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Agent Diary: Too busy to train? Why making time will pay off

There is always something new and interesting to learn from the experts, says Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley

I think it is fair to say that, as an independent travel agent, you learn something new all the time.

I have now been in travel for 37 years, and I don’t mind admitting that I really do learn something new every single day.

Please don’t for one second think I undertake at least one training module a day, because I don’t. I glean knowledge from all manner of sources, such as information shared by colleagues, emails with news and views, travel magazines and, of course, feedback from clients.

“It’s a big world out there and there is always something new and interesting to find out from the experts to share with our customers.”

But by far the best way to learn is to take part in some of the many training options offered constantly by our travel trade partners, such as operators, cruise lines and airlines.

If we are honest, I expect most of us are guilty of thinking we don’t have time for training. However, myself, and the team at Ponders Travel, have flipped that thought process around: we now say we will always make sure we find time for training because it’s so invaluable. It’s a big world out there and there is always something new and interesting to find out from the experts to share with our customers.

Training dividend

I used to often ask myself, ‘Are we  making the most of the training that is surrounding us right now?’ Well, one recent session proved to have an instant benefit.

We were all due to take part in a Zoom training event with Cruising Excursions, which was to take place at 11am, but of course we all got busy. In the end, two took the training while the others worked on.

“I was so impressed with the efforts of our team, their reaction and response to the training, and was thrilled we had reacted so dynamically.”

By midday, the girls that had taken part in the training had run a report covering every future cruise we had on our books and had started on a task to send each client a lovely overbranded schedule together with suggestions of excursions they could book through us.

Not only did this look professional and easy to follow, but it provided us with the opportunity to earn 15% commission on trips that clients were likely to book anyway. I was so impressed with the efforts of our team, their reaction and response to the training, and was thrilled we had reacted so dynamically to a tool we hadn’t known about before.

Event etiquette

As a team, we love attending the evening training events that often take place, and hope more will return as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic. We have good fun as a team, learn lots and are usually fed and watered as well. What’s not to enjoy?

What makes these events even more exciting is that the prizes on offer are often great. Over the years, between our team, we have won some amazing trips, hotel stays, vouchers and lots of other goodies.

“We must remember how much work goes into these events, how far many suppliers’ representatives travel to be there and the cost to them too.”

On the flipside, however, I was so upset to read on social media last week that 15 people didn’t turn up to a hosted training event. Goodness me, that is bad. We must remember how much work goes into these events, how far many suppliers’ representatives travel to be there and the cost to them too.

From one fellow agent to another, please don’t commit if you don’t think you’ll go – and if you have to cancel, give as much notice as possible. A little courtesy goes a long way.


Freya ponders travel

Sell us a holiday! 

Those who read my last column know we had some success in recruiting for an apprentice, and I’m pleased to report she is doing so well. Freya is just 16 and each day surprises us with how well she is progressing. One training exercise we introduced for Freya for when we are otherwise busy is to look for a holiday she would really like to do herself and to send us an email saying what she likes about the holiday and some prices. This technique has worked well as it gets her thinking about what the client might like to hear – and that’s always a good thing.

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