You know – and we at Amadeus know – that the real job of a travel agent is no longer simply about being a booking intermediary. Travel agents have become trusted advisors who make the overall travel experience better and provide both leisure and business travellers maximum value for their spend.
Technology can help travel agents reach this goal. It can make their lives simpler by freeing them up to focus on the most important aspects of travel consulting – customer service.
The question is – are travel agents actually focusing on customer service?
At a recent Travel Forum event hosted by ABTA at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel in Johannesburg, independent travel management advisor, Merrill Isherwood said that because agents are often under pressure to fulfil up to 150 bookings a day, it’s easy for them to get lost in the humdrum of it all and forget about those aspects of their role as a travel agent that can’t be fulfilled by technology.
A good example is when an agent notices – during their daily business travel booking churn – that there is a traveller name they haven’t noticed before. This could either be a new employee or it could possibly be a first-time traveller.
Are you as the travel agent taking the initiative in cases like this to contact the traveller and find out what their needs are? Do you ask them if they have the destination information they need? Isherwood asked.
By being proactive, Isherwood explained that agents can avoid potential issues and even potential costs. “What happens if the agent doesn’t pick up the phone to call this traveller and they happen to miss their flight – that would mean a new booking and change fees,” she says.
Another question travel consultants and TMCs should ask themselves is whether the technology they use is helping them service their clients to the best of their ability.
“Is your tech satisfying the traveller and if so how? Do your clients prefer a technology solution that is high touch or low touch?” These are the questions Isherwood suggest TMCs should ask.
Monique Swart, owner and founder of ABTA, stressed the importance of a thorough needs analysis of the problems the client wants to address by investing in new technology. The TMC can play an important role helping companies identify what these problems are.
All in all, good travel agent service is about finding the right balance between the human touch and the tech touch. Is the technology you’re using helping you do your job to the best of your abilities? If not – maybe it’s a good time to chat with one of our Amadeus consultants.
Amadeus has organised several forums and events focusing on finding the balance between human and tech. Just last year, Amadeus hosted a highly successful Annual Sales Forum, which was attended by over 400 Nigerian travel agents, Amadeus demonstrated how Amadeus technology can help travel agents overcome the challenges of today and face a bright and successful future.
“We’re continually listening to travellers, travel agencies, and all other customers we work with, whilst keeping a close eye on trends and behaviours, so we can develop technologies that benefit all,” says Yann Gilbert, Amadeus Nigeria GM.
The theme of the sales forum centred around how travel agents of today can make additional revenue by providing their customers with an end-to-end trip experience. As airlines are increasingly clamping down on commissions, travel agents need to diversify their offering to survive and stand out.
“The role of the travel agent has changed tremendously. Before, it was based on personal relationships and networking. Now, while human interactions remain essential, the focus has shifted more towards transparency in a technology-driven market,” said Gilbert.