Finding New Business, While Ensuring Repeat Business And Referrals
PHOTO: Gerald McGaughey of Mark Travel. (Courtesy Mark Travel Corp.)
Any travel agent worth their salt knows that the key to a successful business lies in repeat business.
But many agents often find themselves at a loss for how to best generate it. To hear agents talk, they receive great feedback after a client returns from a trip, but that might be the last they see of them.
We recently sat down with Gerald McGaughey, Regional Director-South/Southeast Region for Mark Travel Corp., whose flagship brand is Funjet Vacations, to get his take on what travel agents should be doing to grow their repeat business and the ways in which Mark Travel can help them move forward.
TravelPulse: What would you say the top three things are that agents need to be doing to attract new business?
Gerald McGaughey: That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many ways for travel agents to make an impact, but defining your specialty and personal brand is a great place to start. Today, customers require experts, and they want to do business with experts. We find that agents who are able to establish their “why” and their “specialty” are the agents that make the biggest impact. Second is getting involved in the community. Reach out to local media as a trusted voice in the market, becoming active and visible in environments that your customers frequent. The more visible that you are the more business you’ll attract. Once you’ve defined your expertise and where your customers are, testing various local opportunities like social media and direct mail is a great place to start. The more targeted the better.
TP: When it comes to retaining clients, what should travel agents be doing that they're not?
GM: This question really comes down to one word. Engagement. Are you engaged with your customers and their needs? Are you a part of the planning? The experience? Are you following up with them after they return home with relevant information? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations at every touch point you have with them? At Mark Travel, we call that living end-to-end with your customers. The more you know about your customers, the stronger your relationship and messaging will be.
TP: What do you think the biggest hurdles are to getting repeat business?
GM: At the end of the day there are a lot of factors outside of an agent’s control that can affect repeat business. From great experiences to obstacles outside an agent’s control, the finger always points back to the agent. If a customer has a not-so-ideal situation happen while at their destination, for example, it’s important that the agent is a part of the solution from a support standpoint. Repeat business is all about customer loyalty and customer loyalty for us starts with the agents’ involvement in the experience for a customer from front to finish.
TP: Should agents actively solicit referrals? If so, what's the best way?
GM:A customer referral really does mean that the agent is doing something right. Our data shows that engaged customers refer between four and six new customers to an agent when they have a positive experience. When customers have a positive experience, they form a story that is shared with their family and friends. The best way to gain a referral? ASK. When targeting new customers there are ways to do this the “right” way, for example through online reviews and through social media. But also let’s not forget the old fashioned way– to simply ask your current customers for referrals with their family and friends.
TP: How is Funjet uniquely positioned to help agents not only attract new business but retain clients?
GM: I am really glad you asked this question. Funjet has identified the best airline and hotel partners to work with; in that way we can ensure the best vacation experience for agents’ customers. Funjet also provides state-of-the-art engagement tools for our agent partners – Creative Connection, Here & Beyond magazine, Destination Planning Guides – all of which enable a personalized and customized relationship between agent and customer that strengthens loyalty. Technology is another thing that separates us from others as we continue to offer the very latest for our agents and customers. Finally, we are very proud of the team we have assembled at Mark Travel that works very hard each day ensuring we provide the very best, unique service for our agents, as well as their customers.
TP: What type of support does Funjet offer agents in recruiting and maintaining a client base?
GM: At Mark Travel we are all about education and supporting travel agents. As a matter of fact we just returned from our annual Summit where we led agents through four days of educational courses on this very topic. We are committed to the growth of travel agents and the travel agency model through education and growth. Recently, our friends at Trisept Solutions introduced us to the all-new Xcelerator. Xcelerator is a modern agency operating platform integrating all of the systems leisure travel agents need on a daily basis, including business management and customer engagement tools, as well as established connections to industry-leading suppliers. We are all very excited about the future of this tool and think it will add a lot of value for agents in maintaining a client base.
TP: Can you explain a bit about the various agent tools that are available through FunjetAgent.com/VAXvacationaccess.com, and how they can assist agents in building their client base
GM: At Mark Travel and Funjet, we realize that being a travel agent isn’t a one-size-fits-all business. That’s why we have traditional and contemporary tools to help every type of agent and agency. From printed magazine content to online tools that help customize messaging for only one customer, we have something for everyone. We are all very excited about the launch of Creative Connection, which is a browser-based tool that allows agents to customize creative pieces for their clients and help market their own business. You can access all of the tools through VAX Vacation Access.
More by Kristina Rundquist
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