Industry veteran Steve Endacott has invested in a new homeworking group that will initially offer an overflow call centre service for overstretched travel companies.
Steve said this would provide new homeworkers who sign up to Travel Solutions Network (TSN) with a steady income while they build their network of contacts.
Agents will also be given financial incentives to recruit more members for TSN, but Steve insisted the homeworking agency isn’t trying to lure agents from other, established groups.
“We have no interest in poaching lots of members, we’re looking at bringing people back into travel. We know lots of agents left during the pandemic, to work for companies like Tesco, and they want to come back but it’s hard because usually agents don’t receive their commission until the customer travels, but by operating an overflow calls centre we’re able to make sure they’re paid faster.”
TSN also aims to find work with clothes retailers for its agents during the quieter months, from November to Christmas, handling sales and returns.
The homeworking group, incorporated in January, was launched by Garry and Lindsey Winterburn, both of whom are experienced in providing travel industry outsourcing solutions.
While TSN will recruit and train newbie agents, it’s primary aim is to recruit experienced professionals.
“TSN will provide both experienced and new to homeworking travel experts with calls from travel outsourcing contracts that the business is signing to provide a steady income flow whilst they build or expand their own client base,” added Steve.
CEO Garry Winterburn said many businesses are not geared up to cope with a surge in bookings as they were forced to cut costs during COVID.
“TSN has been set up to provide either outsourced call overflow or in some cases create a flexible full call centre and customer service operation using experienced homeworkers to relaunch mothballed brands.”
He said in a statement that the company has already secured ‘several’ deals to provide call centre solutions. The names will be confirmed next week, said Steve.
TSN COO Lindsey Winterburn, who is in charge of recruiting homeworkers, said one of the company’s unique selling points to agents is that they will mostly be paid on booking.
She added: “Most holiday commissions post COVID can only be released from trust funds on the customers return from holiday, creating a six-month or longer wait for booking fees to be paid to agents.
“TSN’s outsourcing work is mainly paid on booking, giving our homeworkers steady call flow and immediate income whilst they build their own customer base.
“At the same time, it provides our outsource partners with a highly experienced team of travel professionals.
“We think this flexible call mix, coupled with some of the best commission deals in the sector will be vital to attracting travel experts back to the industry as homeworkers.”
TSN says it is looking to bring ‘hundreds’ of experienced professionals who were forced to find work outside travel during the pandemic back to the industry.
“Many travel professionals lost their confidence and passion for the industry but are now looking to return but need some additional security,” added Steve, who has become TSN Chairman.
Agent fees and commission structure will be negotiated on an individual basis, with agents incentivised to take calls centre business as well as their own bookings.
TSN will allow agents to ATOL packages from third parties and they will be able to self-package using an as yet undisclosed consortium’s licence, added Steve.
He said the business is also looking to create ‘shop hubs’ where agents can work, giving the brand a high street presence and allowing its members to develop collaborative working practices.
Lindsey said TSN will also provide sales support for homeworkers to look after their clients when they themselves are on holiday.
“We will be operating a professional administrative support function, with a personalised team who understand the importance of providing a world class, customer focused service to valued customers.”
TSN will provide each homeworker with their own bookable website, including the ability to offer video conferencing as part of the sales process.
“Nobody wants to move away from phone calls or home visits, but video conferencing does offer major positives when presenting holiday options back to the customers and most importantly allow agents to see a customer’s reaction and adjust the pitch, accordingly, often boosting conversion levels,” added Steve.
TSN also intends to create a directory for homeworkers’ destination expertise, which will enable them to pick up business from outside their local area.
Garry added: “It’s important that we match the right customers to the right expertise, on a national basis and don’t waste our homeworkers destination expertise by only allowing them to service their local community as many other home working networks do.”
TSN will spend the next couple of months recruiting agents and signing partners, and expects to begin operations in April.