As a home-based agent, you rely on technology as a critical tool that is closely tied to the success of your business. But you are essentially on your own when it comes to finding the tools and apps that can make your business more efficient.
So we surveyed home-based agents to see which tech tools are most effective for their home-based travel businesses. Here’s what they had to say.
“One of my favorite apps is Slack. It allows me to communicate on projects with teams of people inside or outside my office,” said Trish Gastineau of Simply Customized Travel in Naples, Fla. “I’m able to collaborate on joint projects with other agents in the Slack channels instead of all the different chat or email channels we would have had in the past. Slack is searchable, which helps when you are looking for ‘that one conversation’ about a special experience.”
Gastineau added, “Slack happens in real time and runs on my desktop as well as [through] an app on my iPhone. I can set the notifications the way I prefer them, and can set myself on ‘Do Not Disturb,’ or ‘Away’ when needed. The cool thing is that the team I’ve set up can still have access and work while I’m away.”
Scannable is a favorite of Erin Logsdon of Luxury Travel Works in Shrewsbury, Mass. “I love using Scannable. I couldn’t do my job without it,” she said. “I recommend it to tech savvy clients who don’t have access to a scanner for getting credit card authorization forms and passport copies back to me.”
Logsdon added, “I use it to scan documents in my office and while traveling abroad — no more going to the hotel business center. The coolest feature is that it can also scan business cards.”
R. D. Gavel of Travel Repertoire in Harvard, Mass., recommended Wickr, a secure messenger app that’s useful for paying suppliers. “Wickr is a messaging app that offers NSA-level security with a timed self-destruct mode that can be set by the sender. Collecting credit card information from clients can be a challenge” she said. “There are many methods for acquiring credit card data to complete an in-house sale, but nothing [until now] that securely displayed numbers, dates and codes so that a card could be used to pay a third-party supplier.”
Gavel added, “While phone calls are acceptable, some clients are very busy during regular hours and/ or live in different time zones. The secure online web form we’d been using for some years was also judged to be non-compliant with increasingly strict regulations. It’s very easy to install and use, and is a great option for clients who prefer to exchange information electronically at a time that is convenient for them.”
MICROSOFT EXCHANGE FOR OUTLOOK
Judy Nidetz of Northbrook, Ill.-based Travel Experts cited Microsoft Exchange for Outlook as her most valuable tool. “It makes my Outlook emails and folders accessible through any of my other devices or laptops, and it’s accessible from any browser any place in the world,” she said. “I organize my bookings into folders in my Outlook and file special information, such as favorite city restaurants and formats for Sabre.”
Nidetz added, “All I have to do then is open my phone and the information is at my fingertips. Any updates I do from any of the devices or browsers are automatically updated in the cloud and saved. I never have to worry about losing information due to a failed computer.”
The Tried and True
Some tech tools have been right under our noses for some time now. Although they may be taken for granted, homebased agents pointed out how immensely useful they are.
“Being able to check email on my smartphone years ago was a game changer for me,” said Rob Kalpak of Kalpak & Associates Travel in Stone Mountain, Ga. “For many years as a home-based agent, I was glued to my desk. Most of my business comes from email contacts, so I was reluctant to step away from my desk too often. I didn’t want to miss any important client communication. The portability of the smartphone, coupled with the ability to stay in contact with clients, gave me much needed freedom and flexibility and certainly was a stress reducer.”
What’s the most important tool for Rhonda Day of Louisville, Ky.-based Dream Vacations? “This is an easy answer for me and nothing earth-shattering or unique: it’s Facebook,” she said. “My Facebook business page is really my secondary website. No matter where I am in the world, just about everyone knows Facebook. Facebook is the hub of my personal and professional life. It’s my number-one tool in my business.
“If I’m traveling, I post pictures on my personal page where I can set the audience as Public. This allows me to promote myself as a professional who invests time and money visiting the destinations I sell. Without fail, when I post pictures of a beautiful beach or sunrise, my Facebook comments and Facebook Messenger light up with, ‘Where are you?’ I want to go there!’ Get me a quote!’”