Undoubtedly many of you, like myself, have seen the popular social media trend comparing how we looked March 1 vs April 1:
This felt all too accurate at the time in the travel industry, as many of us were dealing with an unprecedented number of trip changes, cancellations or perhaps even repatriating clients.
Travel agents were instrumental in assisting countless clients, travellers & businesses not only return home safely but also navigate the constantly changing travel landscape from supplier policy changes to border closures. To say it was exhausting would be an understatement.
I sincerely hope you’ve taken a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Many home-based agents will agree they don’t have a typical 9-5, but instead a “first client to the last client” and now is the time to ensure you are engaging your clients and positioning your business for success when the world re-opens.
Connecting with our agents has been a priority for us at Independent, as I am sure it has been throughout the industry. We have introduced several new opportunities for our agent and support team to stay connected, ones that could be implemented even on an agent to agent level.
Connecting with clients right now can give some agents pause at the moment. In this unprecedented landscape, it can be a challenge to figure out how to engage with your client without sounding tone-deaf.
Here are several ideas to spark ways to connect with your colleagues as well as your clients without “selling” and strengthen that valued relationship between a client and their trusted travel advisor.
Connecting with Colleagues
1. Town Hall Live: Once a week we make our agent care team available via a web-based conferencing tool to answer any questions from our agents and speak with each other face to face which is a great change of pace from phone or email. We select fun themes like crazy hat day or travel t-shirts to lighten the mood.
2. Supplier Training: Ensure all our agents know about online supplier training available. This gives them not only the opportunity to improve product knowledge & stay up to date on industry news but also to connect with their BDM’s. Many of them are thinking outside the box to create interactive fun ways to connect with their agents from Pajama Party trainings to Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
3. Social Get Together: While learning new skills and improving industry knowledge, we need to remember this is a difficult time for many and the importance of connecting with colleagues on a purely social level can’t be forgotten. We have hosted a virtual pub crawl and have several other “socials” planned including a DJ night, Bingo and more. Not every night needs to have a “theme” there is a lot to be said for spending an hour just laughing, sharing stories & connecting after a long week.
Connecting with Clients
1. Travel themed Trivia Night: You can ask general travel questions or pick a specific destination. Depending on the number of clients that RSVP you can even put people together on a team. Have them create a name and make it a weekly event!
2. Travel themed Karaoke Night: Have your clients pick a favourite song that reminds them of a favourite travel story. Have them sing part of the song and share why they chose it. This is a great way to learn more about your clients & foster a community tied to your business.
3. Kids Geography Hour: One afternoon a week invite your clients with young children to an online “geography” lesson. Select a destination from your travels & share your stories with them. It showcases your expertise, helps parents with kids at home by teaching them something new & perhaps spark an idea for their next family vacation.
4. Where in the World is…: create a game a la “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” style. Leave clues about the destination on your Facebook or Instagram page throughout the week and have people submit their answers. Draw a winner on Friday for some travel swag or small gift card from a local business.
5. Instagram TV: Countless suppliers have released beloved recipes from Doubletree Inn “Chocolate Chip cookies” to Carnivals “Chocolate Lava Cake” to Sandal’s most requested drink, the “Jamaica Smile”. Video yourself making one of these travel-related treats and share it with your clients. If you have an email list email the recipes out to them as well.
6. Stories: Stories have consistently been growing in popularity both on Instagram & Facebook, so why not take the opportunity for you to stroll down memory lane and spark some armchair wanderlust in your clients? Pick a favourite trip from your travels and recount it day by day on your stories inviting your clients to come back the next day and join you on the next adventure.
As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Never has that been more evident than over the past few months as we have collectively come together to find new ways to connect with friends, family & colleagues.
From ‘Birthday Parade’ drive-bys, to the increasing popularity of video conferencing tools, to going ‘live’ on social media platforms; as a society we have been discovering new ways to create connections, ensuring that physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
So, while it is far from business as usual, maintaining connections with clients and colleagues as we navigate these difficult times together will help position your business for success as we approach the ‘new normal’ and are once again able to start crossing travel destinations off our bucket lists.
Heather Baker is a travel enthusiast & lover of social media who helps grow the Independent by Flight Centre business as Director of Acquisitions & Social Media. She encourages the entrepreneurial spirit of the company & loves being able to educate individuals on the benefits of partnering their travel business with a global brand & working with their Independent Contractors to improve their social media skills. With over 20 years’ experience in the travel industry and with the Flight Centre Travel Group she shares that passion & knowledge with those eager to make their own mark in travel. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.