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The power of people and technology in an ever-changing work environment Fred van Eijk, Managing Director, Travel Counsellors Australia

June 29, 2017 Mobile travel consulting No Comments Email Email

As a company an integral part of our growth and success has been down to the flexibility and empowerment we give our people in running their own travel franchises from home. Since launching Travel Counsellors over 20 years ago in the UK this business concept has seen the company grow to over 1,600 Travel Counsellors agents across seven countries including Australia enjoying the benefits of flexible working, for both themselves and their customers.

As time goes on we see more and more businesses adopting these flexible working practices, with many reporting increased productivity and staff satisfaction levels as a result. Fundamental to evolving these type of working practices is ensuring a strong and positive culture within a company. At Travel Counsellors our focus is on putting our people, including our Travel Counsellors, head office staff, and customers, at the heart of everything we do, and developing the technology to enable them to provide the highest levels of service and care, wherever they are working.

The technology we have developed doesn’t replace people, it empowers them. We have used it to create our own internal community through webcasts, message boards, our own database of travel reviews and a content-driven search and booking system. It enhances and facilitates the culture of trust and innovation we continue to build as a business.

This is most recently reflected in our Melbourne office refurbishment, where we viewed the changes as an opportunity to introduce a more flexible way of working for our 20 strong support team, providing technology to support this such as laptops, docking stations and Skype for business. This has also enabled people to hot desk around the office, encouraging collaboration and team-work, as well as providing innovative working spaces to create an open working environment where ideas can be generated and shared.

Another prime example is our 24/7 global duty office service that ensures our teams are connected around the clock and are always available for Travel Counsellors and their customers. Many of our duty office team work from home in order to service this need, connected to our systems and internal communications network. Our customers have always enjoyed the flexibility that booking with a Travel Counsellor provides, and now they have the extra assurance and peace of mind that this additional support gives.

Technology helps us to care for our customers even more in this way, with our people and their passion for customer service firmly at the centre.

Encouraging a more flexible way of working across the whole business globally has certainly been embraced, and resulted in higher team morale and staff engagement. People feel empowered and trusted to structure their working day in a way that suits them, as well as the needs of the business, and in turn are more productive and have increased job satisfaction. This was reflected in a recent survey amongst our global support team where our employee engagement score, which is the percentage of questions that are answered positively, was 20% higher than average.

With the additional technology enhancements, our Travel Counsellors continue to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of running their businesses from home. It’s clear that the internet has made 24/7 travel a commercial reality, so the fact that they can work the hours that best suit them (including evenings and weekends) means they’re able to give people the round-the-clock service they now expect – but crucially, a service with all the friendliness and personal interaction they wouldn’t have expected from the internet. It’s a truly unique travel experience for our customers, and the fact that over a third of Travel Counsellors’ business is done after 5pm shows how well our customers respond to the flexibility we’re able to offer through our working practices.  In fact, our customer satisfaction score is unrivalled at 96%, reflecting the value customers place on the convenience of 24/7 availability combined with exceptional service levels.

The combination of having the very best people supported by the very best technology, empowering them to work in a way that benefits both themselves and the business, is invaluable. Getting this right will help to ensure continued growth, with flexible working predicted to play a key role for all businesses in the future.

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