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Protecting your asset

Last week, the Internet was all abuzz about the impending “rapture” where the non-sinners were going to be called to heaven on Saturday and the sinners were to be left here on Earth until it explodes in fire and brimstone in October. If you are reading this, I guess we know where you stand. While I don’t exactly know what differentiated the sinners and the “good ones”, I have to assume that somewhere along the line, those destined for heaven probably had a better reputation than the rest. How is your reputation? How is the reputation of your travel business?

For years, there has been a debate about the most valuable asset a travel agency owns. Usually it boils down to one of two choices—your employees or your client list. I say it is neither! First off, no one owns your client. As I said last week, they are not loyal and will flake on you like a bad case of dandruff. And employees are also overrated—usually by themselves.

Agent Or Agency

I had a superstar working for me many years ago. She specialized in Jamaica and anyone that sat at her desk ended up going to Jamaica. It did not matter that they initially came in to book a Baltic cruise or a week in Iceland—they went to Jamaica. She was that good. She became a little too full of herself and ultimately became a cancer in the office and I ended up firing her. I was terrified about the amount of business she was going to take with her. As it turned out, it was negligible. Maybe 5 or 6 clients at the most; and those were close friends and family. Ultimately, it was our most valuable asset that kept the clients with us! What was it?

Our Reputation

It was the reputation of the agency and to a degree the reputation of management. The clients knew that she served them well and she knew her stuff backwards and forward. But they also realized that it was likely the policies of the agency that allowed her to succeed. And while others will argue that clients or employees are the most valuable asset, I contend that it is your reputation. It will follow you and it will precede you everywhere you go. And once you build yours, there is a very good chance that it will be a defining moment for your professional development and success.

Another success story I want to share involves a month long trip for an extended family of 8 to Europe. While the trip itself may not be that unusual, it is for my agency. We specialize in single parent travel and to be honest, this is one of the largest (if not the largest) trips we have ever booked. So, how does an eight person nuclear family come to book with Single Parent Travel? It was our reputation. As it turns out, the mother works with a client of mine and upon my client’s return from a trip, she was raving about the agency, the service, and the accessibility. She did not specifically recommend us; nor was the woman looking for a recommendation. But the mother took it upon herself to get my name from my client and call me based on what was a somewhat casual conversation. Sure the trip was a bit out of our norm; but we explained that and ultimately delivered the experience this family of eight was seeking.

Your reputation is probably the only thing between you being in business and being out of business. While larger companies can spend lots of time and money trying to repair a bad reputation (look no further than (YTB) Your Travel Business for an example of time and money spent on repairing a bad reputation), you likely do not have that luxury. All it takes is one very influential person on twitter or facebook and your company could be on the brink. It is a scary thought for all of us. But in the same light it drives home the importance of monitoring your reputation and doing all that you can to make sure it is as good as possible.

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  3 thoughts on “Protecting your asset

  1. Chanté says:

    Yes John, you are right about your reputation being a big factor! One of the things I notice is that our “tag line” (for lack of a better word) is: Prompt, Courteous & Professional Travel Specialist.
    Well, I can’t tell you how often I’ve had clients contact me and/or email and say things like, “Thank you for your professionalism, flexibility and attentiveness.” I even had a young lady (I’ve been trying to work with her over a year, she just doesn’t have a budget to travel); anyway, she referred me to two others and they said, “X told us to talk to you because you are so responsive and polite.” They even laughed and said they know she hasn’t been able to afford a trip yet, but when she does she is going to book with us. I’m still new in this busy, but I take that to heart, and always want to be able to deliver that same degree of service in years to come.

  2. Your article is like a breath of fresh air for me. My mantra has been consistency. We have been using the same set of core values for the past 11 years, and that has worked for us. Our clients are loyal, although some of them do tell us about specific deals they see on some of the other websites, and ask us to match them. Reputation is crucial to the success of any business.

    Thanks for the great article.

  3. There is a saying, Character is what’s left when no one is looking.

    Running a business with honesty and ethics and “doing what’s right” is what it’s all about. Referrals are the best form of advertisement, and though our labor is to serve our clients well, it always feels good when your clients refer their peers and circle of friends for you to serve them.

    It is so easy to have the reputation which you worked so hard for “Trashed”, not so much by clients, but more so today by Vendors. We had an incident on Sunday @ LAX where an airline employee (after a computer booking incident which was on the airlines side not ours) decided to tell our 3 clients (flying LAX-JNB) that… “Most Travel agents don’t know what they are doing” and “they add alot of money to the cost of your tickets anyway”. This was relayed to the company travel planner who relayed it to my reseravtions manager. A direct attack on our reputation, professionalism, and credibility. And this is not a one time event. Many vendors are pushing their employees with the concept of BOOK DIRECT and everyone else is the enemy, when in fact no airline can pay employees and benefits for any commission compensation retained by travel agents. It’s pretty much WAR to preserve your Reputation in this industry.

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