Planning and organising a trip is now an exciting and interesting endeavour following the rise of web-based travel services. To help maximise the enjoyment of any trip, however, professional travel counsellors now provide exceptional services to ensure clients make informed choices about their excursions.
With a booming economy and advanced technology, travel expectations have risen across the industry and American Express is ahead of the game in terms of both scope and services.
Queenie So, a premium senior travel executive at the membership travel services of American Express stresses Hong Kong's expectations have shifted upwards in the travel domain. Easy access to a wealth of information via the internet has led to more diversified travel planning and more interest in exotic voyages.
Ms So believes the key to success lies in serving clients from the heart. She notes, "Our job is to take care of our card members' enquiries, helping them to plan their ideal vacations or business trips. As most of our premium clients have extensive travel experience, we do not merely provide a satisfactory service. We aim to make our value-added service both professional and personal."
American Express, as a leading global payment, network and travel company with operations in more than 130 countries worldwide, operates membership travel services on a holistic basis by providing relationship-based services around the world and around the clock.
In particular, members of American Express Centurion and Platinum Cards enjoy a wide range of services, including travel and lifestyle benefits facilitated by a dedicated team of professional customer support staff 24 hours a day. Card benefits and services include comprehensive travel privileges such as complimentary travel insurance, an international airline programme, Priority PassTM membership plus hotel and cruise privileges. Golf programmes for members also feature alongside exclusive club access and complimentary enrolment in the Membership Rewards Triple Plus programme for Centurion members, and Turbo programme for Platinum members. This comprehensive array of supplementary benefits is specifically tailored to meet the travel and lifestyle expectations of the company's privileged card members.
Frank Wong, who is also a premium senior travel executive of American Express membership travel services, adds that customers nowadays look for unique experiences and attach great importance to value-added services. "Our company offers fully-planned trips tailored to individual card members' needs, with service available 24 hours a day all year round," he remarks.
Ms So goes on to point out that American Express stays one step ahead of its counterparts by anticipating client needs and expectations. "We often wow customers with recommendations which exceed their expectations," she says, adding that, the major challenge facing today's travel counsellors is the need to react quickly to change. "It is very important that we help card members find solutions fast whenever an unexpected situation arises," she stresses.
Mr Wong elaborates, "Today's customers have become more knowledgeable so travel counsellors must be market savvy to provide the highest level of service."
Underlining that demand for professional travel advice has soared, Mr Wong indicates that this has created tremendous learning opportunities and unprecedented long-term career development for staff. "Discerning premium card members now expect highly of us. For this particular reason, we must be innovative. For example, if their preferred destinations are somewhere unfamiliar to us, we add to the sum of our knowledge through discovery. We can also leverage the company's worldwide network of destination experts who share information with local counterparts."
Regarding support for travel counsellors, Ms So notes that American Express provides strong administrative support as well as in-depth training to all staff. She says, "We regularly attend seminars to garner the latest industry trends and take part in in-house training that covers a wide range of technical and customer service skills."
In terms of rewards, American Express offers a lucrative salary and a clear development path. Junior travel counsellors begin as travel executives. High-performing staff are promoted to senior travel executives and then team leaders. Following this are promotional opportunities to the managerial level. "The speed of promotion depends on individual ability and drive," Ms So says.
Therefore, passion is important, says Mr Wong. "It drives you to continuously provide exceptional service to every card member. Personally speaking, job satisfaction for me is ensured when our card members describe a wonderful trip. In this sense, they become our friends as they exchange travel information and ideas with us," he concludes.