At the heart of every business is what many call a “customer value proposition.” Simply put, what value do you offer the customer? Can you answer without hesitation the question “why should I use your services?” At countless trade shows and presentations, I’ve witnessed too many agents stumble over this important question. Your value proposition should be a matter of muscle memory, not a pop quiz.
To assist you with developing your own answer, let’s consider 3 very important issues.
What do you offer?
Given a moment to think, most travel professionals will indicate that they don’t really “sell” travel. Intellectually we understand we sell ourselves, our consulting expertise. But how often have you heard another agent speak about a client finding a “lower price” and how the “sale” was thereby blown? If you are a consultant and are working with the client to make an intelligent purchasing decision, why have such a strong emotional investment in price as opposed to any other of the considerations that go into the value of a planning exercise? Is it possible to have the client bring you their research along the way for you to evaluate along with them? I’m only suggesting when price becomes the focal point, what you have is a transaction and not a relationship. You are acting more as a seller of travel than as a true consultant.
Can you list what you offer in terms of benefits to the client? Here’s your 1st exercise: develop a list of as many discrete benefits you offer to the client as you can.
What value do you place on your services?
Now you know what you offer, ask what value you place on the listed benefits. It’s easy to believe in the value of travel. But your clients don’t need to be convinced of the value of travel. In fact, there are few things they would rather do than travel! What they need to understand is the value of your services. What is your evaluation of the tour operator, the itinerary, the hotel, the day trips all worth? What is the value of your experience and advocacy? What are the real savings to the client in terms of the protections you afford their 4 to 5 digit investment in the trip you are planning for them?
Now, ask yourself this much tougher, related question: if you truly believe in the value of your services, why is the prospect of charging a fee so daunting?
Here’s your next exercise: Put a dollar value on each of the benefits you offer. Consider how your expertise saves the client time in research, enhances their time in the destination, protects their investment, diminishes the possibility of disappointment and provides the client with assurances of quality they otherwise would do without. Sounds pretty valuable to me.
How do you communicate your value?
Here I believe we come to one of the profession’s key failings – not adequately communicating the value of using a travel consultant. Look at your company websites, newsletters, social media posts and others. Analyze the way you describe your services. Do you address the benefits to the client or the features of your agency? Do you speak to emotion and value or to products? Do you take command of the ongoing relationship or leave the client wondering, “Why would I use a travel agent”?
Here’s a thought: This video is available to you, (free), in TRO’s Where2TravelNext section. Grab it. Use it. There’s lots more where that comes from. (Yes, we have a “she” version of the video as well).Let’s understand what we do and promote ourselves intelligently. Our clients, and our profession, will be the better for the effort. TRO supports you. Let us know how we can assist.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.