In a recent entry, we discussed why younger travelers - millennials in particular - are coming back to travel agents in recent years to help coordinate their travel plans and bookings. Reasons for this return include the first-hand perspective or ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge travel agents have about a given destination, but also the personalized, one-on-one interaction millennials seek in purchasing their products and services.
But travel agents are also leveraging social media platforms as a way to connect with travelers and forge personal relationships with customers that continue long after a traveler has unpacked their bags.
Unfortunately, in large part because of how many social media platforms exist, travel agents are often using these sites inefficiently, thus transforming them from a value-added service to a liability. Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should not be viewed as dumping grounds for travel agents to post whatever content they want. Rather, a travel agent’s social media presence should be a robust, strategic part of their customer relations model.
To help travel agents leverage the most value out of social media, here are just a few ways travel agents should be using social media to attract new customers, retain existing customers, and connect with travelers.
Even though the numbers indicate the popularity of online travel agencies (OTAs) or travel companies is continuing to rise, for many travelers it can be worrisome booking trips or vacations through a faceless organization; which, as we discussed, is one of the main drivers for travelers returning to brick-and-mortar travel agents. As such, travel agents should be using social media to establish trust and working relationships with customers by providing positive messaging. Travel agents can post reviews on Facebook, images sent by clients of successful trips on Instagram, and questions about what their customers most desire on Twitter. These types of posts will show travelers an agent is knowledgeable and willing to interact with them, which will go a long way in building last business relationships.
It’s widely known social media is a virtually cost-free way for travel agents to offer travelers deals and discounts on destinations or activities, but travel agents who go one step further will be ahead of the pack. Utilizing social media as a customer outreach tool will help agents gain valuable insight as to the makeup of their customers, which will help them offer the right package to the right customer at the right time. For example, if a travel agent knows their social media connections are middle-aged adventure travelers, then offering a travel package to Spain with a wine and cheese dinner doesn’t make sense. However, an excursion to South America with a mountain climbing component is more likely to attract the targeted demographic.
Keep Travelers Informed
Let’s face it: a reality of the travel industry is delays happen and cancellations are unavoidable. When these disruptions occur, travel agents can use social media as a valuable communication tool to keep travelers in the loop on the latest information about changes to their itineraries. In addition, travel agents can also messaging functions attached to a number of social media sites to speak directly with travelers in real-time. This offers customers greater levels of customer service and a more personalized travel experience which can turn one-time customers into repeat customers.
Quality Customer Service
Yes, we’ve discussed quite a bit in past entries about how the internet and social media allows travel agents to offer enhanced customer service with a personalized touch. The ability to communicate directly with travelers and receive feedback from them in real-time is a value-added proposition today’s travel agents can ignore. But beyond that, what are additional ways social media allow travel agents to improve their customer service? First and foremost, it provides a direct line to where many of today’s travelers spend so much of their time - online and social media sites. Millennials and digital natives, which are two of the largest customer pools in today’s travel industry, are more connected than generations that came before and essentially ‘live’ in the digital world. Social media allows travel agents entry into that world and to play in the same metaphorical sandbox alongside these two coveted customer pools.
Travel agents who use social media wisely will have a competitive advantage in understanding the wants and needs of these key demographics, which will help them position products and services in an efficient, cost-effective manner.