In the Trenches: To Train or Not To Train?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fill a need in our company, and I’m having trouble finding the perfect solution. The problem is that we need someone with a specific piece of knowledge, and it’s not something that’s quick and easy to train someone how to do.
When we book flights, we do it through one of the so-called Global Distribution Systems. These first popped up decades ago, and they really haven’t evolved much since then, when it comes to user interface. It’s a text-based, command-driven system that we use, and it’s very difficult to learn all the ins and outs from scratch. I started teaching our intern how to use the system this week, and you could just see his eyes bulging, preparing to pop out of his head. And we were just working on building one simple reservation.
I first learned the system when I was a travel agent back in my middle/high school days. (Yes, I’m a dork, I know.) Once you know it, it’s amazing how fast you can do things. But the learning curve is steep, and eventually these text-based systems will be put out to pasture. It doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a major training course for many different reasons. Not only would it be costly, but I’ve found that the best training is on the job, not in the classroom. I just don’t have the time or patience for that.
That means that we need to look for people who already have experience. There are plenty of reservations and gate agents from days gone by who would probably be interested in dusting off their mad computer skills, but it’s not always easy to find those people. I imagine it would be easiest in places with recently-shuttered reservations offices or downsized airport operations, but here in Southern California, we don’t really have those. The reservations offices here were shuttered years ago thanks to the high cost of living.
Why not just look elsewhere outside of SoCal? Sure, this work could be done remotely, but I’m not a fan of that for this particular purpose. This is a person that will be able to book reservations, charge credit cards, change existing tickets, and so on. For security and privacy reasons, I’d rather have someone local. It makes it easier to build a good relationship and control what happens to the data.
So it becomes a search for a needle in a haystack. That’s never easy.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.