Travel agencies of all sizes often operate on a razor-thin margin. Even with agencies lucky enough to have large teams of in-house or independent advisors and sizable budgets, there’s no room for waste. Agency owners, whether large corporate agencies or one-person home-based businesses, need to make every dollar and every minute of their day count.
Bringing small business efficiency tips into day-to-day operations can help agency owners increase their profitability, improve productivity and open up room for growth, all of which are critical to their company’s longevity.
Here are six reasons why travel agents should make small business’ efficiency a top priority, along with tips on how to be more efficient.
1. Reduce Cost
Inflation is on the rise. Everything costs more than it used to, cutting into small businesses’ already stretched budgets. But chances are, agency owners are spending money on things they might not need.
What are you paying for that you can get for less?
For instance, a third-party social media scheduling tool that’s been costing extra might easily be replaced by something the agency’s consortium or parent host offers for no extra cost.
Can you automate anything?
Automation tools can help cut costs as well, by reducing the amount of time agency owners or their employees or ICs spend on tasks that could be done more quickly. Agents can find tools (again, often offered by their consortium or parent host for no added fee) to help with customer service, invoicing, marketing, tour building, and more.
To find cost efficiencies, agency owners should start by creating a spreadsheet of everything they’re spending money on. Can any of the entries be replaced by something their consortium or host provides for free? Are there automation tools that can cut down on the time that they or their employees or ICs are doing something that costs money? Are there physical supplies that can be replaced by less expensive digital versions? Can they get co-op dollars from supplier partners to help subsidize any marketing they might do?
By first determining where their money is going, agency owners can look for ways to be more efficient with their spending.
2. Increase Profits
With fewer expenses, profits are likely to go up. By trimming expenses, small business travel agencies can set aside money to bring on a new employee or an independent consultant, thereby expanding the agency’s bandwidth for planning more travel.
But it’s not just cost efficiencies that can raise profits. Being more efficient with where your time is spent can create time to work on activities that directly raise the bottom line – like booking more client travel. Or getting educated – or certified – on higher-cost vacation options in order to bring in larger commissions.
Do this for your employees too. Track how each employee is spending their time. Where are the expending their energy? Is there a faster way to do the same thing? Could someone else — an intern, maybe — do these tasks instead?
Having more time also gives advisors the ability to up their customer service. The more time an advisor spends customizing and perfecting a client’s travel, the higher the service fee they can command.
3. Helps You Meet Customer Demand
The travel industry is booming. After being cooped up too long, consumers are looking to get out and experience the world. There are more people looking for transformative travel experiences than there are travel advisors to help.
By finding time-cutting efficiencies in their business, advisors can both take on new clients and service their current clients who might be feeling the need for more hand-holding than before.
How can advisors be more productive at meeting customer demand?
Following a clear workflow process is one way. There are dozens of customer relationship management and travel planning tools, usually available free from consortiums, franchise parent companies, and hosts. Having all your client’s travel needs in one place and what still needs to be taken care of makes it easy for advisors to hit the ground running at the start of each day. No time is wasted trying to remember what still needs to be arranged.
Another way to meet customer demand is by being more efficient?
Make use of supplier tools. Rather than wait on hold to get an answer, try doing a quick search on the supplier’s travel agent portal. Or maybe the supplier has an online chat function, which tends to be much quicker than a phone call.
4. Provides You Time to Work On Your Business
Most small business owners are so busy working in their businesses, they never find the time to work on their business. But businesses that don’t take the time to plan and strategize often wind up stuck in place.
Without a roadmap, it’s nearly impossible to achieve your goals.
By freeing up money to hire help or time that you can take back, business owners can take the time they need to create marketing plans, collaborate with supplier partners, learn about new products, run cost analyses, and do other similar tasks that ultimately maximize their success.
It’s not only agency owners who should schedule a time to work on their business. Employees and independent contractors should make their own business plans and goals that they regularly track and measure against themselves.
5. Creates Positive Customer Experiences
Happy customers lead to valuable referrals and repeat business. The more efficient the small business, the better able it is to provide great customer service and make it seem seamless.
For instance, using automated CRM software that sends out automatic “before you go” or “packing list” emails to clients at set intervals before their trip, takes an agency owner or advisor no time at all. But from the client’s perspective, that travel agency is taking care of their needs.
Having the time – because you’re managing it efficiently – to develop a relationship with supplier business development managers might be the difference between getting your client an upgrade or an extra amenity or not.
Customers can also sense when you’re giving them your full attention.
Even just a little bit more time in your schedule can cut down on how long it takes you to get back to customers, who, by the way, can usually sense when you’re feeling harried and overwhelmed. By being able to focus on your clients, you make them feel valued, ultimately creating a positive customer experience they’re happy to tell others about.
6. Sets the Tone for your ICs and Employees
It’s not enough for only an agency owner to be efficient. Businesses with employees, whether in-house or independent contractors need all hands on deck when it comes to business efficiency.
Owners who make small businesses’ efficiency a top priority for themselves set an example that others can follow.
Your employees want to maximize their own success.
If they see you making more high-cost sales because you first made the effort to free up extra time, then invested that time in learning about new products and marketing them, they’re going to want to do the same. And that leads to more success for the agency overall.
As a business owner, you should also feel comfortable requiring your employees to be more efficient. Make end-of-year or New Year planning a requirement. Schedule monthly or quarterly reviews to monitor their progress.
It’s easy for owners and employees alike to get sucked into the day-to-day tasks of running a small business. But by losing yourself in your daily tasks, the chances of inefficiencies creeping back into the business go up.
Having the entire team follow a plan, auditing their progress, and staying aware of everything they’re doing will lead to business success for your travel agency.
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