Travel Weekly kicked off its search for four Inspiring Agents in March and now they are ready to be introduced to our readers.
The agents are all being supported to integrate Inspiretec’s new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, which they will get free use of for 12 months.
During that time, Travel Weekly will track their progress with updates about how the technology is helping them to improve their processes and, ultimately, sell more holidays.
Our four agents come from across the UK, boast various levels of technology experience and represent a range of business models, from high street to online, homeworking and call centre. Here, we ask them about their businesses and what they hope to learn as one of our Inspiring Agents.
Diane Coleman, manager, Tickets Travel Bexley, Kent
Diane has been in travel for nearly four decades, beginning her career at Tickets Travel while doing a degree course.
She left for a period to run another independent agency but returned to become a partner with her former boss at Tickets Travel.
Today, just two people work in the high street agency plus one from home. Prior to Covid, the business had two shops and employed six people.
The agency was due to celebrate its 40th birthday in May but put plans on hold due to Covid.
Coleman says Tickets Travel held its most successful travel show ever just before the pandemic, recalling: “There was a great turnout, we did some great bookings and then spent ages undoing them all. It’s been pretty tough the last 18 months, but things are starting to pick up.”
“Hopefully, the system will enable us to follow up things without so much effort”
Tickets Travel is building up to going back to opening 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday in the new year and plans to offer appointment-only bookings on Saturdays.
Coleman says the firm currently has no CRM in the business, meaning it operates “completely manually”. She says: “Hopefully, the new system will make us more efficient, cut down on paper usage and enable us to follow up things without so much effort. Sometimes we get too busy and forget to follow up enquiries or don’t have time.”
Conor Campbell, director, Travel Inspired Crieff, Perthshire
Conor has been in the industry for just four years, having set up as a homeworker with Independent Travel Experts, part of The Travel Network Group.
He focused on generating leads online, particularly Instagram and Facebook, but in October 2020 took the plunge and opened his first shop, Travel Inspired, with fellow homeworker Stephen Dennis. The store is a member of Protected Trust Services and aimed to recruit staff made redundant during the Covid crisis.
Prior to becoming a homeworker, Conor worked for Tui and has been booking holidays for family and friends since he was 16.
Travel Inspired currently uses a booking system which Conor says offers some CRM services but he admits the agency does not use them to their full potential.
“I know if we use these features, our relationships with clients will be better”
“I’m really excited about this new system and interested to see how it can help us push our business and see where it can take us,” he says.
“I understand how important these systems are. I know for a fact that if we use these features, our relationships with our clients will be better than they are right now, which is not to say they aren’t good, but there’s always potential for them to be better.
“As a business we want to use every tool we have, and this looks like a great one. The more information you’ve got on your clients, the better the experience you can give them.”
Ellie Fowler and Alan Howells director & managing director, The Travel Business Newport, Wales
Alan’s career in travel began when he worked for his parents who had a coach tour operation. He opened a travel agency shop in 1989.
His daughter, Ellie, joined the business four years ago and it was rebranded The Travel Business. It has one shop with two staff and four agents working from home.
Alan describes the business as a “Jack of all trades”, selling cruises, villas, hotels and business travel. “You name it, we’ll have a go at it,” he says.
“The past 20 months have been tough, but hopefully we can start getting bookings in now and make some profit for next year.
“I think this year is going to be a write-off profit-wise, but I’ve got good vibes for next year.”
“We’d like the Inspiretec system to bring a bit of uniformity to our business across all travel channels”
Alan says the agency has used CRMs in the past, and switched provider before Covid, but the systems have not been used to their full capabilities.
“I’m a great lover of technology. I always tried to keep up with things,” he says.
“What Inspiretec has built is well worth looking at. We’d like it to bring a bit of uniformity across all travel channels. We’ve got homeworkers working on the web and people coming in part-time to help with administration. So it’s trying to expand that and grow the business across all platforms.”
Liam Brophy, commercial manager, The Flights Guru London and Delhi
The Flights Guru has an office in central London for corporate clients and high-end leisure and a call centre in Delhi with 35 sales staff.
In total, it employs 65 people specialising in long-haul flights and tailor-made package holidays. Pre-pandemic, 45% of bookings were for the US and it also did good business to the Caribbean. Since the pandemic, it has focused mainly on the visiting friends and relations market, selling flights to India, Pakistan, Africa and “anywhere that remained open”.
Liam has worked in travel for 22 years for the likes of Travel 2 and DialAFlight and moved to The Flights Guru after being asked to help run it by the founder.
He says the company has a technology booking system but that CRM is one area it is lacking.
“For us it’s about having that booking history visible when a customer calls”
“For us it’s about having that booking history visible when a customer calls,” he explains.
“Ideally, if a customer has booked with us before, they should deal with the same person. Sometimes that’s tricky – we’ve got quite a lot of staff – and you’ve got to enter their details manually, whereas ideally the system should pull up all those details to offer a more personalised service. It’s all about tying everything up so you can see the full customer journey.
“With everything that’s gone on with Covid, it’s especially important to give clients good service.”