It’s no longer acceptable for tour package quotations to take hours or days to compile. It’s time for tour operators to automate their business processes in order to survive in this technology driven era of tourism, writes Linday de Heer.
During the SATSA conference held in August this year, technology featured in many of the panel discussions; reconfirming that if you are not automated in some way and embracing the change that technology brings, you are simply not going to be able to compete.
Travellers are looking for quotations that are simple and easy to read, received within a matter of hours and presented in a professional manner. With the rate debate under way, traditional methods of quoting are being questioned and tour operators need to have an accurate source of rates at all times. Static rates form the basis of all quotes and consultants need access to these rates in order to produce fast and accurate quotes within the shortest possible time.
When reviewing your current quoting process, bear the following ten tips in mind:
01. What should the turn-around time be from booking enquiry to the quote being sent to a prospective traveller?
When a traveller sends a request, they expect to receive a quote that is both professional and delivered in the shortest possible time. Having rates, supplier descriptions, images and information such as what is included and excluded at your fingertips means that quoting time is dramatically reduced.
02. How do I manage my mark-up and selling price?
Using automated methods allows for control over your pricing with mark-up and selling prices pre calculated and ready for use by your consultants. Setting up default profit margins gives control over revenue and a basis from which quote calculations can be made.
03. Do you need brand image consistency?
Branding is a vital marketing tool and automation allows for consistency across all documentation, regardless of the consultant. The hours spent by consultants on uploading images and content, attaching company logos and details can all be eliminated by making use of standardised templates. From your company name, terms and conditions, inclusions and exclusions, traveller notes and extra information, you can ensure that all consultants are using the same text and wording, and generating a professional output that has not taken hours to prepare.
04. How accurate is the traveller information you are sending to suppliers?
Many mistakes can be made, by human error, when typing and emailing traveller information to suppliers. Misspelt names, incorrect dates, child age errors, can all happen and can be costly and annoying for all parties involved. Emailing directly from your automated system eliminates these errors, as the supplier receives system generated documents with correct booking information and traveller details.
05. How methodical is your current quoting process?
Streamlining your business is vital in eliminating possible errors. Using automated methods, allowing consultants to manage their bookings by keeping an eye on the state of each process; noting at a glance, what is provisional, confirmed, invoiced and so on, gives the consultant peace of mind that they have not forgotten any of these vital steps.
06. If you are looking to work with online availability and booking platforms then how will this integrate with your current manual quoting system?
With the online presence having more and more of an effect on tour operators it makes sense to have an automated system that allows integration and access to online rates and information. Checking availability on a manual basis is costly and time consuming, and having online access to this information will keep your quotes competitive and reduce time when putting together this information. Automation at quotation phase will prepare you for the next step in tourism technology in a way that manual systems will not be able to cope with.
07. Empowering your overseas agents can also increase sales through automation.
Giving your agents access to rates through your quoting system will mean that they can quote travellers while you are sleeping! The system of agents waiting for pricing slows the quoting process down. By giving them access to this information, they can quote travellers and send you the booking, which will improve the current workflow between agents and local tour operators. Time differences will no longer cause frustration and will allow for continuity of business after-hours.
08.How do you currently view your profitability stats?
Pipeline information and profitability statistics are all available through automated reporting, which cannot be achieved through manual systems. Having daily access to this vital information takes the guess work out of how things stand at any given time.
09. Does your current quoting system allow for smooth workflow through all departments?
A centralised storage of rates not only allows for mark-up control and consistent pricing on quotes, but from an auditing perspective the quote is able to be tracked or queried by anyone at any stage. If someone is away from the office, if the accounts department has an invoicing query or a supplier is requiring further details, access to this information is readily available and easy to find as the format of all quotes are consistent throughout. This allows for collaboration between all departments of the company with centralised data ensuing consistency, accuracy, efficiency and control.
10. Consultants need more time to sell but are spending hours quoting.
Automation does not take the personal interaction out of the quotation process; in fact, it allows more time to do this. Taking the time to get to know your traveller, understanding their needs and turning their dreams in to reality is what the consultant role should be. With the correct tools and access to rates and supplier information, consultants will have more time to consult and sell thereby increasing their pipeline and generate more business.
If you have specific questions relating to this article email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27 21 683 6006.
About the author: Lindsay de Heer is the Managing Director of Equilogic (Pty) Ltd – a South African software company that specialises in Tour Operator management automation. For more information visit www.travelogic.co.za
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