Agent Diary: Do we do enough to let clients know we are here to help?

When clients find booking travel overwhelming we give the the ‘big hug’ they need, says Ponders Travel’s Clare Dudley

Sometimes, the true value of the travel agent is quite simply staring us in the face. Two occasions in the past month have reminded me that the role of the agent is so much more than simply making the booking or providing an admin service for a client. This may seem like a strange comment from someone who will celebrate 40 years in the industry this year, because of course I totally understand that we are more than this and have done since the day I started, but let me explain.

We recognised early on that she would need some extra care as she was a tad apprehensive, and were more than happy to offer our support where needed

Last week a lady came into the shop and, while she was talking, burst into tears. She had already booked a trip to Australia with us, via the Far East for a stopover, to visit her daughter who has a year’s placement in Sydney with her job. We recognised early on that she would need some extra care as she was a tad apprehensive, and were more than happy to offer our support where needed.

Getting it right

When she started crying, we were naturally concerned, so I put an arm around her and asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ She admitted she was finding the whole trip overwhelming and was very nervous about making sure she had done everything right. It made me wonder if we were guilty of underestimating why she was so worried, and whether we as agents forget just how much is involved in making a booking. Do we underestimate how many things a client needs to think about?

The woman told us she felt bad for asking so many questions, so we reassured her and explained that this is exactly why it’s a good idea to book through a travel agent

I think this incident answered my question: it showed me that we can indeed forget clients may be anxious for numerous reasons because for us it’s a daily process. They need to think about which airline to choose, which flight to get, whether they need transfers, if the hotel is right for them, if the insurance covers them, whether they need a visa, how to check in online, what forms need filling out, whether vaccinations are required, where to have the stopover, if there are there any Covid rules, if their passport meets the requirements, what currency is needed, which type of plug socket they’ll be using . . . the list goes on.

The woman told us she felt bad for asking so many questions, so we reassured her and explained that this is exactly why it’s a good idea to book through a travel agent and that we would hold her hand every step of the way.

Big travel hug

We already know this is our duty and it is our pleasure to help clients with all of these elements. But this made me question whether we do enough to convey to the customer that we are here to help. I have always thought we did, and I would say in most instances the client understands this, but perhaps that wasn’t necessarily the case.

So, when we had another client in a week later with similar thoughts and apprehensions, I made sure we made it even clearer that we are the big hug they need when it comes to travel, and will assist them as little or as much as they need.

We need to make them realise that they really don’t need to worry about anything, other than looking forward to their trip, to really show them our worth

We need to check in with clients more frequently and to be clear that we can help with everything. We need to make them realise that they really don’t need to worry about anything, other than looking forward to their trip, to really show them our worth.


Community connections

I love the opportunity to help the community, and this week we had another example of how kind the village, and surrounding villages, are. While making her booking to New Zealand, a customer told us her daughter worked at a new school in the area, and that they were desperate for toys. I offered our shop as a base for people to drop off any contributions and the toys have been flooding in! Not only does this make us feel like we are doing our bit, but it encourages people who may not have been to the shop to call in. You never know, in the future they might end up booking a holiday with us.

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