The travel industry is embracing changes in the way travelers interact with its products and services, especially when it comes to travel retail. Loyalty is now more important than ever, as the traveler has many choices when choosing a path to purchase. One way travel management companies (TMCs) and suppliers earn loyalty among their travelers is to provide them with an end-to-end experience that does nothing short of “wow” the traveler. This pursuit of the “wow” experience starts with the very first touch point: the travel consultant.

As travelers have become more informed and savvy, the industry has been required to pivot to a traveler-centric approach. This is marked by a quiet shift across the industry to move from “travel agents” to “travel consultants.” Rather than being an intermediary between a supplier and a traveler, agencies are now focused on adding value through comprehensive customer service.

The challenge is integrating this evolution into what has been a sequence of clicks and codes. Historically, booking complex travel required an extensive knowledge of GDS commands. This specialized know-how makes it difficult to find consultants who combine technical knowledge with a customer service background.

One solution is recruiting people with travel retail experience and the ability to navigate the complicated world of booking travel through GDS and POS systems. As many agency owners and managers know, this solution is easier said than done. Perhaps there is another approach?

Tackling TMC hiring challenges

Finding the right person for the job is not easy, especially as TMCs seek consultants with just the right mix. The most successful consultants need someone with:

  • Communication skills across channels
  • Commitment to customer service
  • Travel industry experience
  • Keen business sense
  • Knowledge of fares, rules, and routes

Hiring someone who already has all of these key attributes is expensive, as they are often more senior and in demand. Training someone on the numerous command codes for GDS is time-consuming and expensive.

Technology can help fulfill the need for quality consultants. The best POS is easy-to-use. It enables people with travel industry experience, but little history of booking travel, to quickly become efficient and self-sufficient. When uptake is accelerated, agencies can reach for a broader profile of travel consultant.

TMCs are continuously tasked with hiring, training, and finding ways to retain talented travel consultants. New consultants need to book trips independently and error-free. And, regardless of learning curve, these bookings need to be done quickly. New hires also need to understand and execute necessary functions such as override programs and negotiated rates, while maximizing incentives like commissions and net rates.

(Re)discovering the value of the expert

On top of all the technical expertise, today’s traveler is seeking a more personalized and customer-centric experience. The traveler has many self-service options. Since they have been trained to book independently online, they are looking for a boutique feel when they seek out the expertise of a travel consultant. They want someone to prove their value through convenience in booking as well as a convenient experience when they are on their journey: the car needs to be there to pick them up and the hotel room needs to be booked with amenities that meet their preferences. Otherwise, why not just do it themselves?

This is the value of a knowledgeable, experienced travel consultant.

Knowledgeable travel consultants require technology that adds depth and speed to their work with clients. This is why we designed the new Sabre Red Workspace to offer:

  • Data analytics to help identify savings and personalize offers
  • Intuitive design to make training and navigation simple and effective
  • Supplier merchandising opportunities to maintain consistency across brands within the GDS environment
  • APIs for customizable interfaces tailored to each business

Each of these capabilities is directly correlated to the increased focus on consultation and customer service. Through the perfect mix of talent and tech, agencies of all sizes and specialties deliver the personal touch that builds true repeat business.

RELATED: This article is part of an ongoing series on travel retail.