Managing a successful travel agency requires adaptability, common sense, great people skills and, above all, enthusiasm.
It's hard work, but when you see your shop flourish, you know it's all been worthwhile.
Prepare for the day
Ensure all the staff are in your branch before you open up. A manager is only as good as the people they work with, so set aside time to deal with any grievances before the doors open.
Check your campaign updates. What changes have been made to deposits and discounts? Which operators should you be focusing on? Make sure all staff are updated on their targets every morning - it ensures everyone is focused.
Look at what is in the window and see if there is anything that needs changing, such as discounts and sales messages.
If it didn't work the day before then, chances are, it won't work today, so be adaptable and make the changes you think will bring in customers.
Review the previous day's enquiries and what everyone is working on. Only then are you ready to start the day.
Focus on the customer
Customer satisfaction should be second nature to travel advisers, but it is worth revisiting the basics.
- Greet the customer as soon as they enter the branch, regardless of whether you are serving.
- Establish whether they need advice and give them a realistic time frame for being served.
- Make sure all the staff get involved and get talking.
Interaction is key - plenty of banter, advice and enthusiasm will reassure the customer and put them in the right frame of mind.
Finally, make sure you close the deal. If they leave the branch without booking, you have not found them the right holiday.
Editor's note: for an interesting angle on developing banter, see Travel Weekly Blog's post on improv techniques in the office.
Make sure you are organised and handle those day-to-day administrative tasks - they're vital to the smooth running of the business.
Process tickets, confirmations, balance reminders and deposits as quickly as you can.
Chase additional business
Use the time your efficiency has freed up to chase additional income, for example customers who have not purchased currency, insurance and other add-ons.
You can also spend time working on branch activity that will bring customers in, such as mailshots or themed weekends. Likewise, you can generate new business by getting out into your community.
I visit supermarkets, industrial estates or anywhere there are large numbers of employees who may need travel advice.
Motivate your staff
There is no such thing as a difficult staff member, only an employee that is not motivated.
A good manager knows what motivates each member of their team and manages accordingly. Some people are interested in financial reward, others are more target-driven, while many employees perform best when they are praised.
If an employee is difficult to manage, there is always a reason. Perhaps they are under pressure, or have problems at home. Get to the heart of the matter and the problem can usually be resolved.
And don't forget...
Try to relax. Managing a branch can be stressful, so make time for yourself at the end of every day so that you're ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
Keeley Johnson is branch manager at The Co-operative Travel in Oldham and Salford, having first started with the business on the Youth Training Scheme in 1995.
She holds the Travel Weekly Agent Excellence Award for the Best Manager at a Large Agency category in the north of England, and in April was voted Leisure High-Street Manager of the Year at the Agent Achievement Awards.
- Keeley appears in our video highlights from the Northern Agent Excellence Awards 2007
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