“Oh you know… pressure situation… law firms where everyone bills in six minute increments… You just need to make the most of your time and be accountable for it.”

Reminded me of travel agents lamenting the tire kickers who come into their business. You know, the ones that come in, pick your brain and then run away to go and look holiday of a lifetime by themselves.

When they have a problem on the holiday they booked themselves they feel fairly comfortable calling you for advice. Your profit margin? Zilch.

So why aren’t travel agents charging like lawyers?


The Case For


When comparing bricks and mortar/mobile travel agents instead of an OTA, we are quick to talk about service. That in fact, the travel industry is a “service” industry. So by definition, it’s not just selling the customer something on which you can make a markup but providing the service, tapping into your brains, wisdom and knowledge.

Let’s face it, it seems to be only land and cruise products that these days agents can get at a wholesale rate anyway. Some airlines even charge the agents $25 for the privilege of booking their passengers. Last year in Sydney a very tired airline executive explained to a group of travel agents how they wanted more direct business with customers.

Some agents already clearly have a service fee listed on their desk. Walk in, sit down, ask us about holidays and it will cost you at least $50. Sure, book something and we will let you off $50.

So why couldn’t you say to somebody: “look, you can run away and book this for yourself run going to give you the best advice I can. Take a seat, I charge you in 15 minute increments and $120 an hour and will tell you where you should go and how you should do it.”


Potential implementation


It would have to be incredibly clear. There would need to be a sub-brand where rather than being in travel sales or travel bookings you are simply a travel advisor. There would need to be clarity with respect to the exact nature of the service you are offering and a clear lack of allegiance to external brands.

Plonk a timer on the desk, tell them how many email responses they can have and start consulting as a pure travel consultant. Every time the clock goes ping it costs you $30.


The case against


So the reality kicks in and the truth is, the external public probably don’t see the service offering as professional enough. After all, they have an internet connection which makes them an expert on absolutely anything from booking cross carrier flights through to the best hotels and legal advice, accounting, world politics and town planning…the list goes on.

We know the advice would be worthwhile, that travel agents always save money or at worst case, offer the best value proposition, but not everyone is going to feel comfortable paying. So often there is going to be a perception of advising a product upon which you will earn revenue it might be tougher than we think.

So what is the takeaway?


Learn from the lawyers


The first one is time effectiveness. I’m a big advocate of really looking at why you do the things you do – how much time they take and where you generate value. Lawyers and accountants clearly need to be very good at this and they are mostly good at what they do so that we should learn.

When I consider those agents who do make a clear statement about the service fee, across-the-board, they tend to be the better agents. Sure, they are probably more independent than franchise branded and maybe have more flexibility but generally speaking, they are doing a better job.

It’s a great way to keep a tire kickers at bay and let you focus on the things that are making you money? Do you actually want to do business with someone who doesn’t value your product, service or skill?

Charge like a lawyer, but not a wounded bull.

Do you think agents should charge like lawyers?