Two weeks ago Rebecca Hipkin, travel support team leader at Intrepid Group, was recognised at the inaugural everywoman in Travel Awards, coming top in the Tomorrow’s Leader category, which recognised a woman under 30 making a significant contribution to the sector.
Hipkin’s journey at Intrepid has been one of bold decisions and hard work, but when she held the trophy up on stage it was clear it has all been worthwhile.
After an initial maternity contract on the customer services team came to an end, Hipkin was offered a full-time position on the customer service and sales team.
Yet she soon realised that her real passion lay on the customer service side.
“One day I got up, went to my boss’s office and said: ‘I don’t do sales any more. I want to set up a customer support team!’”
For the next couple of months, Hipkin was flying solo and working long hours. Between herself and her manager, they decided to restructure the department so that staff could choose whether they wanted to work on the customer service or sales side.
“We started as a team of four and now there are six of us,” she says.
The team looks after customers post-sales, pre-trip, and Hipkin says they are responsible for the customer journey, ensuring a good booking experience, answering any questions both customers and agents might have and generally being a reassuring, friendly point of contact.
“I love the challenges my job throws up. Every day is not the same and I enjoy finding solutions and making a real impact on the customer experience,” she says.
Hipkin says that once she had recovered from the shock, winning the everywoman in Travel award made her really happy.
“It was amazing that all the hard work and commitment I put in was recognised. I’m passionate about what I do,” she asserts.
The judges of the category said they were impressed by the fact that Hipkin “increased the sales and support staff productivity by 35% after forming a completely new travel support team”.
Hipkin affirms that team motivation and support are extremely important to her and she holds a 10-minute meeting at the start of each day to assess the emails the team has received and to plan how to go about the day. If any of them has a particularly difficult enquiry, she sits with them and helps to work through it.
“They all have different skills too, so it’s important that they see how each other is working and share their knowledge,” she says.
But that isn’t enough for Hipkin, who is not only focused on her team’s performance but also their development.
“One of my team really wanted to work in the marketing department, so I encouraged her to work towards that and now she has moved over there,” she says.
In addition, they each have one day per week when they have half an hour to go off and learn something new – whether within the business or externally. She says most of them tend to go to a different department within the company, such as product or marketing, and learn more about what they do.
“It helps bring the team closer together too,” she adds.
Looking ahead at future ambitions, Hipkin says she is keen to work her way up within the Intrepid Group but also wants to look at working with new female staff and encouraging them in the business.
“I’d like to be an ambassador for them,” she says.
And for those who might not be entirely sure about their current role, she advises: “Really look at the business you work for as a whole. Look for the opportunities that exist there and those you might not have noticed before. Put yourself out of your comfort zone.”