Passion, customer service, and drive are the fast-track ingredients to building a successful center
Fresh to the travel industry, new Franchise Partner Erica Tulloch reflects on owning her own Expedia Franchise, and the joys of recruiting and leading a team.
Here’s Erica’s story:
What were you doing before becoming an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise owner?
Erica: I used to work for Alberta Health Services as an administrative assistant Prior to that I worked in the home and auto insurance industry as an insurance agent. This role was very people-oriented; however, the product was not very exciting. I was passionate about helping people, but people were not passionate about paying their insurance but now my clients are excited about visiting my Center and booking their next adventure.
What lead you to consider franchise ownership? In particular, why a travel franchise?
Erica: I was familiar with the franchise business model as my sister owns a successful bakery franchise. I saw how hard she worked and decided that I wanted to own my own franchise, and I wanted to do something that I am passionate about. My family and I are always on the go and really love to travel so I did my research and Expedia came up as the number one brand in travel. I learned about all the awesome support, training, and systems offered by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and it seemed like a great fit for me with and blueprints to success provided.
Why is your community ideal for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise?
Erica: I thought the east end of Edmonton was underserviced and would be perfect for an Expedia CruiseShipCenters since the area needed more retail services. There is some shopping in the area, but no specialty shops, and I was able to secure a very good location, right across from a McDonald’s, and next to a subway. We get lots of foot traffic from both restaurants. It helps to have a retail location where people can come and book travel.
What do you believe sets Expedia CruiseShipCenters apart from our competitors, including travel websites?
Erica: At Expedia CruiseShipCenters having exceptional customer service is important for us. We really care about our clients and our relationships with them. We ask our clients about their dream travel destinations, and then match our products to their desires.
We provide a retail travel agency location that allows customers to drop by and book travel with our expert Travel Consultants. We have such strong relationships with our customers that they come back to our center after their vacation to tell us all about it!
How do you find your customers?
Erica: I start by simply following the system and doing my due diligence. We utilize our personal network to let as many people know where the center is and that we’re open for business. We also take advantage of the Expedia CruiseShipCenters flyer and marketing program. During our promotion seasons, I send out about 10,000 flyers to people in our designated market area. When people get our flyers and learn about our retail location they are happy to know they can come into our center, sit down, and talk to a real person who will take care of all their travel needs.
I also use email and Facebook marketing, that is coordinated through the corporate office. For example, when a big promotion is happening, the corporate team will send out an email to everyone in our database and run Facebook ads on behalf of our center. It’s great to have the help from the corporate team!
What has your experience been like recruiting and leading a team of vacation consultants?
Erica: It’s been a lot of fun! Everyone I’ve brought on board is passionate about travel and the work they are doing. They are always looking for other ways to promote the business. My consultants really enjoy working at the center, and I have enjoyed recruiting and leading them too. I’m passionate about my team, helping customers, and planning vacations. I see it less of me leading my team, but more as collaborating and brainstorming with my consultants on ideas for how to grow the center and get involved with the community.
Are there specific qualities that you look for in a vacation consultant?
Erica: I look for someone who is very customer service oriented first and foremost. Having passion and willingness to go the extra mile to service our customers is very important. We want our customers to leave here feeling like they’ve been helped, and they can come back anytime to book another vacation with us.
What do you do to drive repeat business and Customers For Life?
Erica: We ask a lot of questions when they first come in here. We had a couple walk into our center the other day, who were going to Australia. They had already booked their flights and hotels but were looking for a car rental. So, we booked them a car, but we were curious and asked them about where they wanted to go next after Australia. They shared their dreams of visiting Dubai and taking a cruise on the new Princess ship. By the time they left the center, we were already preparing the booking for their Dubai trip and they would be back in to complete the booking when they returned from Australia.
We are personable and really care about our customers making sure their vacations are everything they dreamed of.
What aspects of this business do you enjoy the most?
Erica: I really enjoy leading my team of consultants and being in the office. I like researching new ships and learning about clients dream destinations. Whether it’s interviewing, recruiting new consultants, or meeting new customers I love the people aspect of this industry.
How would you describe the culture at your center?
Erica: It’s super fun and positive. We are welcoming to new Vacation Consultants and new customers. When customers come into our center my team is great at them feel comfortable and leaving with a positive impression.
How has the Expedia CruiseShipCenters corporate support team helped you launch and grow your business since you started?
Erica: They have done a tremendous job. The coaching has been one of the major assets to the franchisee training program. Throughout the initial training and setting up my center the corporate team has helped me through the entire process. When we first opened our doors, my Franchise Performance Coach was there to make sure everything went smoothly and is always available for support via email or and phone.
Where do you see your business in 5 or 10 years? And how do you see your lifestyle changing as a result of your business growth?
Erica: I’d like to focus on growing and nurturing my center, and potentially open a second center in my designated area. In five years I hope I’ll be able to travel more to new places. Expedia CruiseShipCenters has great business model and in the future, I hope I can hire an Office Manager, which will allow me to take more time to be with my family and do my own travel. I am happy I was able to build a business around travel because being passionate about it makes it that much more enjoyable.
For in-depth details about the Expedia CruiseShipCenters franchise opportunity, download our free franchise report by filling out the form below. You can also learn more by reading the essentials about our franchise opportunity here.