TravelManagers Source Non-Travel Opportunities for Personal Travel Managers
“Finding a new normal” is a phrase which has been heard a lot of over the last six months as people face the reality of job losses, travel restrictions and lockdowns. For the many travel professionals whose customers and careers have been impacted by COVID, this has meant being prepared to apply their skills to new work opportunities in order to protect their livelihoods.
Sometimes these openings come from unexpected places, as was the case for a group of Victoria-based personal travel managers (PTMs) recently: a partner supplier alerted TravelManagers’ National Partnership Office (NPO) to a HR firm seeking home-based contact centre staff.
A quick heads-up to the local network of PTMs, a flurry of applications, a round of interviews, and seven PTMs were being offered roles within the call centre team, providing support and advice to Victoria-based businesses on anything from COVID-related government grants to understanding the rules of running their businesses during the lockdown.
Lyndy Burston, who is TravelManagers’ representative for Werribee, VIC, has just completed her first month in her new role, and says she is enjoying a fresh challenge.
“I have very been grateful for the chance to help out my fellow Victorians during these uncertain times,” she explains. “The work has kept me occupied and gives me a sense of purpose – I actually feel like I am doing my bit for the community by helping these people (although I am looking forward to a time when we can get back to what we do best, booking inspirational travel experiences for our wonderful clients!)”
For the PTMs, their new work was not without its challenges – they were taking customer calls within 48 hours of finding out about the roles. However, Burston points out that their experience as PTMs has served them well so far.
“It was very much a case of ‘learn on the job’ – although the work itself isn’t difficult, it is a matter of knowing where to find the correct information,” she explains. “Our time with TravelManagers helped immensely with this: we are well-accustomed to researching products and getting to grips with the intricacies of airfare rules, and we are well versed in the need to have things in writing.”
From day one, the pressure was on to respond to an immense volume of calls – the call centre team of 420 temporary staff similarly impacted by COVID dealt with more than 18,000 calls in their first four days. Burston’s fellow PTM Nicole Gardner agrees that she benefited from the similarities between the call centre work and her work as a PTM.
“As a PTM my focus is always on the customer experience and ensuring that I am on the same path as my client. The call centre work revolves around the same expectations: providing the best possible service and support, being able to find and deliver the correct information in a timely manner and knowing who to ask for assistance if you need it.”
Jodie Quigley, who is TravelManagers’ representative for Sunbury, VIC, also credits her experience as a PTM for developing the customer service skills that have been essential to her success in the contact centre role.
“We were definitely thrown in the deep end, but being able to empathise and relate with businesses that are doing it tough, and being able to handle the pressure created by such an immense number of calls over the first couple of weeks, made a big difference,” she confirms.
As well as providing some welcome income, the PTMs also welcomed the chance to work with their colleagues: “being the tight-knit family that we are, it feels a bit like home,” Burston says. “We have even formed a group chat so that we can assist each other – just like we do as PTMs!”
Although the call centre work has been for a limited timeframe, each of the PTMs is happy to have been given the opportunity – the referral for this work is just one of the many ways they have been supported by the NPO team during 2020.
“I am thankful for everything that NPO has done to support the network of PTMs throughout COVID,” states Valerie Galanou, representative for Doncaster East, VIC. “There has been an active approach to keeping us informed, ensuring that we feel connected and supported. They have all been amazing and I feel so very, very grateful to be part of such a wonderful network.”