2J’s owner and managing partner Joseph Rajkovic tells Ben Ireland about how the Somerset-based agency and Freedom Travel Group member makes things personal for customers – and about his birthday lunch with pandas in China.

Q. You’re based in Wedmore, Somerset; a village of fewer than 4,000 people. How do you attract enough footfall to keep an independent agency running? 

A. Predominantly our business is from the village, but we have a national reach, with customers in London and Bristol – usually through recommendations. We’ve also got people who live in Tenerife that book with us. We are very hands‑on and hand-deliver documents to customers’ houses, which gives them the opportunity to look at things and raise queries. We’re also very involved in the village. Every year, we give a £500 holiday voucher away at Wedmore Harvest Home festival.

Q. How far does your customer service go?

A. At 1.45am this morning I got up to check in a customer who was flying back from Buenos Aires. We do that, without charge, whether a customer has booked a £1,000 or £10,000 holiday. I just set an alarm and get it done. People remember those little touches. The big boys don’t give that sort of service.

Q. Tell us about the team.

A. We’re called 2J’s because there’s myself and John [Wilson], who run the business together. We are in the shop six days a week, as is our dog Daisy. She’s a westie and has been in every day we have for the last 14 years. The beauty of being in a village is that everyone brings their dog to work. If she wasn’t there, people would ask us why. Customers ask how she is more than they ask how I am!

Q. How does being a Freedom Travel Group member help you?

A. We’ve been members for eight years and I’m on the Freedom focus group to feed members’ views to management. The team is approachable. We are left alone to do our own thing but when we need assistance they are there. Take the All Leisure collapse: if we were totally independent that would have been a big headache. It takes off some of the pressure so we can keep on selling.

Q. What are your specialisms?

A. I don’t like the term specialist, because it sounds like you only do that thing. But our main market is four and five-star long-haul tailor-made. We are Cox & Kings Ambassador members, have won awards with Caribtours and are number one for Prestige Holidays in the southwest. Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean are strong for us. We’ve been on at least one educational to the Caribbean every year for the last 14. Our customers also like high-end European breaks, but we sell bucket and spade holidays as well.

Q. You recently turned 40 and John treated you to a special trip to China. How was that? 

A. John had been before and I had done a lot of Asia but never China. He knew I wanted to do something memorable so Cox & Kings put together an itinerary for four nights including the Great Wall, Chengdu and volunteering with pandas. We replaced the bamboo, cleaned enclosures and made panda cake, which smelt awful but they seemed to love it. I didn’t try it myself. The pandas are quite docile but playful and cheeky. We had time to sit with one and get a photograph, which was one of the best experiences of my life. Not many people know you can meet pandas.

Joseph’s sales tips

Be honest: It is always easier to say you haven’t visited somewhere rather than make it up.

Make it personal: A personalised service shows you care and makes every client feel important.

Price-match: Matching an online price might hit your commission but could build customer loyalty.