How to: Running a tidier, more efficient travel agency

How to: Running a tidier, more efficient travel agency

January is traditionally the peak booking period for holidays. However, this year it comes against a backdrop of the credit crunch, with customers worrying about their jobs, savings and paying the bills. Sales won't just fall into our laps.

A business that is fighting fit will consistently deliver a great customer experience. I'm sure all agencies pride themselves on this, but here are a few tips for good housekeeping during the peak season:

Clean up your act

Feeling good about your environment is a really important factor for both staff motivation and client perception.

If you're guilty of scruffy furniture, messy desks, dirty carpets and unkempt brochure racks - don't ignore it. Set your staff the task of giving your shop a makeover. You'll be amazed at the difference some cleaning and re-arranging can do and it needn't cost you a penny.

Develop your manpower

Your staff are your livelihood, so make sure they are committed to closing every sale and have easy access to all the tools they need. Make sure their efforts are rewarded.

Don't assume that just because you have a vision and knowledge that your staff share it. Keep your team up to date with your plans for the business.

You need staff to apply themselves 100% to be successful. Never accept apathy. If you have a weak link in the chain, sort it out now.

Focus your energies

Concentrate on the operators and products that are going to make you the most money - this doesn't always mean commission.

Consider the total and long-term effects of a sale. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much will you have to discount?
  • How likely is it that the client will book again?
  • Can you trust the operator to provide a great holiday and not poach your client directly?

Keep abreast of all the latest commercial opportunities, discounts, low deposits and value-added opportunities. You must be confident that your staff are clued-up on these, too.

New operators enter the market, direct pricing strategies alter, commission levels fluctuate, and local flying programmes change. Be on top of this or you'll quickly become uncompetitive and out of touch.

If you're a member of a consortium, all this information should be easily accessible to you. Your commercial teams should help you compile a list of which operators best fit your business, provide a consolidated list of offers, incentives and opportunities and be at the end of the phone to offer advice.

Make sure your staff know exactly which operators you want them to sell.

Market yourself

Make sure everything about your business screams expert. Have beautiful, professional windows that convey the products and operators you want to sell. Contact local radio stations, magazines and newspapers and ask if they are interested in hearing your views and reports on destinations. You'll be amazed by the take-up - they'll be delighted to have a local travel expert on board.

Roll out the red carpet

Never ignore a potential client, even if you're busy - it's a cardinal sin that will do more damage to your business than you imagine. Make sure everyone who crosses your threshold feels like a VIP - you can be sure they will tell everyone they know.

My local (small, independent) lingerie shop seemingly employs a young girl to do nothing but make the customer feel fantastic. As a harassed mother, I would ordinarily barge into a shop, grab and buy what I can - but this feel-good girl will whisk off your little angels and entertain them while you shop.

The result is one very calm customer who pays more for each item than she would elsewhere and will never buy underwear anywhere else again, regardless of discounts or marketing campaigns. Food for thought? k7itjyi

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