KarryOn would like to welcome you to the first interview in a new series we’re calling Agent Insights, where travel agents tell us their stories, their tips, and their challenges.
In this series, we want to share the love between travel agents, helping agents understand the different roles within the travel industry and helping each other kick goals in 2016 and beyond.
So without further adieu, let’s get stuck in with what Lorie Raymundo, a Travel Counsellor from Melbourne, has to say…
She’s been in the industry for over 10 years, first at Virgin and then at Student Flights and American Express.
Recently she joined the Travel Counsellors crowd. Meet Lorie Raymundo, a pocket-sized travel agent superstar.
So, Lorie, what exactly do you do?
I’m a small business operator, aka a Travel Counsellor. I create custom holidays for clients based on what exactly they’re looking for. I do this by getting to know them first as people.
In fact, I don’t even bring my laptop or brochures to my first consultation with a new client. I focus 100 percent of my attention on them so that I can better suggest destinations or activities to suit what they’re looking for.
Pretend I’m a potential client for a moment. What additional services do you provide now that you’re a Travel Counsellor as opposed to when you were a retail travel agent?
I can order groceries to your door for when you return from your holiday (nothing like coming home with fresh bread, milk, juice, eggs – necessities to get you back to your daily routine).
I can book restaurants, concerts, broadway shows, sports tickets, whatever you’re into! I can also book pet resorts, villas and unique venues for your special trip away.
I can also handle destination weddings – even set you up with a wedding website and thank-you notes for your guests.
As I said, I’m all about personalised services, so what ever you need, just tell me and we’ll figure it out!
Without having a shop-front or office to work from, where do you meet your clients?
I offer consults at cafés, the client’s work place, or even at homes if it’s a family group booking – whatever’s easiest for my clients. I also offer Skype consults if unable to meet in person.
I also offer after hours (between 6 and 9:30pm) and weekend consults by appointment only.
OK, let’s get right to the juicy stuff. Tell me about your worst customer – EVER.
That’s easy – one word, Milos. He was a client who was hand-balled to me from another agent who left my new store back in my Student Flights days. No one wanted to deal with him as he was, what they called, a “time waster.”
But I don’t think he was. He was actually a loyal client, who always returned. Frustratingly, he always made at least five to eight changes every time he travelled, which was always to the same destination (Croatia), with the same airline (Lufthansa) a few times a year.
Yes, our consults always took longer than usual, but he valued my service and I valued him as a client. He was always interesting!
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 think that most new travel agents get too stressed on the systems instead of focusing on growing their network and business, and forgetting to smile with clients.
Of course, it’s so easy to fall into that trap when first starting out, but new agents need to remember that clients don’t really care if you’re stressed. They want a great holiday. New agents need to focus on creating value and getting to know their clients on a personal level. Of course, they need to know why they are travelling.
Have you ever managed to turn a customer complaint into something positive? If so, how did you do it?
Yes. I once had a client who refused to take travel insurance – he worked for one of the big four banks. He complained again and again as to why I was “pushing” travel insurance on him as a part of his quote automatically. He said he didn’t want it and didn’t need it.
He even complained to my manager at the time if what I was saying was true in terms of travel insurance being something he should consider. I also advised him that he would need to sign a waiver if he didn’t take insurance from me.
Eventually he decided to buy travel insurance with me, after I gave him a 10 percent discount.
Can you guess what happened?
He ended up getting VERY sick whilst on a trip and had to extend his “holiday” as he was unable to fly – he was that sick. Travel insurance covered him for his extended stay and medical expenses, and even flew him home in business class so he was much more comfortable as he still wasn’t 100 percent.
When he was feeling better he came back with a bottle of wine and flowers and also gave me referrals from his whole team in his work. For years they’ve all booked their travel with me, as he described me as genuine and good value travel agent.
What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
I think the main challenge I’m facing as a Travel Counsellor is that I’m constantly compared to online and big name travel agencies. For example, I now take a small deposit if clients want to take away my first quote (my first consultation is free though), and customers ask why they have to pay for it when they can go to Flight Centre and get it for free.
That ties in nicely to another beef I have as a mobile agent. Friends and family – and just other people I meet – basically use me as an information service – kind of like Google – with no intention of ever booking any travel with me. They don’t value my time and expertise in the business and that’s frustrating!
What are you doing to turn that around?
I just make it clear that I’m not free, and that I’m a professional and should be respected for that accordingly. I ask them how they’d feel if someone asked them to do stuff for free, and that usually makes them see the light.
Okay, last but not least: how do you see the industry evolving in 2016?
I think we are in for a big year in 2016 as both the youth and old market are becoming extremely popular each year – especially in Australia. Airlines and tour companies are getting more creative even with their sales, and it’s becoming more affordable to travel at least once a year!
Thanks so much Lorie. Where can people find you if they’d like to make contact?
Have you checked out the hilarious “7 things a travel can do that a website can’t” yet?
*If you’d like to be be featured in Agent Insights, email [email protected] – I’d be happy to interview you!
So what are your key takeaways from Lorie? Let us know in the comments below.
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