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Why it's important to put people at the heart of your travel business

A people-centric approach to business can work wonders. Here we round up tips on making your agents the stars of the show

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How to make your business people-centric

Any savvy business owner will understand that without a good workforce, the company will struggle to thrive. Therefore a workplace culture that focuses on employees can bring many benefits.


Olga Kelly, head of people and talent at Advantage Travel Partnership, pinpoints a number of areas that travel agencies can focus on to make sure their businesses are putting people front and centre. “Areas such as compensation and benefits, reward and recognition, health and wellbeing, and learning and development need to be designed, built and rolled out according to what people need,” she explains.


It’s important to also consider how staff members are made to feel at work. “The key is to ensure your people are valued and feel involved, and that they know how important they are to the business,” advises Paula Barrett, head of retail at Hays Travel.

Reward and recognition

Creating policies and rewards to incentivise staff can help create
 a people-centric environment. These don’t necessarily have to be traditional incentives, advises Kelly. “While salary is, of course, important, people nowadays are looking for a company that gives them an experience, rather than just a job that pays the bills.”


Agencies should look beyond salaries and towards what helps employees enjoy their job, she adds. “Forget about the start and end time of work by having flexible working. Help people to get involved in their personal passions,
 such as recycling, volunteering and learning about how to better themselves and their skills. [Help] them to look 
after themselves.”


Allow individuals to pursue passion projects and contribute to the local community, agrees Barrett. “Community work is great for staff morale. We give branches an annual budget to spend on community projects as they wish.”


Barrett also emphasises the need to reward both individuals and teams for good performance. “We hold a prestigious yearly event for our elite sellers, and
 at our Christmas parties we recognise numerous achievements, such as branch and team of the year.”


Ensuring individual rewards are shared around the office recognises the team effort required, says Claire Moore, managing director of Shropshire agency Peakes Travel Elite.


“More than one staff member is always involved whenever we are providing a service, whether that’s resolving a tricky issue or dealing with a difficult customer. It’s always a team effort and that’s why we share the rewards. We get loads of lovely gifts from the tour operators we work with. Someone from the long-haul team might have made that booking, but we are one team, so we pool any gifts together and split them.”

Focus on communication

Ensuring your staff feel listened to and encouraging an environment where they feel confident to speak up is an easy, costless way to put people first. Hays Travel has an Employee Focus Group comprising staff from different areas and departments of the business. The group members act as a voice for their colleagues, says Barrett.


Employees should be encouraged to give their opinions and feedback and be included in any business decisions, she adds. “We value staff input in meetings. We are open and honest, and staff have the opportunity to disagree or propose a new way of doing things. We involve them in setting the customer service excellence standards and contributing to their local community.”


Collecting feedback is another way of finding out what people in your business want, as long as they are made to feel like individuals, says Kelly. “Avoid blanket approaches. Every individual is different; embrace the differences by having a ‘menu’ of services, products and opportunities that your people will feel valued by.”

Pay it forward

Respecting individuality and difference within your team also helps build a rapport with customers, extending the people-centric sentiment to outside the business. “At Hays, we ask our
staff to be themselves. We ask them to use their personality; they do not have set questions and robotic statements they need to say. We gain new customers by building a friendly rapport in relaxed surroundings with team interaction,” says Barrett.


Moore agrees that asking staff to go “above
 and beyond” for each other, as well as for clients, garners positive reactions. “We get lovely feedback from our customers, who comment on the family feel. This is very much a family business, and our team and our customers are an extension of that.”

Training gains

Training is one way to make your business more people-centric for both staff and customers, says Ann Harris, operations manager at Reality Training.


What sort of training does Reality offer?

We deliver sales, service and management training to travel agencies, brands and consortia.

 

How can training help develop people and why is it important to invest in your staff? Training and development is the one thing staff always request apart from more pay. It’s motivational, it improves staff retention – which in turn saves money – and increases performance.

 

How does training increase profitability and boost agents’ sales capability?

If agents are trained effectively they will be
 more confident in engaging with customers, recommending higher-value holidays with additional ancillary products and services. They will also be skilled in retaining customers, which bolsters annual bookings as well as maintaining and increasing profitability.


How does training help benefit agents’ customers?

Many brands use Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a measure of how well customers feel they’ve been treated. Better-trained agents will always score highly on NPS.

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