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For Whom Do You Work?

Have you ever seen or heard this question come up from other travel agents: “Do you know of a vendor that pays commission for x service (hotel/transfers/dog boarding)?” I have time and time again and I happen to think this is the wrong question a travel agent should be asking. Wouldn’t it be better to ask “Do you know of a supplier that can best serve the NEEDS of my particular client?”

Nolan Burris touched on this point recently. We need to get in a mindset that we are not sellers of travel. We are selling ourselves, our advice and our experience. When a client engages your services, who are you working for? If a client fits of a certain profile, does it make any sense at all to recommend something because it pays a commission or maybe even a bonus commission if that client won’t enjoy the experience?


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Too often agents seem to be only obsessed with that extra percentage point or dollar which indicates they are focused on the wrong person. A client comes to us for advice and council and as such we should serve them in the best way we can. Think of all of the times your client has asked for recommendations of what should they do and what should they experience at their destination? Do you first head to your provider and give them a list of options? Or do you continue your qualifying process?

I had a client recently who was absolutely worried about her dog being taken care of during her cruise. It just so happened that I had access to a local dog sitter. This supplier hit it off with my client (and her dog) immediately. People, who don’t understand exactly what it is that I do, laugh when I tell them this story as if to say it does not define their definition of service. However, for this particular client, this act made the difference to her and allowed her to let go of her pre-trip worry. As a result, she had a much more enjoyable travel experience. Do you think that this dog-sitter pays a commission?

Nolan was right. Commission is important, but I believe that serving our clients is more important. I also believe when you move to a consultant fee model then your bread and butter comes from fees you charge for your advice and any commission becomes secondary, but that is a topic for another article.

Take the time to listen to your clients and keep asking yourself who are you working for? The clients who come to you for advice are not at all interested in how much commission you will make. They are interested in knowing your advice truly meets not only their wants but their needs as well. More often than not, you will have to realize that there will be those experiences that best SERVE your client will not pay you a commission.

Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator of Cruise Holidays of Canton, GA. He can be reached at 770-355-9569 or at cflagg@cruiseholidays.com

  3 thoughts on “For Whom Do You Work?

  1. I’d like to think the pet-sitter appreciated the referral though, and would reciprocate by referring some of her clients to you. 😉

    But you are right, although we do sell a product (travel) we have to redirect our focus (and that of our clients) to service. If a supplier doesn’t pay commission, charge your client for your service.

  2. Great article! Another challenge we have experienced as a tour operator when trying to introduce our programs and services to new travel agents on main and Franchise street, is they are narrowly focused or locked down on consortiums. Many a times Travel agents aren’t willing to explore programs outside their common daily suppliers (suppliers who offer multiple destinations but are not specialized or the best in particular destinations), leading me to the question you asked “Do you know of a supplier that can best serve the NEEDS of my particular client”. None the less, Travel Agents play an extremely vital role in the supply chain and sometimes enough credit isn’t provided to them. All the best!

  3. Dave says:

    I completely agree with this posting! Many agents will also just use whoever their travel network or consortium has ties with even if that tour operator/ travel facilitator has no offices or employees at the destination, no local expertise and charges more while delivering less. If your travel network offers a poor choice for the destination your client has in mind; don’t be afraid to seek out a better solution.

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