Sam Jain, CEO and founder of CheapOair and its various predecessors, has been working in the travel industry since the 1990s. He started working in a travel agency just a few years after arriving in New York from India when he was still in his early 20s. Since that time, he’s learned a lot and tried several approaches – most of them proved successful.
At least from our perspective, starting call centers when he moved the business online. At the time, the other travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity didn’t provide a call-in option; it was all automated online. When Sam noticed that, he decided to take a different route, making certain their toll-free phone number was listed on every page of their site.
Creating those first call centers and reinvesting to build more has worked well for a couple of reasons. The operators are trained to help find the best deals and extras for the customers, assuring satisfaction with the experience. But beyond that, in many cases there are special deals that cannot be listed on the website for various reasons. These are offered to those calling in, giving them a better option at a lower cost, and for CheapOair agents these deals pay a higher commission.
Other Smart Choices
CheapOair partners with various travel-related companies like cruise lines, car rental agencies, hotels, vacation destinations, etc. Companies from the travel industry that want to advertise with the company can do so on their various web pages and in their newsletters. For the most part, they don’t make online hotel bookings, but hotels can advertise on their pages.
For CheapOair, it’s all about using algorithms to find the lowest prices. With at least seven call centers around the world, CheapOair can offer the possibility of live communication all day every day. In 2015 they had ticket sales of approximately $4.2 billion through their service. The call center operators are trained to cross-sell rental cars and hotels, as well as extras such as more legroom and other upgrades.
When they first established the call centers, leadership noticed they had some problems with agents fighting and competing in ways that were harmful to the business. The leaders chose to refocus the energy of the workers to handle the problems internally and focus on daily performance indicators.
Sam Jain’s Impact
Because Jain has come to appreciate his new country and the advantages he’s found here, both he and the company work closely with several charitable agencies such as UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders. Sam Jain has consistently ignored the traditional wisdom route to the company’s advantage. Rather than rush into things and do it like everyone else, he has the knack of stepping back and finding the ways he’d like to do it differently, then making it profitable.
Since he’s an immigrant to the U.S., he’s mentioned that possibly “the biggest challenge for immigrant entrepreneurs lie[s] in understanding the American consumer psyche.” He seems to have handled that challenge just as well as the many others he faced in building a highly successful company.