Travel company support specialist 3FOR has launched two new divisions aimed at plugging what it says are gaps in the industry’s training and call centre provision.

Former Barrhead Travel director Trevor Davis, who founded 3FOR in 2014, says training in travel and overflow and out of hours call centre cover is being cut back as firms look to save costs.

The two new divisions, 3FOR Calling and 3FOR Learning, will target travel agents, tour operators, airlines, and hotels with plug-in services.

“What’s become apparent over the two years since we started 3FOR is there are still some significant gaps in the market for the travel industry. When the going gets tough what gets trimmed back is marketing and training.

“There is no one that can stick its hand up and say we specialist in face-to-face travel training and there are businesses that do not have a full reservation service department or out-of-hours fulfilment because they don’t want the costs of having people sat at desks.

“People are still travelling, but they have changed the way that they book that travel. More and more lately you get the sense people are being tasked with finding a different way to of providing a better service.

“The model of just having an office with rows and rows of desks feels like not what people want to do these days. We asked ourselves what does the industry need that we can provide that gives them more flexibility than they have currently got.”

Davis, who has also been a director at Thomas Cook and Co-operative Travel, said turning to an outsourcer like 3FOR for call centre services enables travel firms to match resources to need and could be an alternative to deciding to offshore their resources to cheaper countries like India.

The two new 3FOR divisions will be run by two seasoned travel professionals, Maria Mills, who has run her own fulfilment business Fulfil4U since 2012, will head up 3FOR Calling. And former Training For Travel manager Julie Hughes will run 3FOR Learning.

Manchester-based training and qualifications agency Training For Travel collapsed in 2013 after the government’s Skills Funding Agency cut its £3 million funding.

Both divisions have access to qualified experienced travel staff and 3FOR says it can offer tailored bespoke services to clients as good as any in-house team. It will cater for internal staff training and induction needs as well as firms like operators looking to train agents.

“Our industry has been through some very challenging times over the past few years and training budgets have suffered as a result. Training needn’t be expensive – but it has to be effective. A lot of companies have taken on trainers and mentors, but are they properly trained?

“Whether you are a travel agent, a tour operator, an airline or a hotel chain you have a duty to ensure that your staff receive adequate, relevant and on-going training to develop their sales, customer service and management skills.”

Mills said 3FOR can provide homeworking agents who will provide travel firms vital 24/7 out office hours, overflow and temporary cover for special events likely to generate a lot of inbound or outbound calls.

Fulfil4U has been renamed 3FOR Calling pooling resources and tapping into 3FOR’s existing client base and will train and manage agents for clients so they are experts in their product and provide exactly the same level of service as in-house agents.

Mills said: “The importance of answering every call is critical for any company’s success but it is not always possible, or affordable, to provide this facility on a seven day a week 52 weeks a year basis.

“We have really experienced agents with product knowledge working until 11pm and 12am at night because that’s what they choose to do. There are a lot of people with young families and those sort of hours really suit them.

“A lot of firms cannot afford out of hours services and many travel businesses are closed on Sundays when families are together and travel decisions are being made.”

3FOR Calling currently has 28 agents covering different contracts but that will be increased to meet demand. Mills said some firms use the service for sales and other for more functional reservations and pre- and post-trips calls. Others have used it as a test before committing to a homeworking division.