Travel Agents: What is the Culture of your Profitability!


Recently ‘Sean Johns’ of Resurg presented a workshop which looked at our key drivers of profitability and how important it was to concentrate on precise areas of our business and how such small or incremental changes in these areas can have such a significant impact to profitability.

Sean explained that the main focus on changing the financial performance of the business was ironically not about focusing on the financial numbers as this is merely the result of driving the right characteristics of the business (also known as LAG indicators).  The characteristics displayed in the DNA of the most profitable businesses in your network were defined as having the following four primary characteristics:


  1. Niche or specialisation in the business has become the NEW norm

This seems obvious when you consider the way income is derived from our clients.  By specialisation or niche we mean that a customer comes to us for a particular product, skill or reason based on the fact that you are known (perceived) to have specific skills in this area of need. If a client comes specifically to your business this translates to higher conversion; being able to recommend other products and service increases and there is far less pressure on price.  The result is greater revenue and time efficiencies for the client hence increasing profits.  Characteristically all the top businesses display a large following and referral network and are well known to their market for their specialization.


  1. Commoditisation is challenged by customer intimacy

Before you panic about how friendly with clients’ your staff need to be, think about this!  Commoditisation means that customers wanting a simple product; ie an airline ticket has a wide variety of ways they can access and purchase these products. Obviously with these kind of products price becomes the central focus. In this situation the big difference essentially can only be you being the experience and process you bring to the transaction. Don’t under estimate your value as this is enormous and ultimately the single point of differentiation which more often than not results in a greater experience and in many cases a cheaper and more cost-effective result. Yes, a consultant can ultimately save them money. The problem is that many travel businesses are not truly client centric and the experience isn’t that great nor does it demonstrate knowledge, efficiency and fun. Put your focus on the client to the test and ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you identify your key clients?
  • Do you recognize new clients when they do business with you for the first time?
  • Do you ask clients consistently what their needs and satisfaction levels are?
  • Do you have a strong follow-up process?
  • Does your communication with clients involves getting to know them or is it just sporadic and technology driven?
  • Do your intentionally work to grow your repeat clients for the business and consultants?

If the answer is no to these questions – then the real question is are you really a client centric business?  The good guys are!


  1. Staff engaged equals staff performance

If ever there is one vital area that is consistent in all successful businesses both in and outside the travel industry, it can be defined as having engaged staff. This is not the same thing as hard-working staff. In other words they have bought in! Engaging our people is an art that is found easy by some and very difficult by others.  Engaging staff today especially the younger ones requires open communication, an environment that welcomes their input, an ability to learn regardless of whether they are only planning a short career with you and clear direction and understanding of the key business expectations.  Just expecting them to work longer or harder may have worked in the past but will not in the future. To develop “engaged” staff the best businesses

a)      recruit the right people

b)      clearly define expectations

c)       reward good behaviour and jump on poor behaviour immediately

d)      communicate consistently through training mentoring and structured meetings


  1. Growing knowledge never ends!

A commitment to increasing the knowledge in our business can happen in a number of ways. It can be product related or technology related as well as around customer information and CRM. Whatever it is the best of the best are always looking to become better and smarter in delivering their services. Again this makes great sense as well as great trained team members; and with good systems, information will always offer a better, more efficient and profitable service to all clients.


Build these 1-2-3-4 characteristics into your CULTURE and your DNA, then the numbers will ultimately take care of themselves.