One of the consequences of living a hundred miles away from Kuoni HQ and renting a flat nearby is that I sometimes find myself alone in the office during the evening.
Dorking has many enticing activities on offer for the itinerant middle-aged executive, but I have yet to find them, so a quiet evening shift often appeals as a good chance to clear the admin.
The days of keeping all the lights on in the office, just for me, are long gone. We now have a fancy motion detector system so all of the open-plan space, the bar and my small corner gradually fade to darkness as the evening progresses.
Occasionally, I become so engrossed in my work that I forget to move for 10 minutes and I’m plunged into blackness, forced to dance the crazy light-sensor dance just to regain vision.
It was late into one of these evening shifts that I spotted a second light emanating from a far corner of the office. I crept towards it, each footstep bringing new illumination (think Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video), with all the confidence of Shaggy being coaxed along by Scooby-Doo. Throwing open the door of the meeting room in question, I was unsure what fate awaited me... But it was just Shaun from finance, cramming for his accountancy exams.
I thought of Shaun and his commitment to gaining his professional qualifications when the subject of travel agent accreditation was being discussed in an online forum recently.
It’s odd isn’t it; at Kuoni we can support our finance staff, our HR staff and even our legal team to secure professional qualifications, but the people we put in front of our customers every day – our Personal Travel Experts – have nothing similar to help progress their careers.
Of course, we invest heavily in both our own team and travel agents, with a residential induction programme for our Travel Experts, and the long-established and widely recognised Kuoni Worldwide College for agents, all backed up with a programme of educationals.
For Kuoni, delivering exceptional end-to-end customer experience is critical to our mission and that starts from the moment a potential customer visits a travel agent. We need to trust the
agent acting on our behalf is delivering the best possible experience to our mutual customers.
Some non-travel brands are super-selective about who they allow to sell their products (think Apple, Gucci or Nespresso), sometimes even creating ‘approved retailer’ status for those making the grade. Part of that approval process is a thorough audit of the training and qualifications of the customer-facing staff.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, and the travel industry is amazing at taking people with little or no travel knowledge and developing them to become exceptional experts. Nevertheless, it’s not unreasonable to expect a minimum standard.
Selling travel is a profession, not a hobby – and it should stay that way. An industry-wide accreditation scheme would be a huge step in the right direction.