“We used to have physical visitors in the office every day,” commented Alfonso de los Mozos, from Sheffield Centre in Spain. “Now it’s quite rare to receive a client in the office.”
Maria Castro, from Linguland in Germany, added that in the past, agencies used to reference their partner schools as “our language school in Dublin” or “our language school in London”, but now agents use the school’s full names.
“The Internet has changed everything,” she said. “There is transparency.”
“We would like to give them the opportunity to get an idea of the issues we are discussing”
Speaking after the session, Stefania Vettori, an education agent at School and Vacation based in Italy, told The PIE News that the agent-school relationship has changed as a result of more internet-based search options.
“We are not the only category they can work with,” she said.
This was the first time education agencies have attended the Eaquals conference. Walter Denz, vice chair of Eaquals and owner of Liden & Denz Intercultural Institute of Languages, said the aim was to give them a distinct view of the inner workings of the language sector.
“We would like to give them the opportunity to get an idea of the issues we are discussing,” he said.
A large portion of the schools do not work with education agencies, many teach local students, but Sarah Aitken, executive director of the association, said the association is eager to increase awareness of Eaquals accreditation to agency networks.
“How do we respond to the need of people who have gone through the tough accreditation scheme to promote this [being] of real value to the learner?” she said.
Comments from the panel confirmed the characteristics of industry accreditation schemes are often unknown among agents.
Quality does sell, they argued, but de los Mozos admitted that he doesn’t know the extent to which inspection schemes differ.
“What I see is when I see a school and you’re accredited by Eaquals or IALC or British Council, I think that part of my job is already done,” he said.
The agents also told delegates what they considered best practice in agent-school dealings: good communication, an openness to working with education agencies, and the “personal touch”.
“I like to work with people I trust, and people I can call at 1am and get an answer immediately”
“We think is this school going to make my life easier, and provide my customer a very good customer experience,” said Blazquez.
Vettori said that she tells her customers a big influence in choosing a school is if she has their mobile phone number.
“That is very important because you know very well if something bad happens it happens on a Saturday night,” she said.
“If I have your mobile I call you and I can hear an answer immediately, and then my answer to the customer is worth 2000%.”
Vettori also agents value meetings between school directors and the students. It gives them the ‘personal touch’ to their experience, she said.
“And if they’re open to having agents to sell, if they are on our side,” she said.
De los Mozos also emphasised the need for a close relationship between the two parties.
“I like to work with friends,” he said. “I like to work with people I trust, and people I can call at 1am and get an answer immediately.”