When American Express Travel announced recently that it would be closing its 20 remaining storefront agencies that sell leisure travel in favor of a work-from-home model, we spoke with AmEx’s Executive VP Claire Bennett about it. Bennett told Travel Agent that several “converging factors” led to the decision to close the storefront offices.
“We saw a shift in the way our customers within these offices were interacting with our travel counselors,” she said. “They were predominately connecting based on their individual schedule and personal relationship that was established with their travel counselor.”
Bennett believes that travelers still value and want the personalized, one-on-one service that they get from an agent, but they do not necessarily need a storefront to make the business happen.
“Another reason is that we have been expanding our work-at-home network, with 25 percent of our travel counselors working from home across the U.S.,” she continued, noting that American Express has been investing in platforms and trainings to make working from home profitable and successful. “Some of our highest customer satisfaction ratings come from our work-at-home network,” she added.
The final reason for the change was the availability of agencies from AmEx’s Representative Network in most of the cities where the offices were located. These agencies, she said, will continue to provide a storefront experience for those who want it.
“The key for American Express Travel is ensuring our customers have options [in how they interact with us] that meet their lifestyle,” Bennett added. “For some customers, this preference may be via the phone; for others it may be in person and others online at amextravel.com; for some, it could even mean all three. Travel purchasing habits are not necessarily the same every time.
“We are helping transition our travel counselors from the offices to work at home through training and central assistance to provide what they need to have a seamless and successful transition,” she said.