Management in businesses and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively. Management includes planning, organizing, staffing, leading or directing, and controlling an organization to accomplish the goal. Resourcing encompasses the deployment and manipulation of human resources, financial resources, technological resources, and natural resources.
Being a good travel agent is so much more than just knowing who does what and where or how to sell the right travel experience to a prospective customer. With ownership comes responsibility and it is in everyone’s interest that each owner/manager successfully navigates the choppy and sometimes uncharted waters of modern commerce in order to not only deliver a memorable experience to their customers but also a sustainable and rewarding future for themselves and those in their employ. Here are some top tips for how you can make such aspirations a reality in 2016!
- Cut your costs
Since the net margin (after costs) that travel agents work off is around 1%, this is probably the single most important priority for the modern travel agent since every €1 saved is the equivalent of generating €100 in additional sales. It should also be an ongoing process and not just something that gets done once a year when you’re not busy. Scrutinise and question everything: salary levels, rental costs, advertising/marketing spend, telephone and banking overheads, heating, lighting, travel & subsistence expenses etc.
- Increase your productivity.
Do more with less. Scrutinise everyone’s work rate. Are the right people being deployed to do the right jobs? Do they have the personality/patience/skillset appropriate to the work being delegated to them? Are some tasks unnecessary? Do you create additional workload unnecessarily due to mistakes and ineffective forward planning? (See separate article on productivity).
- Take a step back and review what you’re doing and why?
Are you going after the right markets or customers or are you simply being busy fools? When was the last time that you conducted a SWOT analysis of your business and its competitors? Are there easier ways to make money or more lucrative market segments (such as cruising or touring) that you should be targeting instead?
- Give staff training the priority that it deserves.
View it as an investment rather than a cost. Well-trained staff will feel more motivated and valued and are also less likely to leave your company to go to a competitor. They are also more likely to sell more and thus deliver a higher return on your initial investment.
- Meet regularly.
Hold a staff meeting every week — preferably at the beginning of the working week and review the week just past in terms of highlights (best sales), lowlights (biggest problems — particularly if avoidable), and lessons that can be learned from same. Set the tone for coming week and delegate specific tasks or projects for the week/period to come. Such meetings are also a good time to get staff to deliver a presentation to all colleagues on an aspect of the business that they’ve been asked to swot up on/take ownership of in the previous week — e.g. learning about a new product, supplier or destination, especially if just returned from an educational to that destination.
Come to the realisation that you simply can’t do it all and that you need to empower other people within the agency to take on some of the responsibility and relieve you of some of the pressure. They will appreciate you for the vote of confidence and will also add additional capabilities to their respective skillsets. (See separate article on the art of delegation).
You can have the best travel agency in the world and provide the best service levels for your customers but your business will ultimately be doomed if you cannot continue to acquire new customers whilst retaining the existing ones and the only way that you can do that quickly (as opposed to organically, over time) is to market yourself and your business effectively. The marketing mix will inevitably include some or all of the following activities: advertising, marketing, PR, promotions, incentives, interviews, writing articles for local publications etc.
- Motivation & incentivisation.
This does not necessarily mean throwing money at people but it does mean acknowledging when people do a good job or show some initiative. Of course nothing speaks louder than money but if you do decide to implement some sort of incentive scheme amongst staff, base it on increases in margin per sale rather than just sales themselves.
- Exploit technology.
Using the right kind of technology for the right reasons can dramatically increase the overall productivity of your agency and lead to higher sales, better margins and less stress all round. If you don’t already utilise CRM software (customer relationship management), do so without delay.
- Prevention is always better than cure and much less costly!
Human error costs travel agents thousands every single year yet rarely if ever is singled out on a company’s accounts so that it can be properly quantified. Take your time and double if not triple-check everything.