It’s no surprise that the travel industry is one of the most impacted by the pandemic, so how does a travel company maintain customer loyalty and relevance during these times? In this episode, I speak with Chris Kollas, Chief Customer Officer at TCS World Travel about how he and his team of roughly 100 employees focus on the customer, the integration of marketing and sales, and how they maintained connections with their customers during the pandemic––a time which was incredibly uncertain for his organization.
TCS World Travel is a unique company that has hosted guests on all-inclusive, private jet adventures for over 25 years. In our conversation, Chris mentions that TCS fundamentally believes that travel makes people better–– and if you make people better, you can help make the world better.
Removing the hassles of traveling + itinerary planning is a key component of the work for TCS World Travel. Chris explains that a TCS World Travel expedition involves a group of like-minded individuals who are able to network and explore remote places in a trip around the world to approximately 10 locations, which would be rather difficult, if not impossible to do on their own. With such an exclusive service offering, it is extremely important for Chris and his team to focus on the customer.
Keep in Contact with Your Customers
During the pandemic, Chris shares that the sales team, which has a close relationship with the customers, were calling customers to check-in on them. A few other podcast guests I’ve interviewed have also mentioned the importance of checking in on customers during the pandemic, as it’s important to express care and concern. Their role wasn’t to try and sell anything, but more so to continue developing a relationship to see how they were doing. Chris mentions that members of the C-Suite were making calls as well.
“We call our customers guests, and they have names, and they have families and they have houses that they live in. They have all of the same types of stories—albeit different—than we all do. So it’s really important for us to make sure that we understand who our customers are. So we all as an executive team called and talked with our guests,” says Chris. His breakdown of the guests having stories and individual lives that have been impacted by this event showcases his humanity. Too often, customers are relegated to transactions, so it’s key that you remember that these people who support your business are your lifeline.
If Possible, Collaborate with Customers
Chris knows the value of observing and listening, and he shares during our conversation that he has been doing this with customers throughout his entire career. He tells us that at TCS World Travel, they’re able to collaborate with guests and use them as a sounding board. They can ask their guests questions and receive feedback on certain ideas. Chris shares that by establishing a more people-centric business model which fosters communication with both employees and guests, they’re able to take the corporate edge off of the operations.
Though they faced some challenges due to the pandemic, Chris shares that they have a solid group of investors and many of their guests kept their deposits and waited until there was a better time to fly. He and his team have been able to manage relationships where the care goes both ways, and that’s critical for any company, especially one that’s as niche as TCS World Travel.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“One is, the power of being vulnerable. It’s a relatively new thing. Like Brené Brown and others have really helped. But back then, you did not show emotion. I think having that and then that clear delineation of work and home. You’re a human and therefore you have both and one informs the other and you have to embrace both. A part of that is tied to vulnerability, but I do think they’re separate. I think those two things are important. I wish I’d learned how to be vulnerable. And then the second thing was also just having the confidence to say, I don’t know.”
About Chris KollasChris Kollas is a seasoned executive possessing strong leadership, business development and strategic partnership skills, with an inherent ability to motivate and energize teams. At TCS Travel, he is responsible for the company’s revenue, strategic partnerships, account management and marketing operations. Prior to TCS Travel, Chris has helped build and scale emerging companies both domestically and abroad.
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