Yes, I’m a proud “fee-vangelist.” My reason for pushing agents so hard to adopt professional fees is simple–you can’t wow them with service if you aren’t making enough money to pay the rent. And, in today’s net-connected world, unless you wow them, you won’t keep them.
I’ve just spoken at several industry events. Over and over I heard travel agents say they’ve hit “the tipping point” and finally started charging fees. But, there are two very different motivators at work.
The first is financial pain. The average cost compared to the average revenue per transaction has flip-flopped for many agents. The trend has been clear for years (and I’ve been shouting about it since 1996). Your own product mix, clientele or cost structure may keep the problem at bay for a while, but watch your own trends carefully. Where is it heading. Are you prepared?
The other motivating factor is superior service. The only way to truly “beat” the net is to play a game it can’t play. That game is all about amazing, high-quality personal attention and service. But time is money.
The brilliant folks at Apple (now the most profitable company on earth) have proven that people will indeed pay more for a superior experience. You could become the “Genius Bar” of travel! You could be the sexy “Aluminum Macbook Air” of cruises!
You could, just like Apple, easily compete with all the plastic, thrown-together commodities known as “order takers” and websites with professional expertise, personal attention and quality time. But when all that incredible value is given away for nothing, you deliver a message that even you don’t think it’s worth anything.
Remember those two very different “tipping points?” Those that were motivated by improving service tended to have the highest fees, the highest profits and the highest customer satisfaction levels. Those who did it primarily to ease financial pain tended to struggle with the smallest of “service charges” and “cancellation penalties.”
To me, it’s no surprise. If you wait until you’re desperate, you’re not as likely to create something magical. It’s the magic that tips travellers toward you, and away from the net. Maybe it’s time to start tipping things yourself a little sooner than later.
Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry. He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions (futureprooftravel.com) based in Vancouver, Canada. Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.