Suppliers participate in a panel during the Results! Travel 2007 National Networking Event (left to right): George Strachan, Division Leader, U.S., Worldspan by Travelport; Tim Frederick, National Agency Account Executive, NWA; Scott Ackerman, Regional Manager, AIG Travel Guard; Krista Erickson, Key Account Manager, Budget Rent A Car; Elizabeth Johnsen, Staff Vice President National Accounts, Pleasant Holidays
During his presentation, Block addressed such concerns as competition from online travel sites. "Customers are getting fed up with Travelocity and Expedia and they are coming back to us in droves, especially for large group travel and small business accounts," he said, noting Expedia's flat sales growth in the U.S. while also touting an agent's unique ability to help their clients when something goes wrong on a trip.
He also urged the crowd to focus more on selling airline bookings, given the growth in the airline industry and the opportunity to earn "a couple of bucks" from GDS and airline overrides, in addition to services fees. Block also commended Royal Caribbean International for the stand it took in the recent YTB and card mills controversy, and urged agency owners to attract the cooperation and financial assistance of such suppliers and keep pace with the growing travel industry as a whole by growing their business through expansion and acquisitions. "Acquiring other agencies will dramatically increase your market share and profitability," Block said. He gave Carlson as an example, which, after buying Navigant for more than $500 million, "is now the largest travel agency in the world." He concluded his speech by urging all agents to join the American Society of Travel Agents-Block is a member of the organization's corporate executive advisory committee-so that the organization can continue to "fill up their war chest" and go to bat for agents.
Risner, in an interview with Travel Agent, related how and why he and his company decided to launch the Results! Travel franchise brand seven years ago. One major advantage that a franchise has over consortia and co-ops, Risner said, is their ability to offer their affiliated agencies airline overrides. "In 2002, I began to get letters and phone calls from our franchisees saying that airline overrides helped sustain them after September 11 and that they probably would've had to close their doors without [the overrides]," he said.
He also touted the fact that each agency that becomes a franchisee keeps its own brand identity, with Results! providing marketing, training, preferred supplier relationships and back-office/tech support such as the Results! Advantage customizable web site manager. Risner says the training that Results! offers, which includes online content, webinars and classes in various U.S. cities, focuses on ways for agents to make more money. "Regardless of what the economy's doing, if you're differentiating yourself by creating a customer experience, people will want to do business with you," Risner said. He listed three keys for agencies to increase their sales: "Know your customer better than you know anything else; be ready to do business when they want to do business [with 24/7 availability]; and sell the products, destinations and experiences that meet or exceed your customers' expectations while increasing your earnings."
When asked about what differentiates Results! from its competitors, he said that franchisees "like the sense of community and our responsiveness. They know they can pick up the phone and call me, and that I'll respond," he said. "We focus on the big-picture view so they can focus on the details." Risner also was eager to talk about a recent survey of Results! franchisees, in which 97.6 percent of those surveyed said that they would recommend Results! to another agency.
Roger E. Block, CTC, executive vice president, Carlson Travel Franchise Group John Risner, general manager, Results! Travel; Sandi Kolb, ACC, regional manager, Results! Travel; Jim Melia, regional manager, Results! Travel In the spirit of the event’s theme, “Come Sale Away,” Results! Travel Members learned about cultivating an experience-driven client base and finding new ways to reach out to customers who aren’t solely focused on price. “Over the past year, one of our key messages to Members has been encouraging them to engage customers in dialog to change their decision criteria from price to experience,” said Results! Travel General Manager John Risner. “In 2007, we held a series of sales technique workshops across the country, and we were able to reinforce that message over the past few days,” said Risner.
Results! Travel also helps educate Members about other trends, both inside and apart from the travel industry. “Part of our role as franchisor is to watch those trends, alert Members and provide suggestions to owners on how they can modify their business models, be flexible and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, executive vice president of Carlson Travel Franchise Group, which includes Results! Travel. “We help our Members become even more informed and anticipatory of their customers’ needs,” said Block.
The network also made two announcements regarding opportunities Members can look forward to in the year ahead. First, it will be rolling out the “Results! Travel 5-Star Agent Program,” which will establish benchmarks in preferred supplier knowledge and give incentives to those who engage in so-called Results “community experiences,” such as Local Market Meetings and other Results! Travel exclusive seminars. Plus, one of the new enhancements to the Results! Travel training portfolio for 2008 will be a session on effective marketing.
“Between the sales seminars we held over the past year and the upcoming marketing seminars, we’re offering a two-fold experience that will empower agencies to reach out to consumers like never before and get the Results they’re looking for,” said Risner.
Other key messages came from suppliers during a panel discussion featuring representatives from AIG Travel Guard, Budget Rent A Car, Northwest Airlines, Pleasant Holidays and Worldspan by Travelport. Members said this type of face to face interaction with suppliers was invaluable. “We’ve talked to them in the past, but I had no idea they offered all these products and services,” said Sandy Plummer, manager of Wilshire Travel, Inc., in Houston, TX. “I’m going back to my office and will start implementing some of these programs immediately.”
Dan Butcher, story editor, Travel Agent magazine Roger E. Block, CTC, executive vice president, Carlson Travel Franchise Group John Risner, general manager, Results! Travel “As the name of this event suggests, the networking aspect of this experience has been the most valuable,” said Mike Jackman, MCC, owner of International Tours/Galaxsea Cruises, in Okemos, MI. “We talked about what’s working in our agencies, what’s not, and how we can improve. You have a tendency to become family-like when you get to know other agency owners for years and years, and Results! Travel helps cultivate those relationships.”
Carlson Travel Group, Inc. is part of the Carlson family of businesses in the travel and hospitality industry that includes Regent International Hotels, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, T.G.I. Friday’s and more. For more information about Results! Travel, existing travel agencies may call 888-523-2200 or visitwww.resultstravel.com.