We can take comfort and can be optimistic about the fact that one day at a time, we are closer to the end of this crisis. This doesn’t negate, of course, the real harm and hurt that is being caused to people from the coronavirus pandemic across the globe.
This crisis has reminded us of many things, including the true value of having a real, human person at the end of the phone to reassure, manage and rearrange customers hard-earned and well-deserved travel plans, and the benefit of ring-fencing and protecting customer and supplier money in trust accounts, as we and a few others do.
I have said on many occasions over the past few weeks that in a time of crisis, true class, in terms of how people behave, will shine through. And that includes the thousands of people in travel who have gone above and beyond to care for customers, and each other, in these unprecedented times. Kindness and caring will outlive this virus.
For those of us at the sharp end of living and breathing this crisis, we will remember those who operated under pressure and remained calm, were supportive, understanding and forgiving, and we will remember those in the supply chain who did their best to support those closest to the customer when they needed it the most.
Above all else, we’ll remember what it felt like to be part of something bigger – a community that had our backs and best interests at heart. Whilst we’ve all had to deal with longer lead times on amended bookings, customers for the most part will remember positively how we made them feel.
They will remember how much it meant to be able to speak to someone – to have that human connection as their travel plans became distant dreams, or they found themselves desperately needing to get home. We feel for the customers that had no one to turn to, waiting hours to get through to someone that didn’t know them from the next person.
For a customer that had the benefit of having a personal travel agent over the last few weeks, that relationship will have meant more to them than ever before, and the relationships strengthened further in this time of crisis will be strong enough to create a bright future.
As leaders in a digital age when social connection is the norm, we recognise that the old top-down, command-control way of working will continue to be disrupted by company cultures that enable people, no matter where they sit in the organisation, to have a voice.
It shouldn’t take a crisis to highlight that the most important people in any business are those closest to the customer, giving them every opportunity, and supported by the tools and technology platform, to enable them to do the job they do best – take care of their customers.
As a business this crisis has reaffirmed the need to always be agile, asset light, flexible, react calmly and act quickly, plus we’ve learnt to expect the unexpected. Each and every one of us will have learned a lot and now also be aware of things we could have done better, but those businesses based on loyalty, customer advocacy and trust forged by being proactive and caring over the years will bounce back quicker and stronger.
So, when this time comes to pass – and it will – the future belongs to the care givers, and that is why personal travel advisers can look forward to the future with optimism.
Steve Byrne is chief executive of Travel Counsellors.