52 Canadian Agents Master AC Product At Inaugural Ambassador Program
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw
All 52 Air Canada Ambassador graduates raising their graduation caps in celebration of completing the training.
Pamela Glavin, Corporate Travel Consultant with Uniglobe, holding up her graduation certificate.
Frederic Belzile, Manager of Air Products with TravelBrands, receiving his diploma.
Rob Puzzo, Manager, Alliances Sales Strategy/Sales Effectiveness (left) and Virgilio Russi, Senior Director of Sales, at the podium.
Michelle MacKenzie with CAA Atlantic getting her graduation robe and cap.
After two full days of training, 52 travel professionals from across Canada donned their graduate caps and robes as they became the ultimate gurus on the Air Canada product, not only mastering the carrier's product offerings, but gaining a better understanding of its inner workings.
The graduating class of 2019 was flown into the Westin Toronto Airport Hotel to take part in Air Canada's Ambassador Program on 28-29MAY, a brand new course that’s part of Global Sales University (GSU), the online e-learning curriculum designed to provide a detailed learning of Air Canada’s products and services for travel agents and staff.
But where ACE certification – the highest learning status at the Air Canada GSU -- is focused on product features, policies and procedures, the Ambassador program is a more experiential, in-person course that dives deeper than just product training, looking at the how and the why.
"There's a lot of behind the scenes, why we do things the way we do and how we do them. Our partners are exposed to the different departments -- like revenue and accounting, revenue management, operations -- and get a better understanding of how we do things and the logic behind things like technological or operational limitations. That gives them a critical view of Air Canada," said Virgilio Russi, Senior Director of Sales, the godfather of the new program.
For example, on Day 1 of the training, agents took a field trip to "SOC" -- System Operations Control -- to understand flight planning and things like what happens when there's a flight delay.
"They saw why we sometimes have to pull an aircraft out of service, why those decisions are made and all the repercussions it has not only on that one aircraft, but the ripple effect down the line. A lot of them came out of that session with the aha moment," said Rob Puzzo, Manager, Alliances Sales Strategy/Sales Effectiveness.
The SOC field trip was a particularly insightful session for many agents.
"It was great to see the SOC centre, the behind the scenes. That's a side we don't get to see, so it was exciting to see how they work with all their fleet in one room," says Laurie Bertrand, Manager of Conferences and Conventions with Carlson Wagonlit Travel. "Overall, the training was great. I knew a lot of the information, but it highlighted things that I didn't know and opened my eyes to other things, like how they determine pricing or availability."
Fanny Poulin with Groupes Voyages Quebec said: "It was really informative. It was interesting to visit the SOC centre to see how the passengers are handled. It helps us in working with the passengers if we need to calm them down when there are events and their vacation doesn’t go as planned."
Another "aha" moment was when agents learned that 60% of calls into AC's contact centres can actually be dealt with by agents themselves.
"From a customer perspective, it changes that these agents and agencies will be able to give more qualified answers or perspectives to their customers, like why Air Canada cancelled a flight, or why something is not refundable -- they will be able to explain why it is," says Russi.
Now that they have completed the program, the 52 agents are certified as “Ambassadors” and work within their respective agencies as subject matter experts, providing support to their teams.
Beyond that, an important component of the program is the give and take between AC and the partners.
"We fully expect for them to come back to us and give us options and constructive criticism from an agency perspective. We will engage these people throughout the year. It's like a focus group, but with inside knowledge because we believe that they will be able to make a much better judgement because they understand the inner workings of Air Canada," says Russi.
Russi says the program is expected to be offered annually and, with a redesigned website next year, advertise criteria for agents to be eligible to participate.
Front, L-R: Mary Ann Stojkiewicz, Administrative Assistant; Sandra Perna, Agency Rewards & Recognition Program Development Manager; Virgilio Russi, Senior Director Sales – Canada; Rob Puzzo, Manager, Alliance Sales Strategy & Sales Effectiveness. Back, L-R: David Slobod, Product Delivery Manager; Patrizia D’Amico, Sales Training Content Delivery Manager; Pierre Faubert, Global Sales Learning, Performance Management and Alliance Sales; Regina Nowak, Manager, Agency Web Rewards Programs; Karen Brzozowicz, Manager, Payment Products; John Sagar, Manager, Revenue Optimization/Training. Missing from photo: Glenda Mazerolle, Manager, Sales Alliances.
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.
Kim- May 30, 2019 @ 11:40
How do we sign up for something like this? When is the next class