Short on time? Here are the highlights:
- We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with Laurent Pasquet, managing director of the Paris-based education agency La Route des Langues
- The interview underlines the challenges and opportunities for agencies in the Internet age, as well as how essential it is for agents to offer extra value in order to survive and thrive
- Young students travelling abroad for language study – as well as their parents – now have a different expectation of service; they are more demanding and expect instant, personalised support from agents
The Internet has changed everything in terms of international student recruitment. For agents, digital has represented both an opportunity and a threat, as Laurent Pasquet, managing director for the France-based agency La Route des Langues – which specialises in the junior market –notes in today’s feature interview. Those agencies that have embraced the opportunity, he says, have considered carefully how to adapt their business so that they remain a compelling resource for international students.
In our first video excerpt below, Mr Pasquet explains that the key to his agency’s success today is that they work hard at figuring out how to add extra value to their clients. For example, he notes that La Route des Langues agents always offer a chaperone service for their youngest clients aged eight and nine. It costs the agency money, but Mr Pasquet says it pays off in the long term: “We will keep this client forever.”
Young travellers – including students going abroad for language study – are increasingly booking their trips online. The WYSE Travel Confederation reports that as of 2007, around 50% of millennial travel bookings were made online, and most often via a desktop computer. In the association’s 2017 survey, however, respondents reported that 80% of their travel bookings were made online. The growth in online bookings underlines Mr Pasquet’s point that personalisation and adding extra value is key to competing in this changed travel marketplace.
In our second video segment, Mr Pasquet speaks about the way the Internet has produced a new type of client: one who is always connected and also more demanding because digital technology has conditioned them to expect immediate results. He has even had instances in which parents have asked to track their children in real time.” He smiles, saying,
“Fortunately, up to now we have not been putting bar codes on our clients and schools are not scanning them when they arrive at the airport, but that’s what customers are expecting because they are used to following their ‘parcel’.”
Young clients’ attachment to their smartphones and cellphones has also created a real challenge for the agency’s partners (schools and host families). If students feel upset about even a minor problem, for example, “they will text message or call their parents right away.”
And it has changed the dynamics of the intensive cultural and language experience that is a hallmark of the language-learning experience in France. Mr Pasquet notes that it is harder for partners to keep young students engaged in activities, and he’s even heard of instances where host families have had to turn the wifi off in their homes because students were not interacting with the family, instead shutting themselves in their rooms to Snapchat and Facebook with their friends.
When considering what the Internet has offered in terms of the agency’s ability to recruit, Mr Pasquet says that it’s not about “selling,” but rather the ability to attract clients and to provide more information to them. He estimates that 20–30% of their business comes in through digital channels, a proportion in line with trends across the agency landscape, according to ICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer research.
The ability to support clients with further and comprehensive information – e.g., programme information, advice about what to pack – has been a major benefit for the agency. The agency points clients to web-based resources during or after their discussion to provide the best possible orientation for students coming to study in France.
For additional background, please see: