According to Sally Black, founder of Vacationkids.com travel agency, “When you book with a travel agent, they are with you every step of the way. We are your personal advocate”. That quote was from an article on the Huffington Post website describing what a travel agent actually does and why.
It’s that personal service she mentions that sets travel agents apart from popular online booking websites. While there are many ways to provide that level of service, for today’s travellers SMS messaging is likely the most convenient. It’s quick, yet non-intrusive so the traveller can get their information when they need it.
For travel agencies, SMS messaging allows you to connect with travellers on a one-to-one, or one-to-many basis, yet still be personal. How can that be? People guard their mobile numbers and only share them with the people or businesses they really want to hear from. It’s their personal number after all, and they won’t hand it out to just anyone.
So much more than marketing
When you think about SMS messaging for your travel agency, you might assume it’s only good for marketing. It’s certainly great for that, but there are other ways to use it that pair perfectly with the type of services you provide.
Live chat support
SMS provides instant, two-way messaging between your travel agents and your clients. If a client needs to make a quick change to a reservation, or has a simple question, a short SMS chat may be the most efficient way to help. By using SMS messaging, your client doesn’t need a computer and Internet access to contact an agent online. There will be times when a phone call is still warranted, but by using SMS when you can, you’ll save money on phone charges from clients abroad too.
One example of how SMS live chat can help comes from a company called AnMarc Travel Technology. They’re a US company that initially focused on providing travel solutions for military members and their families. Andrew Appleton, CEO, said “By providing access to a live agent via mobile text, AnMarc can increase loyalty and forge long-lasting relationships with our customers.”
There’s something about knowing an agent is just a text message away that builds trust in a client. In a world filled with automated answering systems, voicemail trees, and computer voices, sending or receiving a text is just easier (even if you do have live people answering the phones many people have grown to expect otherwise when contacting businesses). If you make someone’s life easier, you’ll probably have a customer for life!
The devil is in the details right? Well, let’s hope it’s an angel when it comes to travel, but it’s still there. And sometimes those details change. You may already send those changes to customers via email or post, perhaps even a personal call. In many cases though, a text message might be better.
That’s because not all email gets read (even if it gets delivered properly and doesn’t end up in the spam folder). And post is just too slow for last minute changes or for updates while customers are already travelling. Phone calls out of country can be expensive (for you and the client) and also intrusive.
So when you need to send a status update regarding flight details, hotel changes, weather warnings or anything else, a short SMS message gets the job done. The client will likely read the message soon after it’s received so they’ll have plenty of notice. This could be critical information these days when world events could result in closed borders, or locations they should avoid at all cost. There’s no quicker way to deliver such messages than via SMS.
As the CEO of AnMarc said, SMS is one tool you can use to develop long-lasting relationships. Beyond SMS live chat mentioned above, here are some other ways to use SMS messaging to foster warm fuzzies in your clients.
Just before they leave, send them a message wishing them a happy and safe journey. This could be a quick little “Have a safe and happy trip!” or something more thought out like a meaningful quote. If you search online for safe journey quotes or SMS messages you’ll find a huge collection of them. Granted, most of them are written from the perspective of a loved one, but you’ll certainly find some inspiration you can use to craft some for your customers. A short, positive message before a customer leaves could help them start their trip in a great way, and remind them that you’re there looking out for them.
If you know of a special deal or opportunity that pops up while your customer is travelling, send them a short message about it. It may change their itinerary, but if it is something they really wanted (but for some reason wasn’t available at the time of booking) they’ll be happy to make the change and grateful to you for thinking of them. Obviously these messages need to be relevant to a particular customer’s wants and preferences. But you have all that information right? You’re their travel agent!
And finally, let them know how happy you are they’ve returned from their trip. You can ask them how it went and let them know you’re there to help them if they have complaints or issues. This can also be a good time to ask them for referrals, or if they plan on travelling again soon. You can give them an option to reply with a specific time frame they want you to contact them again regarding another trip. Knowing what they want will help you stay on their good side. If you send them too many messages about another trip before they’re ready, your helpful messages might feel more like spam.
There’s so many ways travel agencies can use SMS messaging. It’s a perfect tool for fast communication that still feels personal in a technology filled world.