Delta Professional, Delta Air Lines’ revamped travel agency website, includes an on-demand reporting dashboard that enables agencies to project future sales and to bump up sales efforts to make higher, more lucrative production goals.
Several agents familiar with such airline/agent interfaces said that Delta’s innovations take airline travel agency portals to a new level.
Delta introduced the corporate travel management version of its new website earlier this fall, and it is introducing a version for franchises and consortia in the first quarter of next year.
“I can’t wait,” said Ann Waters, president of Conference and Travel Services, a Travel Leaders franchise in Fort Wayne, Ind. “It will help us manage our override program.”
Waters, whose $45 million agency is 50/50 business and leisure, has seen the corporate version, and she said that using the new Agency on Demand dashboard will enable her to see if her agency is on track with its Delta sales. For one thing, it enables her to tell her agents how many tickets the agency needs to sell in order to make a level that will earn more money.
Melissa Murray, manager of supplier relations for Montrose Travel (No. 41 on Travel Weekly’s 2014 Power List), based in Montrose, Calif., is already using the dashboard.
“I love it,” she said. “I can see what is happening now, real time, for this quarter and for what we have sold.” She can then rally the troops to focus on selling Delta when necessary.
Murray said that until Delta introduced the on-demand dashboard, most major airline websites were fairly comparable, although she added that the perfect portal would combine elements from all of them.
“If I were to create my own, I would take something from everybody,” Murray said.
Still, she said, Delta’s new agency dashboard with its future-forecasting capabilities is unique. “Nobody else is doing that,” she said. “If I get reports from other carriers, it’s past tense.”
Airlines in general work closely with agencies that produce, providing them with a lot of support in a variety of ways. For example, Uniglobe Travel Center, a host agency whose members sell a lot of air, has frequent face-to-face meetings with its preferred airlines, according to Susan Garza, Uniglobe assistant vice president.
Airlines will tell their preferred partners when they need help selling certain markets or city pairs. And many airlines provide preferred agencies and agency groups with their own support numbers.
Providing online support is becoming increasingly common. For example, agents need waiver codes for the GDSs when airlines waive penalties because of storms, and they can often get them from such sites (airlines also email these codes to agents). They can also get the codes for other waivers or exceptions, such as when the amount a passenger spends on a ticket qualifies the passenger for a premium seat.
Kristen Shovlin, vice president of sales operations for Delta, said that online self-service tools ease demand on airline support staff, but they are also something agencies have asked for. Delta sought input from agencies in developing its overall support structure, including its call center and the new website, she said.
“One of the biggest things that came across was access to self-service tools and great transparent reporting,” Shovlin said.
Delta designed mockups for agents to test. Shovlin said that agents wanted to see their earning potential with Delta and joint venture partners Air France, KLM and Alitalia.
Shovlin said that Delta’s support is designed to support agents and to help agents better connect with travelers, be it through the website, through the 24/7 call center or through sales account executives.
The Delta Professional site includes Delta University, with online training courses educating agents about the carrier’s products, policies, procedures, rules, etc. Agents described the Delta site as easy to navigate.
Waters said that Delta University, which was rolled out last summer, helps agents understand Delta’s product and its culture.
The dashboard shows revenue and earnings for agencies and by branch. The future tracking capabilities will send agencies performance alerts if it appears they might fall short of performance goals.
The dashboard also shows agencies how many waivers they’ve used. Murray said that she can see who is using waivers and other “beyond contract” benefits.
Agencies can also see their clients’ SkyMiles status.
Agents praised Delta for its support.
“They’ve always been good at getting information to us,” said Waters, who described the website as an extension of that service. “Delta has put resources into it to make sure it’s really up to date and easy to find what you need.”
Garza also praised Delta’s staff.
“They are wonderful, they are compassionate,” she said. “They will listen to the story if someone got hurt on a trip.”
And, she added, Delta’s support staff is empowered to make decisions.
Other agents expressed the same sentiment.
“Delta absolutely bends over backwards to help us when there’s any type of issue at all,” said Steve Lincoln, owner of Lincoln Travel, a Nexion agency in Bridgewater, Va.