When did the travel industry become so jaded?
Imagine walking into a car dealership and not being offered any help because the salesperson thought you could not afford that particular car. Would you be put off? Might you be put off to the point that the next time you purchased a car it might be online?
What if you were in the market for a flat-screen television and the salesperson refused to help you because he or she thought you might be a shopper and not serious about buying a television.
I think it is accurate to state that in either situation, we would walk away pretty ticked off. So why do so many in the travel industry automatically presume a potential customer is not worthy of their time?
Last week, there was a Facebook post on an agent only page.
<There, the agent recounted a vague request by a consumer who was not known to him. The request, which asked if passports were necessary for travel to Mexico, also indicated a cruise would be a consideration. The agent was frustrated by the consumers lack of detail and knowledge of travel.>
What followed, to me, was mind-blowing. At least a dozen travel professionals offered advice ranging from ignore the request to outright mocking the request. <…> Now granted, it was in an agent-only page so it was not aired in public; but have we become so jaded that we refuse to respond?
<Editorial Note – the original text which revealed a verbatim passage from the private TA board has been removed. Please see comments below for more detail>
The request was not particularly informing or detailed, but it certainly did not rise to the level of “I am a Minister and need one way tickets from Accra to London in first class.” It was apparently sent from an iPad, so one can assume it likely was not a phishing scam. The thread went on about the lack of a passport and how it was an indicator of how “cheap” the client might be. There was no thought to the concept that he may not be able to get a passport (child support in arrears), or get it in time. Maybe they wanted to spend their dollars on travel and not documents. Discussion was had on the presumed meager commission to be received. I pointed out a supplier where I could make $800 for a 4 day trip—remember, there was no mention of budget.
How much time would have been lost by simply replying with a simple statement, “Thanks for your inquiry. Is there a convenient time and number where I can call you to discuss planning your upcoming vacation?” It took me about 4 seconds to type. If he does not return the message, then perhaps he was a shopper (and there is nothing wrong with that) or the request was not legitimate.
But you are never going to catch the golden ring without taking opportunities when they are offered. We always talk about not making assumptions about how clients like travel. Why are we accepting of making the assumptions for prospects?
In the end, I left my email address in the thread and suggested that they pass along the prospect’s information to me. Hey, I can invest 4 seconds in a potential sale. It is what I do. I am a salesman. I understand that people will shop and compare. I understand that I will hear the word “no” a lot more than I hear the word “yes.” I also understand that we cannot have it both ways. It is impossible to demand the respect and admiration we deserve, when are unable to offer it in return.
If the agent doesn’t respond, or worse yet uses a reply suggested by a colleague, what is a potential customer to think? Agents are extinct–they never replied. Give him a cocky answer like “as soon as you send your $200 non-refundable plan to go fee, I will consider researching your trip” and he is likely to run away and tell all of his friends in the process. Is this what we are looking for as an industry?
Seize the day. Respond to the opportunities—you never know where they will lead.