The power of storytelling in the travel industry

If you’re a parent, you’ll be all too familiar with the rush home for bedtime duty – getting the kids in their PJs and ready for a bedtime story! You might also be familiar with the guilt of not doing it as often as you would have liked.

But it’s not just the kids that love a good story – they are what make us tick, from a plot in soap, a good book, play or snappy headline that captures our attention, such as the recent ‘travel agent secures booking whilst in hospital’. Whether it’s in the travel industry or not, many people have a story about how they have done something for a customer that has made that customer feel special.

At a time where the travel industry is evolving at an incredible pace, and where businesses are focussed on data, profit and margin, it’s important to remember what makes us stand out from the crowd. Having the ability to create and share these stories allows us to differentiate ourselves in a powerful way, and it’s more important and relevant than ever before.

And as technology continues to get more sophisticated and smarter, the more our jobs become at risk of computerisation over the next 20 years. So how ‘future proof’ is your profession? According to a recent story by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of UK jobs are at ‘high risk’. So how do we as travel professionals, future proof our profession?

If a ‘travel agent’ just does the booking for the customer, the risk of automation is already high indeed. Online travel websites have developed at an incredible rate, including on-line virtual travel agents - but no matter how intelligent ‘robots’ may become, they will never have the power to create truly compelling stories. The travel agents who will stand out among the noise, are the ones who have stories to tell of how they have helped people, because when it comes to making decisions about how we spend our hard earned money, most people make purchases based on emotion rather than logic.

So great travel advisers are also great story tellers and ‘social sharers’. Social media gives us the ability to collate our stories and share them across a global network of current and potential customers. We see daily occurrences of this with our Travel Counsellors. Here’s just one example…

Earlier this month, two of our customers missed their flight for their Caribbean Cruise; their Travel Counsellor Nikki went above and beyond to get them re-booked so the holiday was unaffected; the customers were so grateful Nikki received a huge bunch of flowers that afternoon; Nikki shared her story on Facebook with a picture of the flowers. The result? Her most engaged post to date and a number of new enquiries from people who like the sound of her service.

These stories are free PR, the clearest sign of what you are about and they create the narrative and personality for the business and your personal brand. Steve Byrne, CEO, says: “In one of my favourite business reads, Daniel Pink’s bestseller ‘A whole New Mind’, he states that “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathisers. The people, artists, investors, story tellers, caregivers, counsellors, will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”

That is why those jobs that are least likely to be automated are those that require the highest amount of human qualities such as empathy, including nursing, care workers and psychologists. The message for us in the industry, and those we want to encourage to join it, is simple – ramp up the care and empathy with a customer; focus on how you make them feel more than the price of what you offer; and ‘bring it to life’ by sharing the stories of the things you do naturally for customers because you care and you operate in a culture that fosters doing what is right for the customer.

So, when you’re telling those bedtime stories tonight remember that it’s all good practice for the office too!

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