all want satisfied customers. People who are happy with a buying experience,
according to business lore, tell three other people about their satisfactory
experience. We all tend to “collect" satisfied customers we can point to as
examples of our competence and proficiency as travel consultants. Most travel
agents who have been in the business for any length of time can point to a
small stable of satisfied customers.
another piece of business lore, from our own industry. Out of 5 repeat
cruisers, four will book with an agent other than the one who booked their
first. I don't know if a similar statistic exists for other segments of the
industry, but let's use cruise as the starting point for this brief study.
Think that through for a moment: they are satisfied with the
cruise experience, but they book with another agent.
it's not enough to have satisfied customers. Maybe you don't want satisfied
you need to move the customer way, way beyond satisfied.
a client is satisfied at a most basic level, they are typically satisfied with
a transaction. Everything went well. They enjoyed their experience without any
major hitches that went unresolved. But as we have indicated in the past,
moving clients from one transaction to the next is no way to build an insanely
great travel practice. It's not enough for a client to be satisfied. For a
client to be an evangelist for your travel practice, for them to recommend you
to their friends and acquaintances, for the client to think of you each and
every time they think of traveling, they have to be more than satisfied. They
have to be WOW'd.
do you introduce the WOW factor into what you do?
about the times you have been WOW'd by a company. How did they manage to
generate your enthusiasm? Typically, whatever they did was some small,
incidental act. It wasn't the core transaction, but some small extra bit of
time they spent with you, some way that they managed to make you feel special,
a few words, some empathy, a gesture that indicated they understood you as a
human being and were acknowledging that understanding with a demonstration of
don't want merely satisfied customers; you want loyal customers, client who
have a relationship with you based not just on satisfaction with a transaction,
but on a shared understanding of their needs and your willingness to actively
and eagerly meet those needs and then to go beyond the transaction.
client has a hierarchy of needs. Most companies stop when the most basic are
fulfilled, when the transactional needs are met. However, clients have other
needs, some of which they are completely unaware in the course of a travel
planning exercise. It's you as the professional in the relationship who must
have an awareness of those needs and who will take the next step beyond the
transaction. Perhaps it's the destination guide you provide them, or the tip
about the “secret" diner where the locals eat. Maybe it's the invitation to the
manager's reception you obtain for them or a comment from the hotel concierge,
welcoming them as special guests of both you and the hotel. Maybe it's the
concern you demonstrate after they return home in your follow-up efforts.
Whatever your mode of taking your client beyond the transaction into a
relationship, use it well and consistently.
travel agents provide the “extras" only for their larger transactions. Right.
Transactions. Relationships are built not around transactions, but around the
extras. Importantly, make the extras client-centric. A bottle of wine won't be
of value to someone who doesn't drink. Discover during your research what is
valuable to a client, what they appreciate in a relationship, and then make
that client-centric value a part of your exchange. Next time you book a bare
hotel room for a client, or an airline ticket, or perform some other simple
task for which your own remuneration is minimal, take the opportunity
to WOW the client by going the extra mile. Do something that will make them
remember not only the transaction, but their encounter with you. Your small
efforts will pay off in a very tangible way. Getting your customers to
return and bring their friends with them will radically change the
economics of your travel practice for the better.
your clients beyond satisfaction, beyond transaction, to loyalty. Then watch
your practice grow.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.