ot sure if you need the services of an
outside consultant? And if you do, would you know how to find the
Geoffrey Day, president of the Consulting Exchange in Cambridge,
Mass., offers free consultant referral services in a range of
fields from banking and food services to marketing and travel.
One mistake business owners frequently make, Day said, is
limiting their search for consultants to those within one's own
"There's fabulous value in what I call cross-pollination
[between industries]," Day said.
"A consultant can
bring an agency up to reasonable standards very quickly without
knowing about the travel industry if they know, for example,
standard office operations instead," he said, adding that
improvements in these areas can be integrated generically.
Examples of standard operations include marketing materials,
customer service skills and technical infrastructure at the
hardware or software level, Day said.
Another important area in which consultants can help is customer
retention, he said.
"We follow the old adage that it's cheaper to develop a
relationship with an existing customer than to find a new one," Day
To help agents determine their needs, Day has come up with a
series of guidelines that can help them get started:Start by defining your end point.
What results are you looking for when your consultant has
finished the job? Consultants can help you define your goals, but
don't let them redefine your problem in light of irrelevant
solutions or specialized skills, or you might end up with greater
problems than you started with.Know if you need a consultant at all.
Sometimes a contractor or new staffer fits the bill better than
a consultant. A consultant helps you identify your problem, devise
a solution, then implement it. A contractor implements existing
plans when you're perfectly clear about what the problem is.Seek someone who listens.
To a carry out a useful analysis, your consultant must listen
and be capable of understanding your organization and industry,
your goals and what problem-solving methods you've already
The right consultant can point to examples of past clients who
have traveled similar routes successfully.Cut to the chase.
Short on time? Then consider using a referral service.
The Consulting Exchange can be reached at (800) 824-4828, via
e-mail at [email protected]or through its Web site at www.cx.com.
-- Felicity Long
tlanta-based Worldspan unveiled
a 12-page Guide to Consulting that offers travel agents tips on how
to improve their own skills as consultants.
"Bookings will continue to be an important part of the business,
but consulting and other special services have begun to comprise a
larger piece of the revenue pie chart," said Cheryl Welcon,
director of agency sales and marketing for Worldspan, in the
The guide offers articles on such topics as identifying and
sharpening each agency's skill sets, finding the right market
niche, researching the marketplace, reaching out to prospects,
opening and closing a sale and determining fees.
Here are some tips on closing a sale from the guide:Get to the point.Be upbeat and friendly.Intuit the person's mood and react accordingly.Know something about the prospect's business or needs.Give the client more than he or she expects and work to secure
a face-to-face meeting.Qualify the prospect as the decision-maker.
"Do not waste time on gatekeepers who can't commit to
services."Set a deadline.
"Note that every day that passes costs your prospect money
because he or she isn't using your services."Discuss the alternatives.
Demonstrate to the prospect what it would cost them not to use
your services, and have sales figures and projections ready.
As to determining an hourly rate for agents trying to set fees,
the guide offers the following formula:
"Calculate the total annual costs of the agency and divide that
by the total number of employee hours. Investigate the consulting
marketplace to determine whether the estimate is appropriate for
Copies of the guide are available by calling (800) 555-9185.
very year, I travel more than
100,000 miles. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about
travel. Every now and then some odd observation pops into my head
-- something that I just can't explain. Maybe you can:Why are the cabin crew members on a particular flight all in
the same mood? If one flight attendant is upbeat and cheery, so are
all the others. And if one treats passengers like babies who need
discipline, so do the rest.
What deep significance lies behind the trend in Las Vegas to
reproduce Egypt, Rome, Paris, Venice, New York and who-knows-where
next?How did the practice of Carnival stateroom stewards turning
your bathroom towels into little animals start? And does Carnival
have to stock five times more towels than usual to keep all those
animals going?Why are the fluorescent lights in car rental transfer vans
weird colors? Does a certain rental company think that green
lighting makes people loyal to them? And does another company think
yellow repels bad customers, like bug lights?Why do we tell everybody that careers in travel have no future,
then bemoan the fact we can't find anyone to hire?Why do all but one of the moving sidewalks at Caesars Palace in
Las Vegas lead in, not out? (The one that does lead out is almost
Actually, I think I know the answer to that one.What do hotels have in mind when they buy alarm clock radios
that require a degree in engineering to operate?When did suites become one big room, instead of two?Why do we tell survey-takers that training is critical, then
say we don't have time for it?Why is it that, as you wait at the airport curbside for a hotel
shuttle, every brand comes by five times except the one you
need?Why are taxis in New York and Los Angeles usually 20-year-old,
falling-apart vehicles (with a half-dozen warning lights
illuminated on the dashboard), while cities in developing nations
often have Mercedes cabs?What are flight attendants doing when you hear them chopping
ice, quite violently, in the plane's galley?Why is it that every time you freeze-frame one of the Cruise
Lines International Association or Iatan videos I'm in, I look
stupid? (Try it. You'll see.)
Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles