It’s always good to hear from readers. In this day and age of short attention spans and media competition for eyeballs, it’s heartening to know people are still reading anything, let alone something I wrote. But my recent column “The New Normal for Travel Agents” did strike a chord with at least one reader—home-based travel agent Sharon Tullis of Hermiston, OR, who wrote the following response:
“I do agree with everything that you have said!
“I am a work-from-home travel agent. I moved my business home January 1, 2000. I have been in the travel industry since 1985, so I have seen many changes take place. It is all about adapting. And let’s be honest, all business in order to grow must adapt with the changing times!
“I am fortunate that I have a niche—I cater to most of the professional rodeo cowboys. They travel year round and require 24-hour-a-day service. I give that to them. I like to think that I go above and beyond to give them that one-of-a-kind customer service that is so lacking in today’s environment. Let’s face it, in a lot of cases that is all that we have over the next guy—Customer Service!
“The Internet can’t give [my clients] the service they require; we have a lot of last-minute changes. They need someone they can trust to get them the best deal, and get from point A to B to C and back to A and C.
“Ninety-five percent of my business is airline travel. I can’t tell you how many new customers I have received just from one of my regulars standing in line for a delayed flight! They call me and I get them rebooked onto another flight in the blink of an eye. Those standing around them hear the phone conversation and they hand them the phone and I get them fixed up as well. It’s all about word of mouth and doing good business. “We as travel agents must adapt and be willing to check that client in on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. We need to try and wade our way through all these new ancillary charges, and know what our clients need and offer those services to them. What is good for my clients and the type of work they do may not be what your clients need or want, but that is what makes travel agents so unique! We get to know our client base on a more personal level and offer a personalized level of service.
“What worries me more than these ancillary fees is the unwillingness of most airlines to view us at the level we deserve. We are an agent for the airlines. We sell their product and do a damn good job at it! Airlines and GDS have had to realize that it’s not all about mega-agencies and stop offering incentives and overrides only to them. The small mom-and-pops combined probably outnumber the mega” agencies.
“What do I look forward to most in my day? Helping my clients! What do I dread in my day? Talking to the airlines!
“Thanks for taking the time to let me climb on my soap box!”
—Sharon Tullis, Sharon's Travels, Hermiston, OR
No problem, Sharon, you can climb up on that soapbox anytime. And that goes for all the other agents out there as well . As I said, we love to hear from our readers! You can email me direct at [email protected]