Over the past month or so, there have been a few threads over on the TRO Community concerning supplier promotions that are making their way to consumers, but not to agents. What’s going on? And how can agents make sure that they have all of the information needed for their clients?
Before we can address the issue, we need to understand that suppliers will take business (as we all do) from the path of least resistance. Think about it, who would you rather deal with…the woman that calls you up saying she wants to go to the Caribbean, Europe, an Alaskan cruise or maybe a safari in Africa? Or the woman that calls up and says, “I want to do a week at Sandals in an oceanfront suite”? Suppliers are no different and to a degree, dealing with agents can cause some friction. Now friction can be defined any number of ways; but in general, they need to support us and pay us. Take away one or both of those, and the transaction becomes almost frictionless.
Suppliers want direct business fro the consumer. Why wouldn’t they? Over the years they have proven it time and time again. They market to the consumer with an agent as an afterthought. Former “agent only” suppliers now take direct bookings. Some suppliers even operate their own travel agencies to take bookings. It is all in the name of saving money and pleasing their shareholders. Remember, while suppliers do indeed pay a commission to you, they are beholden to their shareholders—not you. The analysts for Carnival have been advocating for commission elimination for years. So far, Carnival has resisted.
So is it so far fetched to think that a supplier might put out a series of specials on their consumer channels (website, direct mail, broadcast email, etc.) and neglect to notify the agency? Of course not. When you take the agency out, there is less friction.
Our jobs have been made more and more difficult over the years with convoluted pricing, deposit requirements, cabin/room categories and more. But to bring the value to the table that we must, we must adapt to their policies to provide the service to our clients.
It looks that in some cases, and probably as a “best practice” in all cases, you should not only be consulting your agent fax or email notices and your agent portals; but also the consumer portals as well—the consumer website, consumer direct mail, and consumer broadcast email. Make sure you are signed up as a consumer on all of your suppliers (use a throwaway email address) to make sure you can provide the best service. Nothing looks worse to a client than quoting the “best price” on a cruise and having them come in with a flier that the supplier mailed to them beating you by a few hundred dollars.
Yes, it will take a lot of extra time. But hopefully in addition to the commission earned, you are also charging a fee for your professional services to make it worthwhile.
Have you been caught off guard by a promotion that went directly to your client? Please leave a comment.