Bring Back the Travel Agent

June 1, 2023
Be the helper who gets the oil change chore done for customers.

When you ask most people about what they want to do with their life, or what they want to do for fun, most would turn to the idea of traveling the world. Joy enters your eyes as you imagine yourself walking through magical places you had only seen on TV. Eating at places that actually invented the style of food you consume during your “take-out” nights. Digging your feet in the sand as the cold crisp waves gently rise up to your ankle and recede back to the ocean the sun is setting in.

No one in their right mind thinks of the blissfulness of booking the trip. There is no bliss at that stage. In fact, booking a trip can rank up there with going to the dentist or getting the oil changed. As you rummage through the options, searching Facebook for that post that kicked off the whole vacation idea. Realizing you refreshed your feed and you will never see that picture again. Decision paralysis kicks in when you are looking for the right hotel, B&B or resort. If you have kids with an opinion, it can be a million times more difficult. Laying summer schedules over each other to try and find those few days that make sense for everyone. Then going back to the site to see if your chosen resting spot can even accommodate you and your family. You can probably tell what I have been up to lately.

Booking sites meant to be helpful have killed the travel agent business. Those fantastic gods and goddesses of travel can whip up an itinerary fit for the whole family. Instead of handing off the task to a stranger, we have, as a society, decided the internet has given us just as much power, knowledge and energy to do it ourselves. Control seems to trump convenience. As I take a break from the hotel sites, I wonder how this translates into our businesses.

Making Chores Easier

As alluded to earlier, changing oil is one of the most dreaded activities consumers will face. Fear of being oversold by uneducated technicians. They dread waiting in a dirty lobby while their afternoon plans wash away watching their car sit in line (or worse, in the shop with no one working on it). The idea of someone coming to them explaining technical repairs and maintenance that needs to be done as they reorganize their budget in their head while the service writer waits for an answer.

To our customers, the amount of information online ranging from reviews, websites and Jim the mechanics blog creates a level of stress that throws up the wall of “no”. Where we can help is to bring back the travel agent. They're the person who absorbs the information, spits out a customized plan and helps the customer through their journey. Your service writer should be your travel agent. Remember our customers value convenience over control because they are not shade-tree mechanics. They need you to sort through all the noise and lay out their plans. This could be as simple as training them early on maintenance schedules and getting them used to their owner’s manual. Map out what needs to be done in the near future so they can be prepared. Book them for future travel (aka services).

On the employee side, they are not so much interested in the maintenance schedule, but their personal/professional Itinerary. The internet is filled with side gigs economy, rapid professional growth schemes and get rich quick sales pitches. Anyone can stand in front of a car flashing movie money and sell you on the best way to be successful before turning off their camera and returning to their parents' basement.

It takes a travel agent to gather in the desires of the employee. What do they want to end up doing with their life? Evaluate where they are in your business and identify if your business is a side attraction, bus stop or main event. Be honest, you get more out of someone who can identify you as a stepping stone, gathering the tools and skills to get to the next stone. The person who is sold a bad package of hopes and dreams will quickly come to realize that this stop is where the bums collect the spare change, not the stop that shows them the avenue to walk down on their path. Once they find out your ill intentions, they will exit the bus (usually screaming your bad intent to the world).

The best travel agents look out for their customers (both internal and external). It is our job as leaders to evaluate the desires of our guests and employees so we can lay out their path to the desired outcome. Be the great travel agent. Be the great leader.