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Get Radical with Problems – Ask WHY?

The word “radical” denotes the idea of getting to the root of a problem. When mathematicians want to find the square root of a number, they use the radical symbol to express the equation. For travel agents, getting radical on a problem means seeking out its cause. One of the best ways to do so is to work backwards and ask, quite simply, “WHY?”

Long ago, we discussed the sales funnel. There, we examined the sales process and noted that at every step of the way, potential clients fell out of our sphere of influence. As we looked to the sales funnel, we noted that a lot of clients were being lost at the top of the sales process and fewer as we went along. However, the further along in the sales process any given client was, the more time and energy we had invested in the client. Every client that fell to the bottom of the funnel stands a better chance of being a very important repeat client. Therefore, it is smart of us as travel agent marketers to determine WHY any given client might not move all the way through our sales process, because the problem might be more widespread than we thought.


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The answer could be in the WHY’s. Let’s move through an example and follow the WHYs all the way through to a solution.

Let’s say you have just learned that Mr. Jones, a customer for whom you were doing research, has booked elsewhere and he seems to be somewhat unhappy with your services.

Step 1 is to start with the end result and ask “Why is Mr. Jones unhappy?” You may have to ask Mr. Jones for the answer if he has not told you already. In our example, he is unhappy because you did not get back to him quickly enough with your preliminary research. The answer to that “WHY?” prompts another “WHY?” – Why did it take you ten days to get back to Mr. Jones? Well, after all it was a very complicated itinerary and those take time. That answer prompts another “WHY?” – Why did Mr. Jones not understand that his request was complicated and the research would take time? The answer – because you did not set his expectations correctly. Why did you not set the proper expectations? Because it is not a part of your standard routine and you just thought Mr. Jones would understand.

Solution – communicate and set expectations at the beginning of each planning phase. Stay in touch with clients to let them know you are on the job even if you have nothing yet to report.

Keep your own sales process at the heart of the analysis.  In other words, at no step should you “blame” the client. If the answer to one of your WHY? questions had been “Because Mr. Jones is unreasonable” you would have lost a real opportunity to discern a problem in your sales process. For the purpose of these exercises, assume the mantle of responsibility and you will arrive at real solutions more frequently.

If you now integrate your solution into your sales process, you will bring more clients to the bottom of the sales funnel. Simply asking WHY? – getting to the root of the problem – greatly improved your standard operating procedure and could well save the next planning exercise from going awry. It’s a simple exercise but sometimes it is really worthwhile simply asking Why? and following the answers all the way to a solid conclusion and solution.

  One thought on “Get Radical with Problems – Ask WHY?

  1. Sheila James says:

    In addition to being a travel agent for 25 years, I am a business analyst for a major financial institution where we practice Lean Six Sigma. One of the critical parts of any project is to go through a practice called “The Five Whys” to identify root causes of a problem. Lean Six Sigma is widely known for having been developed in the 1960s by the Japanese automotive industry which led to the high quality product they continue to deliver today. You can look at a lot of business problems in this same manner and understanding why you aren’t closing travel sales is just one of them. The next question I would ask or problem I would try to solve is “how can we reduce the cycle time in providing the intial research for a complicated itinerary?”.

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