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Agent Insights: Ez Yiap, Student Flights

Agent Insights is all about giving YOU – the ever so good-looking travel agent – a platform from where you can share your tips, challenges and experiences working in the travel industry.

Agent Insights is all about giving YOU – the ever so good-looking travel agent – a platform from where you can share your tips, challenges and experiences working in the travel industry.

This week we’re talking to Ez from Student Flights – the man from Melbourne with a gravity defying hairstyle and a passion for going above and beyond in serving his clients.

He’s been in the industry for over five years and he knows his stuff.

Meet Ez Yiap, the rock-star travel agent who has a penchant for hairspray and great customer service.

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So Ez, who do you work for and what do you do?

I’m a team leader and manager at Student Flights at our Flinders St store in Melbourne. I’ve been a travel consultant with Student Flights for five and a half years now and can’t think of anything better.

I do it all. Any kind of travel arrangement for any kind of traveller. I look after it. I look after them. I have leisure customers, corporate customers, students, families, solo travellers, couples, honeymoons, funerals – the works.

The consulting aside, I also look after a team of travel consultants and work with them on their development, product and destination knowledge and sales/customer service skills.

Pretend I’m a potential client for a moment: What do you do that separates you from the pack?

For a start, you’re going to either see me and probably never forget me – or at least not the hair style. If you don’t come in you’ll get an email or an electronic business card that my picture is attached to. Haha.

Not only do I pride myself in my appearance but also in my professionalism. I’m going to give you all the information you need – probably more than you expect. I’m really comprehensive in my consultations and I’m going to tell you about what I can do, what I’ve done, and how you’re getting the best value for your money and an amazing travel experience – rather than simply trying to sell you something. It’s called “Tell Don’t Sell”. You’ll feel the conviction. Not just someone trying to convince you.

OK, let’s get right to the juicy stuff. Tell me about your worst customer – EVER.

I know everyone likes a horror story. Truthfully I don’t  have a “Worst Ever” customer. I’ve learnt valuable lessons and skills from some of the less enjoyable customers, and it’s part and parcel of the job that you’ll get a hard time every now and then.

I’ve tried going over a handful of some of the worst customers I’ve experienced, but every time I’ve done so I’ve decided that actually I see what’s happened and I can understand their thought pattern or mind-set. And whilst it’s not always fair, nice, proper or reasonable, it’s emotional and that’s the nature of what we sell.

Let’s travel back in time. What do you wish you knew back when you started working as a travel agent? And what do you think some of the common mistakes travel agents make when starting off? 

I’ve thought about this a lot. I wish someone had helped me understand from the beginning that being a travel agent is about being a customer manager and a business developer. It’s not a job based solely around acquisition or getting new enquiry.

The most successful consultants are great at building long-lasting relationships and keeping people in the cycle of dreaming-planning-booking and looping people into that consistently. It took a lot of observing and thinking about what kind of travel agent I wanted to be and some hard lessons before I got on the right path.

One of the common mistakes travel agents make is being impatient.

You see everything as a same day TTL and feel like every day is a dream that’s going to autocancel. Haha.

You can’t rush this job and it’s not something you can necessarily expect to see results from straight away. We sell something that the customer doesn’t get to experience until sometimes months after they’ve transacted. That means you might not get to see how you did with that job/client/booking until later on. It takes a serious amount of time to pick up the systems, destination and product knowledge and build your clientele up.

Have you ever managed to turn a customer complaint into something positive? If so, how did you do it?

I love “customer complaints”. They’re one of my favourite challenges because it’s so rewarding booking someone who’s had a bad experience or didn’t want to book after getting to the root of the issue and resolving it. Often these customers end up your most loyal.

Not too long ago, I had a novice dealing with a customer by email back and forth about some flights for a family of four. The novice didn’t do anything wrong or bad exactly, but they probably didn’t set realistic expectations around when they could get back to them and the customer didn’t feel valued.

The customer made a complaint about a price not being valid several days after the quote was provided and that there wasn’t enough follow-up and now the flights they wanted were more expensive.

I took over the situation after they said they weren’t booking and stayed in touch with them about alternatives to their holiday with a different destination. The result after a bit of TLC was they booked flights and then brought in three other families to join them and made sure those families booked with me.

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What are your biggest challenges at the moment?

One of the biggest challenges I’m facing, and I’m sure many travel agents would feel this way too, is the over saturation of information out there. Between the internet, constant connectivity to social media and the crazy number of travel agencies and consultants, it’s always a battle to be confident you’ve got the best information and the right information for the customer. There’s a growing expectation to prove yourself an expert.

Everyone’s seen something, heard something or knows something by the time they’re engaged with you. Often half the work of a consultation is going through the myths and misinformation or assumptions that people have and developing their understanding of what it is they need and want and how you can give it to them.

What are you doing to turn that around?

Changing the way that I consult and remembering that to give the best answers and advice you’ve got to start with the right questions first.

Everyone’s comparing everything constantly and part of a good consultation needs to be around getting to what it is that the customer is comparing to and what you’re comparing to. It’s not enough to simply know what prices someone has seen. Digging deeper and finding out what their previous travel experiences were, what their friends and family have done, what Instagram accounts they follow, what blogs they read, who’s inspiring them and with what – these are all things that more and more are shaping how a consultation goes.

Okay, last but not least: how do you see the industry evolving in 2016?

Already this year, especially in the niche that Student Flights is privilege to be part of, there’s an evolution in who a travel consultant is. At the moment there’s a massive roll out of E-Business cards. Making sure that as a travel agent you’re communicating with customers the way that they most instinctively do so and want to be interacted with. The familiarity and personalised nature of a travel consultant is falling in line with the growth in the ‘at my finger tips’ lifestyle and buying pattern customers are using and want more of.

The definition of Professional and Personal will evolve this year and the overlap is growing.

Thanks so much Ez. So where can people find you if they’d like to make contact?

They can text me on 0419004097 and get my E business card 🙂

Or they can email me at [email protected], pop in store www.studentflights.com.au/stores/melbourne/sf-flinders street, or give me a call on 03 9663 5265.

Definitely swipe right if you see me on Tinder or say hello just around town here in Melbourne!

*If you’d like to be featured in Agent Insights, email [email protected] – I’d be happy to interview you!

So what are your key takeaways from the Ez man? Let us know in the comments below.