Each spring the travel specialists and independent contractors of Largay Travel of Waterbury, Connecticut gather for a meeting of the minds. Personal and professional development, bonding with co-workers and suppliers and celebrating the previous year’s successes are always a focus of the weekend retreat. However, when this year’s invitation, entitled “Getting Naked with Largay Travel”, was received, attendees were left to wonder if Paul Largay a.k.a. Dr. Travel & Roland Largay a.k.a. Uncle Roland, co-owners of Largay Travel, had finally lost their minds.
Then, just weeks prior to the event, each attendee received a care package containing a welcome letter and the business fable “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni. Intrigued and somewhat skeptical, each attendee got their first taste of what it means to be “Naked” in how they do business. So as moderator and trainer, Helen Nodland of Virtuoso, began the two-day weekend session, everyone had a strong understanding of where we were going.
The training, built around Virtuoso’s unique agent development program, Agent to Advisor Leadership Group, was focused around how travel specialists learn to collaborate with clients and comfortably implement planning and consulting fees. Although most Largay specialists previously charged fees, it was not always consistent and had been challenging, to say the least. Therefore the training began by examining the fear’s we have as travel specialists. “I always felt that I would lose business if I charged fees because clients could get the information on the internet or from another travel agent for free” says travel specialist Vivian Leonard. “As much as I know I am already providing a far superior experience for my clients, I just didn’t feel comfortable charging when I know I am already getting commission on the booking.” Recognizing that the problem we have surrounding fees is not with the client but with ourselves was a huge breakthrough for most.
The group then moved on to our second challenge, our inability to communicate to the client the value we bring to the travel planning equation. By examining how we discuss the services we provide with the client, prior to doing any research and prior to discussing any planning fees, we allow our customers to truly see that there is a value to what we provide. Additionally, it allows customers to choose whether they want to do business with us prior to the specialist investing a lot of time with a client who will book on the internet anyway. “Telling the client about all the amazing things that I do for them always seemed like I was gloating, but the reality was that often times the client had no idea of the scope of work I was doing in creating their unforgettable trip.” says Ellen Goldman, one of Largay Travel’s newest shining stars.
The last focus was on the process in which we work with our clients and the lack of consistency that exists between specialists. As a group we created a unique process which every agent could work with their clients. This allowed us to better communicate our value to the customer in addition to creating the tools and templates necessary to service the clients in a timely manner. “The Largay Way (as we referred to our new unique process) truly allows our travel specialists and independent contractors the tools they need to present professional communications with their clients in the most efficient way. These kinds of time-saving tools are truly priceless when creating a trip.” says Largay Travel Vice President, Amanda Klimak. “It gives the agent what they need to take less time doing clerical work and give them more time to do what they truly love, sell travel.”
Of course, in addition to the educational workshops there were panel discussions and product presentations by preferred industry partners including Crystal Cruises, Virtuoso, Silversea Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Travel Impressions, Micato Safaris, Oceania Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Travelex Insurance. The highlight of the social activities was Crystal Cruise’s ‘Million Dollar Baby Bowling Tournament’ that took place at Foxwood’s VIP bowling lanes, High Rollers. As attendees sported their customized bowling shirts, fierce competition and camaraderie was in the air. The bowling celebration commemorated Largay Travel’s successful attainment of a milestone sales objective of $1,000,000 in Crystal sales.
The event concluded with a group hug and a commitment by all attendees to practice and implement the new ideas and strategies, as well as a sincere desire to do it all again next year.