Investment in training can lead to higher productivity, increased profits and better staff retention – and the smart use of technology is an increasingly important part of the equation.
Videos, webinars, webcams, message boards, e-learning and other innovative ideas are enabling agents to keep one step ahead of web-savvy customers, who are now more able to research, critique itineraries and book online.
The big winners of online and tech-based training have been staff like homeworkers who tend to miss out on shop visits by suppliers.
As Travel Counsellors managing director Steve Byrne says, time spent away from home means lost opportunities for sales, which is one of the reasons that online training, available 24/7, has been such a boon for this sector.
Chris May, MD of e-learning company Equator Learning, points to the example of escorted tour specialist Collette Worldwide, which increased the spread of its business geographically through well-trained homeworkers, leading to a double-digit increase in sales.
However, access to the internet and web-based software can be limited in some high street agencies that operate intranet-only systems. This is why training suppliers have noticed more usage outside office hours as people engage in online courses at home.
The challenge for suppliers is to keep agents engaged online. One problem is that poor quality, low-resolution flatscreens result in poor concentration and retention levels.
This is why many suppliers have tried to make their online training tools as interactive as possible using sight, touch and sound to educate agents.
One mistake by customers is to focus too heavily on the technology itself; the human touch is still important.
Andy Keeley, sales director at travel tech firm Intuitive, says: “Make sure you also invest as much time and resources as you can in face-to-face training so you can truly get to grips with the full functionality of the technology you are purchasing.”
Intuitive now creates videos to help train people on its iVector software (.pdf factsheet). They video the screen and user’s mouse movements to show the area they need help with, then send the user a video file containing a solution.
Case studies: Using tech to train better
- We’ve developed a ‘training college’ website on our intranet.
- There are online message boards allowing counsellors to post questions, give feedback and share knowledge.
- Webcams, provided free of charge, allow training staff to hold live interactive sessions with the company’s 1,100 home-based agents.
- Our in-house weekly webcast can include live training updates for agents from suppliers.
Steve Byrne, managing director
The Co-operative Travel
- We have had our own in-house e-learning platform CATS (Co-operative academy training school) for a number of years. It has hundreds of e-learning modules.
- E-learning takes in product, destination, compliance and management development modules.
- All of our online training courses have a ‘test your knowledge’ section that must be completed. If the individual achieves a pass they can print a certificate that verifies the training is complete.
- We have recently introduced 24 ‘How to…’ kits that give managers tips on skills such as motivation, coaching and business development. We find that the more visual the training, the more staff enjoy it.
Gaynor Golding, training and development manager