4 marks of a good travel supplier
This past week in the TRO Community, there were several supplier rants and raves. Sandals had a poor showing in Montego Bay and Carnival had a poor showing with the ongoing “maintenance issues” with their ships. In both cases, the end user—our mutual client had—well, let’s not sugarcoat this—a crappy vacation. Certainly some travel issues are beyond everyone’s control—can anyone say Eyjafjallajökull? But sometimes, they are well within reach of the agent or supplier. And that got me to thinking…what makes a supplier a good one for you? Here are my 4 criteria.
For me, service needs to be at the top of the list. If a supplier does not have the means to service my agency and our mutual customer, I will look elsewhere. Of course everyone is looking for savings; and technology has lent a great hand in that. But when push comes to shove and I need to get an answer or a problem resolved, I need to be sure that the supplier I chose is working on the same team. Several years ago, I had a client booked into a small group. A relative of one adult had a death in the family and wanted her sister-in-law (same last name) to travel in her place. I was able to get the airline to make the name change without a charge. But the tour operator refused. They insisted that the original booking be canceled (with a forfeited deposit) and rebooked under current rates, with current room availability. The client opted out of insurance, so I went to bat for them. The supplier would not budge. In the end, that supplier received a package from me the following week containing all of their sales collateral with a note explaining that I no longer had any use for it.
For my suppliers, I can deal with online transactions; but when I need someone, I want to be assured there is someone who can handle my issues.
There is nothing worse than recommending a Ritz-Carlton and having a client come back describing a Motel 6. Certainly there can be minor ebbs and flows in service and property conditions, but when they vary widely, it is cause for concern. As agents, our product is not the property, but our knowledge of the property. And a bi-polar property will crush your reputation in an instant.
Once I sent a client to a resort for some rest and relaxation. My recommendation was based on a recent personal trip to the same resort. The client called me from the front desk livid about his experience—less than an hour into the trip. They mis-listed his arrival and did not have a transfer for him to the resort. When he arrived, the room was not ready and they “upgraded” him to the coveted dumpster/construction view suite. And to boot, it took nearly 2 hours for the bellman to bring his luggage. I was sure that he was at the wrong resort.
After calming him down, I spoke to the GM (whom I know) and asked what had happened to the service levels. He explained that they recently had a huge turnover in employees and not all were up to snuff just yet. He understood my issue and my client’s needs and personally walked the client to a neighboring resort that had availability.
Consistency, or lack of it, nearly killed this sale and my reputation, but service saved it!
Let’s face it, any partnership is based on honesty—marriage, business, employee/employer, etc. I expect no less from a supplier. If the supplier is aggressively seeking consumer bookings, say so, I can handle with the extra competition—it makes me stronger. Don’t lie about it and tell me how much you value our “partnership.” Don’t lie to me about a new amenity that won’t be available when my clients arrive—we both end up looking like liars! And I also need to include being proactive as well. If you know you are going under construction the week before my client arrives and you don’t tell me—that may be the last client you see from me. And don’t undercut me or cut me out of future sales. If I catch you soliciting my clients and badmouthing agents to them—we are done!
And commission is purposely listed last. Of course we are in business to make money, but a commission level has never been on the top of my list. Once the top three criteria are met, then we can talk commissions. I need to be compensated fairly and can just as easily work with net or gross numbers. In fact, I prefer a net pricing structure where I am not reliant on the supplier sending me a check on their schedule and based on what their bean-counters say I am worth. Regardless of the structure, a good travel supplier will enable me to make a fair margin on the product. After all, we all have to eat.
So, those are my top 4, what are yours? I’d love to hear what you have to say in a comment!