Houston we have a problem!
Here's the challenge then for all agency owners, managers, team leads and HR departments - your role now is to make sure your travel agents, travel advisors, travel counsellors, travel consultants, cruise specialists, wedding & honeymoon specialists, personal pillow puffers and happy bookers (yes, some agents use that title...) are performing at the highest level possible.
That highest level is 100%. There is no 110%. If anyone has to go 110% then they were trawling at 90% and were found out and now need to switch on the rocket boosters and pretend to deliver 110% in order to reach the desired 100%. Same with 'going the extra mile' - there is no 'extra mile'. The so called extra mile is the expected level of service. There is no mid-service, almost service, getting close service... there is only 100% service.
This 100% mark applies to all things: travel, geographic, world events; sales; service; social media use; marketing; follow up; prospecting; meet & greet; grooming; email; internet search; supporting preferred suppliers; supporting the agency brand; supporting trade and educational associations... I'll let you fill in the rest.
The Six Sigma calculation of 99.9997 is often used to determine how well a company that has worked Six Sigma into it's business life, is performing. Any airline that is Six Sigma certified would, out of one million flights (if it was operating at a level of 99.999) show only 3 flights as delayed. Out of one million pieces of luggage being shipped - only 3 would go astray. You get the picture. Best is 99.9997 - which is as close to 100% as it can get. You can clearly understand the finite margin for error when you claim to be best.
A travel agency team operating at 100% is your goal. Operating at 95% would be fantastic if you could ever achieve it.
If you do not wish anyone on your team to be measured as useless then turn your attention to more training, more self study, establish a training path for each individual and pursue each member of your team relentlessly. Coach, mentor, teach, discuss, show how and build your team into the blue chip cohesive group they believe they can be. An analogy would be Olympic medallists - they train until the skills, motions, mind-sets are locked in. Another analogy would be movie stars - they practice time after time and suffer take after take until they get 'it' right. Whereas so many travel agents are content to wing it. This is where "useless" seeps in. Ask yourself right now - how many times in the past month have you sat and practiced the seven steps of selling techniques with each of your frontline sales team? How about the last six months?
In pursuing relentless coaching and training you will unfortunately lose people along the way. Their skills and talents may prove to be obsolete and their ability to measure up, learn and grow not what it should be to meet the current cutting edge.
In order to develop the level of agency expertise the trade has countered the recent bad press with, you should be ready to invest a year or two of continual training and education and be prepared for a 30% staff turnover until you arrive at the operating level of, or as close to, 100%.
One way to reach this level is to re-write each job description so that it represents the present day through the next 3 years. Most of your in-house skill levels are in fact old, not useless, but bordering on obsolete. You must re-create the job description, activities, skill levels, knowledge levels etc., going forward- and then measure each member of your team against your new performance levels / strategy. Note the skill gaps. Train and skill up accordingly and eventually, over time you will become the proud manager of a high functioning team. The same applies to host agencies and the development strategy for their ICs.
As you well know, you can only manage what you can measure. Here's to true, measured success.
Agency owners and managers may want to read the next issue of Travel Agency Manager, publishing later this month. It discusses marketing the talents of your agency team and ties into this blog posting.