advice
Travel safety gadgets and devices
Wedding planning advice
Welcome home cards
As the saying goes, “Getting on the back of a
tiger is easy, the difficulty comes in getting off!”
In other words, many of these services are easy
to start but tough to maintain.
Create a list of services you offer at this moment
and then think about how you sell these services
to your clients. Selling services is selling an
intangible and it remains so until it becomes real
and that happens when something hits the fan.
Let’s say your travel insurance advice is taken
seriously. Your client purchases coverage and
then falls ill overseas. Suddenly they are being
treated in hospital and soon after that flown
home on a private jet. It’s now tangible.
At first your service offering was all words. No
meat to them at all. Eventually the evidence that
your advice and service are real, concrete and
can be experienced, touched and felt, happens.
It is this end result you are marketing not the
chance of risk, but the outcome of your services
and advice if, in this case, things went wrong and
your client became ill during their vacation – or
worse, they were kidnapped and held for ransom
as many corporate executives are, or anyone
wearing too much bling and off the main street.
If You Want To Stand Out, Stand Out!
Adding The Visible
You must want to attract business as that’s what
so many readers email me about. The queries
are mostly the same: “Steve how can I build my
business? How do I win new customers..?” And
there’s usually a statement that precedes the
request for help and it goes like this: “When I
purchased / joined the (franchise, group, host…)
they told me it was easy… that everyone wants
to travel. If that’s the case, why can’t I find
anyone to book with me?”
There is a movement going on that preaches less
text and data and more imagery. This could
mean you turn your invisible services into
something visible, more tangible. The way to
come at this is to think about the outcome of
your services and then generate an image that
conveys the outcome message – the reason to
use you and the services you render.
I usually respond with a statement along the
lines of – what you were told is true, you just
have to stand out, make some noise, attract
people to you. Check out these ideas:
Let’s go with your accommodation advice. You
could write it, you could say it, or you could show
it like this:
The Local Travel Party: here’s where your athome business can work for you. You must be
selective in who you invite, as you arrange a wine
& cheese, a coffee & cake evening and invite
your neighbours over to talk about travel. It’s like
a Tupperware gone travel party.
The Local Travel Authority: if you have
something to say, say it in public. Get invited to
speak at local events about travel. Perhaps hold
the ‘local party’ event at the local book store, the
art gallery or the Italian restaurant.
Wear Your Brand: Time to buy a sweat shirt, tshirt and ball cap with your logo on it PLUS a
travel with me statement. This is a subtle sell
and it’s selling the invisible. Many times we’ve
written about using a QR code on your marketing
tools and especially on your t-shirt so passersby
can “shoot” you with their smartphone and scan
the QR code and then be whisked away to your
Wear Your Website: Some people do not have a
smartphone or they just prefer to read the text
version of your URL. A quick win is to add the text
version under your QR code. Why not… we’re
talking service here.
Make it easy for your clients to do business with
you. That’s the key to the exercise.
You mission now is to review your list of services.
Decide which ones are too invisible and should
come to the surface. Decide what image
represents the outcome of your service/s and
then go big with the imagery. Blog it. Post it. Start
a conversation about it. Ask your clients to
create the image of the outcome for you.
Read Harry Beckwith’s book too!
As a home-based agent you will know that much of your customer interaction is still by phone and
email – some surveys place this at 85%. You’ll have to review your own stats to determine what’s
real for you. The challenge is social media and despite very few travel agents using social media as
a customer service tool, the high profile of let’s say a complaint on Facebook is a very dangerous
service situation unless there is a plan in place. A social service plan.
What’s the story at HQ? One thing you need to
know and the need to know is whether or not
customers have complained online using
Facebook or any other social channel about your
host agency, their brand, a supplier or promotion.
If there are unattended complaints out there and you
don’t know about them, and you do business under
the same banner as the host agency, then this could
be the reason why you might not be receiving any
responses to your emails or social marketing.
Choose The Right Channel
As you’ve read here before, check to see which social
networks the majority of your clients prefer and
then focus on that one channel as your social
service outlet. You can supplement your FB social
service model by adding an FAQs page to your
website and also creating How-To videos for your
agency’s YouTube channel. Keeping your clients
up to date can often remove a complaint to be.
Define Your Rules Of Engagement
The challenge with social service is the viral and
extremely high-profile nature of all complaints by
social media channels. Not only that, but the
online community and a certain profile of client
believe whatever they read or view online and
specifically on social channels such as YouTube.
The thought process is: “Hey, it’s video, it’s live,
it’s online, it has got to be real, the truth!”
Whereas large companies have departments to
An unattended complaint living out there online
and sitting in a social channel can have
magnifying effects on negative comments. This is
the main reason why you need a social media
customer service plan of your own.
The rules: figure out how you will react to
take care of sales and service, you are the oneperson do-it-all department. To make sure you do
it right, when it comes so social service, you
might want to search online for call center and
contact center customer service information. You
are the social customer-care team of one.
complaints, to refunds, to when things go wrong and
when the promise, your promise, was not fulfilled.
You should also factor in when your host agency is
targeted or a fellow IC under the same brand. You
know how mass media works – everyone is guilty
According to a survey by Dimension Data: Social
media is used as the primary customer service
channel by 36.4 percent of Gen Y consumers,
only slightly behind email and text messaging;
among Gen X, it's the preferred channel for 20.7
until proven innocent.
Respond In A Timely Manner
This is a truism regardless of social media or not.
No client, including yourself, likes to be kept
waiting for a response and today, of course, we’re
trained to expect an instant response. We know
Social Media Customer Service gurus
that a complaint can be sent viral in an instant,
pass along this information:
perhaps that’s your response time as and when
you can meet the time requirement. Instantly.
Turn Crisis into Opportunity
Acknowledge the mistake if there is one and only apologize for what you personally messed up. There are other
phrases to cover apologizing for someone else’s or another company’s screw up. The concept of taking a
complaint and turning it into an opportunity is old hat – it’s always been that way and way before social media
came on the scene. It’s proven to be so, as long as you know how to do it. What you don’t do is use a softly,
softly, honey coated, automated, generic spiel that comes across as 100% phony. Go with tuff love and handle
the client’s complaint head-on.
Forget the fluff and say, if it’s true: “Hi Joe, you are right on the money, we screwed up. No excuse, so let’s
chat about what we can do for you.” If you can, take it off line from that moment on, or if the client wants
it all out in the open... now is your time to shine with a straight forward approach. That said, your client will
not want to post their personal data such as credit card numbers etc., on Facebook. Being real also means
using your own name too. Because of the public nature of social media, it's important to keep it real, keep it
honest and fully transparent at all times.
for taking care
“No problem Glenda, I’ve made the
changes and you are good to go!”
“I’ll let you post the outcome on
Facebook, I’m sure your friends
will be pleased for you!”
You can’t do it all. Sometimes you need help and more often than not, your clients are willing
to supply that help. What they can help you with is spreading the word about the level of
service you dispense to your clientele. Once they have tasted your high level of customer
service which would be supported by your overall personality, knowledge and travel
provenance and they report that they are extremely happy - then you can ask them to become
a Service Ambassador for you and to represent you in the local community. Here’s how:
A Service Ambassador is very much like an
outside representative who works for you but
they do not sell travel. What they sell, or a better
word would be promote – what they promote is
your level of service.
When your Service Ambassadors promote you,
it’s as simple as them saying, when in
conversation with their friends and the topic of
travel comes up, something like this: “… cruising,
yes we’ve been on three already… tell you what,
when it’s time to make your arrangements call
our travel agent… the service is fantastic.”
You can create a series of scripts and hand them
to your Service Ambassadors to practice. Also
you’ll need to advise them that they cannot sell
travel or make any commitments on your behalf.
So why would someone want to do this for you?
What’s in it for them?
The answer lies in what you can do for them
when it comes time for them to travel. More
than giving a discount, although that can work,
the best arrangement is that you are able to add
value to their trip.
Discounting their trip by $100 is okay, but it
doesn’t compare to a 25th floor room upgrade
with an ocean view that you managed to arrange
through your contacts. That is priceless to your
clients. That is GREAT service and then some.
Decide what your compensation package will be
in terms of discounts or value-add and then set
out your Service Ambassador terms so that
everyone is clear as to how this role works.
From there on the measurement is simple. Your
Service Ambassador will let you know who they
have mentioned your name to – email can
deliver this information, then you have a record.
A new client should always be asked, “How did
you hear about us?” and their answer will usually
include the name of your Service Ambassador.
Let’s assume you have a team of 20 service
Ambassadors – well right there you have a group
tour waiting to happen. Arrange a special trip
and price it right, make sure you are going along
and promote it ONLY to your Service
Perhaps you arranged a few cabins on a short
cruise or a repositioning cruise, or you knew of a
tour that needed the last few seats filled and
your supplier gave them to you at a rate.
Whatever the trip was, you now have 20 people
who can return to preach about the trip at the
same time they promote your services.
One of the key elements in this plan is Social
Media and you’ll ask your Service Ambassadors
to let all their social contacts know about you
and your services.
Be The ONE
Are you the ONE? Would you like to be THE ONE? If your answer was yes and yes then here’s
a plan for you. It’s a spin-off from your Service Ambassador program if you happen to start one
– or you can become THE ONE by starting your own referral system. It’s the SYSTEM that will
work for you and create leads for you to follow up and close. What you will need to do then is
create a lead generation / referral club.
Be the one people call to book.
Be the one that people refer others to.
Be the one that people call to ask for help.
Be the one that passes along the information.
Be the conduit for your client’s friends & relatives.
Gather your friends, business aquaintences and one or two influential clients and schedule a monthly
meeting to explore who has met whom and pass on the names and contacts should there be lead
potential. This idea works even better when you ask local retailers to join you and especially retailers who
sell a product or service that travellers would use. You can feed their business and they can feed yours.
All you need is the system and here’s one that might work for you. Click the image below to read.
Step one in customer service is building rapport. No rapport, no sale. No sale, nothing to
service. You might generate a sale despite no real rapport with the client, but usually that sale
is a one hit wonder. Some clients you cannot do business with and for some reason your
personalities clash and that’s okay. They’ll find a travel agent they can do business with and
you’ll not suffer the stress of trying to be what you’re not. In the world of social media, building
rapport has a different connotation – there’s no shaking of hands. Let’s explore:
The Word Engagement
The word engagement has become one of those
overdone, over used social media terms just like
“basically” and “absolutely” and “let’s do this…”
- too much reality show verbiage going on. But,
in actual fact, it is about engaging the client by
action and interest and that leads to building
that all important rapport.
Engagement Leads to Rapport
To understand engaging a client and building
trust and rapport you should make a study of
how your clients react to you and your
presentations, your offers, your emails and so
on. What you are looking for is what works. What
attracts your clients to you and the way you do
You’ll find the answers in their emails, their face
to face stance, the words they use, how they
look at you and if your interaction with your
client is never in person, then it’s their online
personality and response you are judging.
“…well wait until you see the image I’ve just
emailed you... open it now and I’ll tell you more
as you look at it on your screen…”
Keep your voice upbeat and interested without
repeating words such as “amazing” or “I’m so
excited…” and you’ll do well.
We Are Like Each Other Aren’t We!
Somewhere in the conversation you will find
common ground – could be a pet, an activity,
children, a destination… and once that we are
the same point is found, the level of rapport goes
up and so does the trust.
In The Flesh is Different
The world of the home-based travel agent is
online and off line too - many times meeting a
client at a coffee shop, in a hotel lobby, at the
host agency or at the client’s home. To those
who thrive online with no face-to-face
interaction meeting live and in person can cause
a personality reaction.
When your relationship with your clients is
online and rarely in person then your voice is
your biggest asset when you are in telephone
communication. You’ll need to pace and lead
your client by using various phrases and
responses and using what is called ‘mirroring’
the client’s own words.
There are three points to focus on here: your
tone of voice, the speed at which you speak, and
the way you articulate your words. Behind that
comes the emotion behind your voice, whether
you are confident and knowledgeable about the
business. When meeting face-to-face rapport
can be dashed in seconds with the wrong
expression, look of eye, nod, hand shake and
For instance if a client responds with a phrase
such as “I see what you mean…” they are usually
making decisions from a visual point of view. For
you this means not using facts and figures but
images and image based words such as:
The key is to become highly flexible and
adaptive, picking up on the client’s moods and to
create a positive situation. The more flexible you
are the better your rapport will be.
Your Voice is The Key
Micro Gigs and the Long Tail
Have you heard of Micro Gigs? It’s a trend where someone, anyone, with a skill set offers to
deliver on a service for a very small fee. The fee ranges from $5 to $100. Most are in the lower
range. The concept came about as so many talented people were out of work that their skills
were put online and for a low fee. The upshot was, they received dozens and dozens of requests
and over the long term, generated income. So how could the Micro Gig concept work for you?
This opportunity is one of those revenue
generating schemes where you promote and
sell your knowledge more than travel
products. For the die-hard travel agent that
may not sit well as their reason for being is
to sell travel.
The travel agent entrepreneur would be
delighted to generate revenue, period. The
travel agent Ng does not always have to sell
product to maintain their job function,
status or role. Making money is the name of
the game and further to that, you’ll want to
make it as much as you can with the least
amount of hassles involved. Micro Gigs
might be the answer.
What you’ll need first is a price range and a
list of services you will perform for those
dollar figures. Start with your minimum
pricing and let’s think what you could offer
for that fee.
Go with $25 as your lowest Micro Gig fee.
What could you offer to do for $25 and it
shouldn’t take you more than one-hour. Go
with $50. Same question.
Quick services you might sell at these rates:
Client’s itinerary review
Travel insurance advice
Travel safety advice
Create a custom itinerary
Divulge specialty websites
Counsel on anything travel related
What you need now is a name for your new
service… something like: TravAll or
Drill down to something catchy and in a
couple of words, says it all and states what
your new service is all about.
The concept of selling travel, making a few bucks and travelling for free has been with us for a
long, long time. I thought I remembered a book I had and went looking through my collection
and sure enough there it was and here it is. This book is 30 years old. Printed in 1984. To read
the book now in the present day and the current business model for a home-based travel
agency a few things have changed. The changes are mostly related to where the revenue is
coming from. The rest, believe it or not, is the same.
The Travel Free information pitches the lifestyle
of what the author labels as a Travel Consultant,
the person who gets out and about to find the
traveller to sell to, versus the
agency bound employee who
sits and waits for a call in
response to the owner’s
Today a travel consultant is
the title of that agency bound
employee. An interesting
switch over time.
One thing that remains the
same is the prospecting
aspect that’s required to
through selling skills will be
converted into a sale. Yes
indeed, prospecting day in
and day out has remained constant all these
The Travel Free title was relevant then, however
today not so much. Sure there are free trips to
be had, but nothing like there was 30 years ago.
Back then, you could become a delivery person
better known as a courier and you would or
could be hired to carry blue prints to a building
site somewhere around the world. Flight and
accommodation paid for. On a local level you
could be hired to deliver a car across the country
and enjoy the scenery as you drove one way and
flew home after the delivery.
To travel free today means you have to sell
something. Sell a lot of something that is.
Once you generate the sales
your suppliers want to see,
then you can write your own
flight. Or cruise. Or hotel stay.
You might also ask your
preferred suppliers, “How
much of your product do I need
to sell in order to receive a free
trip, flight, cruise…”
Once you receive your answer
you can make your plans to
meet the imposed target.
Some suppliers as you know
offer a free this or that for
selling a group of just 8 people.
Thirty years ago you had to sell
25, 35 or 45 people to realize that free seat.
Travel Free is a great lifestyle to aim for and if
you can generate a cool $60,000 a year in your
jeans at the same time then you’ve got the world
by the tail.
At the time this book was printed there were
25,000 travel agency locations in North America.
On that level things have changed big time. The
opportunity now is less competition and more
people who want to travel. It’s not free but it is a
bonus! Sell like you mean it and go FREE!!!
The Puzzled World
For many newcomers to selling travel from home there is buyer’s remorse. This may be
happening to you right about now. You’ve joined a host agency, paid your membership fees
and now you see on the news the turmoil in the Ukraine, Sarajevo, the Middle East and then
there’s the onboard virus making cruise passengers sick. What have you bought into you might
be asking yourself. Well hang in there…
Wartime Once More
The Global Paradox Was Right
Why the world turns as it does we don’t know. It
seems to be the age of war once more and for
some reason the age of very nasty people who
hold the power. In the travel trade we pray for a
leadership in every country and
not only for the people of each
country to have a better life,
but and this is very selfish,
we want to send clients
to new destinations and
we can’t do that while
there’s a civil war going
John Naisbitt’s book, written many years ago
now, laid it before the reader that the travel
industry and the communication industry will at
some point ‘rule’ the world. He also pointed out
the movement of nations and the
peoples of each nation wanting
to return to their ‘tribes’ – and
that has happened tenfold.
Crisis = Opportunity
Repeat this phrase to
yourself every day when
you watch the news and
become dismayed with all the
violence in such beautiful countries
around the world. Once, when the peoples
of the world have displaced their tyrants, and
their lives even out as they should, then tourism
is generally one of the first industries to return.
You job and role is to be prepared for when this
The World Turns as it Must
You would have thought that by now, mankind
would be well on its way to a peaceful planet –
but sad to say, it ain’t so. Yet. It’s coming.
Tourism helps to build the peace as cultures
share what they know and love about their
country with others to visit. Your role is to
market this cultural sharing.
It means that ethnic
regions long a part of a
specific country want
to break away and
become their own
country. Their way of
life is different as is
their religion, rites and
so on. The Global Paradox
predicted 2,000 countries
by the time the world has
morphed into the many countries
per ethnic group. Imagine that filing
cabinet of yours containing tourism literature on
Missing Pieces of the Puzzle
As a member of the retail travel trade, you are
one of the pieces to the puzzle. Everything you
do and say and post will help the world heal itself
and in that process you will build a wonderful
career as you help others travel the world. You
will profit more than financially. You will be
standing ‘there’ as events unfold. You will
witness the world change as all the pieces find
there spot. You have entered a dynamic industry
that is the best in the world. Help make it so.
Celebrating the Joy of Discovering Japan
In this issue:
The Galapagos of the Orient
The Izakaya Way of Life
Culinary Bliss in Tohoku
The Namahage of Oga
Yamadera: Spirits in the Sky
Travel2Japan is a TalkingTravel.ca Publication
Marketing with Phone Cards
Who thought that phone
cards are still in use? Well they
are and they have always been
a great way to market your
agency. Now, you can have
your custom phone cards
printed and this time they can
be used on a mobile phone
using the Phonecard app.
Marketing with Bookmarks
Bookmarks have always been winner as a
simple marketing piece. Today you can use a
ready-made template, add your own graphics,
include a QR code at the top or on the reverse
and send a bookmark to every client. If you are
taking a group departure then you would adapt
the images to suit the group theme. Book
marks come in all shapes and sizes and range
from paper to metal clips. For your luxury
clients – make it leather stamped. Not paper.
Take Payment on the GO!
Ideal for ICs on the go and Ng travel agents who
live ‘on the go’ and sell on the go and need to
take payments on the go. Imagine chatting to
someone on a beach and booking them onto
their next vacation. Cost of sale 2.75% of the
sale. Easy to take. Explore Square.com and
process your customer’s credit card payments
on the go.
Keeping YOU Sharp!
Here’s an interesting test to keep your mind sharp for when you are engaged with a client
and trying to close the sale, or negotiating with a supplier or just crossing the road.
Say the text colour NOT the word.
Try it as fast as you can speak.
How did you do? What did you learn?
Keeping your wits about you when faced with something new or different is the
key to survival and most certainly sales success. Always take time to think,
read between the lines, take a “Hmm?” moment now and again.
What have you got planned around the FIFA World Cup event?
It’s a prime time to be promoting your tours to South America and to
take advantage of the TV coverage as they showcase Brazil.
FIFA World Cup 2014 begins on Thursday, June 12 and ends on Sunday, July 13
Marketing Tip 2
How much TV do you watch? If you are watching for a couple of hours an evening then you’ll
be seeing the same ads that everyone else sees in your area. There’s a lesson to be learned
from watching and listening to these very annoying, sometimes entertaining ads. One thing
you learn as a travel marketer is what the big guys are doing to capture the eyes, hearts and
minds of viewers, people that still read print magazines and their online fans and followers.
The realization is that these companies, and not so much travel agencies, have spent millions
on getting it right. So we can learn from what they deliver to us each and every night. Here’s
how you might profit from their investment.
Spin one off yourself: here’s a tag line using the Sportsnet theme of Fuelled by Fans! It’s the “fuelled by”
that works as in makes the engine turn, followed by what oils the machinery… the fans. Try it:
It’s travel fuelled by GREAT clients like you!
Tours, fuelled by Travellers, like YOU!
Cruising, fuelled by ocean lovers like YOU!
Adventure travel fuelled by explorers like YOU!
Next we have this large letter in a box with pre and post scripting. Can’t recall the ad as it happens (?)
but I did remember the layout and here it is – repurposed to travel. These “stamps” would be pasted
over your online brochures, or on your website where you are displaying tours & cruise products. The
idea: you are trying to rate the tour and make it appealing by emphasizing the level, the quality etc.
Watch telly this week and make notes as to which ad attracts you and why. Then repurpose it to travel.
CTC and CTIE
New and Improved!
Choose the certification that’s right for you!
Long recognized as the gold standard in the travel industry,
the CTC program has been totally rebuilt with fresh content
on a platform that’s available 24/7. The new blended learning
model offers interactive online courses, audio podcasts and
white papers. Plus, now you can customize your learning
experience by choosing one of 5 majors.
Advance your leadership skills with the new CTIE program.
Like the CTC, the CTIE curriculum is a blended learning model
offering multiple media formats in an engaging learning
environment. And it’s accessible 24/7. The content includes
online courses, white papers and a selection of thoughtprovoking video interviews and presentations from leaders in
Our 12-month interest-free payment plan can fit into any
budget. Travel Institute Members save 10 percent.
Host Agency Listings
Well if you’re looking for a host agency you have
a choice of around 160 to choose from. The list is
shown below, collected from the three North
American sources you see here. To connect to any
of the listings below click to these three websites
and explore the host listings there.
For host agencies in Australia, New Zealand, UK
and elsewhere, please contact your travel agency
association for the information.
A Ticket to Travel
AAA Carolinas/AAA Vacations
AARC (Agent Access Resource
AARC Host Travel Agency
Academy Travel Inc.
Accent on Travel
Across The World Travel LLC
Advantage Travel Partners
Air Travel Desk
Akbar Travels Pmna
All About Travel
All Travel Company
American Discount Cruise &
America's Travel Companies,
Archer Corporate Travel
Around the World Travel &
Atlas Tour & Travel LLC
Bay Center Travel
BMD Travel and Tours
Bob Jones Belize Holidays
Breaktime Travel LLC
Brennco Travel Headquarters
Camelback Odyssey Travel
Casino World Travel
Classic World Travel - American
Clearwater cruises, tours &
Coral Sands Travel
Corporate Travel Planners
Corporate Travel USA
Crown Cruise Vacations
Cruise & Travel Masters
Cruise Planners - American
Cruises and Tours by Brennco
DATS Travel ,llc
Design My Meeting & Travel
Design Travel Inc
Destination Wedding Travel Inc
Dugans Travels LLC
Durfee Travel and Tours
Easy Escapes Travel
Expedia Cruise Ship Centers
Family Fun Cruises & Tour
First Class World Travel, LLC
Flight Centre Associates
Gateway To Magic
Gifted Travel Network
Global Travel International
Great Southern Travel
Great Vacations - Cruise Experts
Green Motion Travel
Gulliver's Travel Service, Inc.
Hahn Blue Sky Travel
Hara Group Travel
Incentive Connection Travel
International Tours of Houston
Jet About Travel
KHM Travel Group
Kingdom Magic Vacations
Land and See Travel
Luxury Travel Network
M&J Travel Services
Magical Moments Vacations
Mei Travel & Mouse Fan Travel
Modern Travel Services Inc
Montecito Village Travel
Net Travel Ease
Ocean Sand Travel
Ovation Travel Group
Partners in Travel
Preferred Host Agency
Prestige Travel Systems
Pro Travel Network
Reenchen Naaden Tours & Trek
Riverdale Travel Leaders
Robinson Travel Agency
Sanaa World Travel
Sanborn's Travel Service
Select Sailings / My Interline
TerraMar Travel Inc
The Dream Travel Group
The Travel Agent, Inc. (Tzell
The Travel Center, Corporate
The Travel Society, LLC
Thomas Hogan Travel
Travel Counsellors LLC
Travel Dynamics Group
Travel Experts, Inc.
Travel Leaders - Market Square
Travel Network Group
Travel Planners International
TripGuy Travel LLC
UNIGLOBE Travel Center
Vacation Time Travel
Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc.
WE Travel LLP
Whimsical World Travel
World Travel Management
World Travel Service
World Travel Specialists
Your Travel Center, Inc.
If you are starting out now as an Independent Home Based
Travel Agent, this might be the bundle for you!
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