Speed dating | TravelResearchOnline

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Speed dating

A few months ago in this column, I mentioned that the travel industry might be able to learn a little from the automobile industry—specifically from a commercial for Infiniti.

For years, this industry has been all about building relationships. When have you attended a function where relationships (or some variation) were not addressed?  Earlier this week, our publisher, Richard Earls wrote a column on trust and relationships.

While we all like to think that we have the trust of our clients, in fact, we may not. We may not have earned it.  Trust is a funny thing. How do you earn trust? Can it be earned without having any trust in the beginning? Is it a complete catch-22? It might be.

OK, so the title of this column is not particularly on target yet. But stick with me and by the end, it will become clear, I promise!

Another industry that is facing similar obstacles is the insurance industry. To a degree, technology has done to the insurance agent, what it has done to the travel agent. There are consumers out there who believe that because they are proficient in mousing, that they are both travel agents as well as insurance agents. YTB has recently taken it to a whole other step and their new ZamZuu division is representing themselves as insurance agents.  But as we all know, there is a huge difference between mousing and clicking and being an agent—travel or insurance.  Don’t get me wrong—technology is great and it has made incredible strides to make life easier and less complex for a myriad of tasks. In fact, the travel agent was one of the first professions to embrace technology by having the old CRT slave workstation on their desks back in the 70s.

But for all the advances it offers, the people who exploit it are taking a lot away. Several years ago, ASTA had a series of great advertisements featuring their tag line—without a travel agent, you’re on your own. We only need to look to the recent past to see how well these technology exploits handled typical issues that arise in the travel industry. How well did Expedia, YTB, Orbitz, and the other technology based agencies fare when that volcano (not even going to try and spell it, much less pronounce it) in Iceland caused havoc all over the world? In three words—not too well. Essentially, they passed the buck by simply saying that it was the airline’s problem.  Is that any way to build a relationship or to build trust?

As travel professionals—not websites or website renters, we need to do a better job of earning the trust. Certainly doing a good job is the first step. Blowing your own horn is another step in the right direction. If something goes perfect because of something you did and a customer does not know it—they are likely to take it for granted. But when you are qualifying the client (and that does include more than pointing them to your website) let them know what you do. Let them know what you do before, during, and after their trip. Explain to them why they should offer their trust to you.

Last night, I was watching the news and an Allstate Insurance commercial aired and immediately went ahead of the Infiniti one I my book. While it was obviously for insurance, the analogy to speed dating is equally applicable to travel. I was watching and cheering the commercial screaming “yes, Yes, YES!!”  This is exactly what we need to demonstrate to clients looking to do business with us. What do you think?

  One thought on “Speed dating

  1. Mary Helen Maupin, Life CTC says:

    Thank you very much for this article. I have been in travel since 1984. When I was in training, my instructor gave this caveat, “The customer is the bottom line.” I have always put myself in the customer’s place as if I were taking/making the same trip. What would I do? How would I feel about such and such? Our culture as a whole has lost trust in everything including travel arrangements. We MUST return to courtesy and respect of our customers which is both plain common sense and good manners.

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