Your partners are the lifeline of your company, but do you even know who they are?
It sounds simple, right? Just produce a list of current contacts for your business partners.
These are the people that sell your products.
These are the people that pay your bills and salaries.
These are the people that your travellers count on to for help and assistance.
I thought this would be a pretty quick, simple task, until I tried to do it for my own company, Bonza Bike Tours.
I was simply trying to let our partners know that we had a new meeting point for our tours, as we had just signed a lease for a new shop. I had no idea I was in for a major undertaking in finding a list of all of our partners.
My Challenges Putting Together a Current List of Contacts
I didn’t know where to start.
I thought the best approach would be those people that have sent us bookings. I had an old spreadsheet with our partners listed on it, but absolutely no contacts at the partners. I also had our accounting software showing everyone we’d received bookings for…again, no contacts. I finally had our booking system…again, no contacts.
I didn’t know which contacts were current.
Once I had finally compiled a list of those people that had sent us bookings, I then started digging through old emails to find contacts. I used my personal email and our reservations team email. This was great, until I realized half of the contacts were no longer at the company. I knew our industry had a high turnover rate, but never knew it was this bad!
I still only had certain contacts.
Even though I had gone through tons of emails, I ended up with a very scattered list of contacts. For some companies, I had reservation agents…others had product managers…others had accounts contacts. Rarely, did I have all three, and the ones I did have all three were because it was a small company where there was only 1 or 2 employees!
Wait! What about all the outbound agents and travel agents?!
I was so excited to have completed my list after hours and hours…only to realize, I have tons of outbound tour operators and retail agents that sell my products. I’d met many of these at trade events, and had tons of giant contact lists, but I did not have ones specifically listing those that sold my products. Back to searching through emails…
When I finally finished compiling the list, I didn’t feel relief, but a sense of disappointment that I was doing a poor job of managing the lifeline of my business. What I’ve come to realize since starting TourConnect and talking to so many other companies in the industry is that I was not alone.
Nearly every single company I have talked to has a very difficult time producing a list of their partners. Even those that do have a list often have a very outdated list of contacts. As I thought about this, I realized that there are tangible costs to not having an accurate list of our partners.
My Costs of Out-Dated and Poor Contacts
Note: I have a staff of 3 people at an average rate of $25/hour.
- Time spent by all my staff trying to find contacts in reservations, product managers, and accounts (30 minutes per week – $650/year)
- Time spent by my staff directing inquiries to the right person (15 minutes per week – $325/year)
- Booking mistakes due to updates not reaching the right people (2 errors on bookings for 2 guests per year resulting in refunds – $476/year)
- Lost sales due to poor communication of special offers and staying top of mind (I can’t even estimate this number, but it’s definitely negatively affecting sales growth)
That means for my small business, I waste a minimum of $1,451 a year simply due to a very basic administrative problem. You can only imagine how much this number increases for larger organizations.
Who Does This Affect?
According to our most recent tour operator survey and supplier survey, 45% of tour operators and 24% of suppliers could not quickly produce a complete and up-to-date list of their business partners’ contact information. This shows that it is not a one-sided problem and that both sides have room for improvement. If something were to happen to a company’s list of business partners, there is no telling how long it might take to get all of that information back together. It seems like wasted effort to look for new business partners if you are unable to manage to ones that you already have.
TourConnect has created a way to connect business partners – a sort of business-to-business (B2B) LinkedIn for the tourism industry. This means that when a contact changes at a partner (like a reservations manager leaves) you have up to the minute contact information for their replacement. This information can be managed in TourConnect or exported to be put into a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
So, if your building was on fire, you could simply get up and walk out…and still have an accurate, up-to-date list of your partners waiting for you when you get back online. Now that’s a comforting thought…
Have you had trouble keeping up with contacts at your partners? Have there been costs to this? Let us know in the comments below.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on all of our blog posts and system releases!