Have you had the experience when driving of unexpectedly seeing a car or pedestrian emerge from your “blind-spot”? The sudden awareness of a nearly missed accident is more than a little disconcerting. One moment everything is fine, and then without warning, you are blind-sided by something as obvious as a Ford Explorer.
The same thing can happen to you in your travel practice unless you take terrific precautions to be self-aware.
As a travel consultant, you know your business. You work to develop an understanding of travel product. You study marketing, sales and customer service. The longer you are a part of the industry, the better you understand the essential workings of being an expert in your field. You know your stuff.
But it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you.
We all have a natural tendency to complacency, to getting a bit too comfortable, to moving day to day as though it’s business as usual. We rest on our laurels when we should be thinking about being better at what we do, growing, improving. We can miss the most obvious signals from our clients or our overall progress that something is holding us back.
Your clients know things about your business that you do not. They know what others have told them. They know about that little mistake you made last trip that they never discussed with you. They know your receptionist sometimes fails to answer the phone professionally.
When was the last time you met with clients over lunch just to ask them how you were doing and if they were happy with your services? When was the last time you “shopped” yourself? When was the last time you made a real study of what your competitors were offering? Have you made a study of the most successful travel consultants in your office, home town or consortia? What are they doing that you are not?
What do they know that you don’t?
It’s great to be comfortable, but comfort can be a trap. There is too much that we fail to observe simply because of our inherent blind-spots. We easily filter everything from our own perspective. We don’t see ourselves as others see us, and it is that 3rd party perspective that ultimately determines the public knowledge of our brand. While we can shape and influence our brand image, it takes on a life of its own. Your brand is not what you say it is – your brand is what other people say it is on the basis of their experiences with you.
So blind spots are not a good thing.
Resolve in the next month or so to make yourself uncomfortable, to stretch your sense of self–awareness. Visit other businesses and study their marketing, customer service, office environment and sales techniques. Spend an hour looking at some competitor’s websites. Take a client to lunch and ask lots of questions. Speak to your employees, your employer and peers about what’s working for them and what’s not working so well. Pick up a book or course of study in sales and marketing and resolve not just to read it, but to put the best it has to offer into practice.
Most importantly, be brutally honest with yourself in your assessment of the information you gather. That’s the hard part.
It is important to monitor our travel practice from new perspectives, from positions that sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. We cannot eliminate all of the blind spots from life, but we can minimize their impact. Spend some time getting to know your travel practice the way one of your clients might know it. You may be surprised by what you don’t know.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.