Opinion: Tailored and impartial advice is agents' USP

Opinion: Tailored and impartial advice is agents' USP

Steve Byrne, managing director, Travel Counsellors

Advancements in technology have not only enabled customers to self-book travel but have also given them access to a plethora of opinions, reviews and feedback on travel products from a range of sources.

Of course, these advances hold great opportunity for customers and travel companies alike to learn more about, and showcase, what is on offer, simply by clicking a few buttons.

However, there are some cases where these sources, claiming to offer ‘first-hand’ experience of a hotel or destination, can be disingenuous.

The UK competition watchdog is to launch a probe into businesses that may be paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles, where the payment may not be clear to readers.

This includes the potential for fake feedback on travel review sites, and negative reviews not being published.

It’s safe to say we are in an age of ‘review saturation’ on the web, with often conflicting opinions on a place or product. Those searching don’t know the person at the other end of the feedback, and therefore have to assume they are not being misled in any way.

Build a relationship

It can be difficult to know which review sites to trust. This is where the role of the travel adviser becomes more relevant than ever. Customers are seeking someone impartial to deliver exactly what suits their needs.

Nothing is more authentic than building that relationship and trust with a customer, and offering genuine first-hand feedback and personalised advice.

Of course, technology also plays a role in this. As a company, we have focused on developing in-house technology to ensure we utilise and ‘pool together’ this wealth of first-hand feedback for the benefit of our agents and their customers.

This comes in the form of an internal hotel review system, housed within our dynamic booking platform, Phenix, which allows our agents and their customers to post their own experiences of properties they have visited.

With more than 22,000 authentic reviews, this provides a robust library of reliable content that our agents can use as a tool when recommending products to their customers.

And this, overlaid with the in-depth knowledge a travel counsellor has for their customers, is a powerful combination and opportunity. 

So as the reliability and impartiality of online reviews continues to receive much scrutiny, and customers crave the advice and feedback of someone they can trust, there is a huge opportunity for travel advisers to bring to the fore the knowledge and experience at their fingertips, and personally tailor a holiday that is right for the customer.

Keep it personal

Use technology to your advantage, but always keep it personal. Show your value early and let people know that you offer the highest level of expertise, genuine advice and care, and you will build the trust that means a client will book and rebook with you.

As Tony Robbins, the lauded author and speaker, has said: “In the internet age, we are drowning in information and being starved of wisdom.” Technology and impartial tailored advice will enable the agents that care to shine for a long time to come.

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