I discovered the Keen Footwear company just as they emerged on the outdoor footwear scene. Needing a pair of sandals that I could wear in the water when kayaking, I liked Keen’s oversized toe protection. I put them on, walked out of the store, and did not take them off for three years. Living in Asheville at the time, the casual nature of the town matched the footwear and for three years I wore those shoes everyday, hiking, kayaking, running, going to dinner, everywhere. I wore them hard.
Then the laces broke.
I emailed Keen and jokingly complained that after only three years of constant wear, the elastic lace on my right shoe broke. I had repaired the lace by tying it together and was actually pretty content. I forgot about my laces. Until my new ones arrived in the mail.
Someone at Keen had placed two new laces into an envelope and mailed them to me.
No big deal, right? Yet, in that simple act of humor and customer loyalty is a lesson for travel agents. Customer loyalty begins not with the customer, but with the company. Customers become loyal to companies that go the extra mile, that are first loyal to the customer. That small gesture on the part of Keens earned my loyalty. That and the fact they make a truly great shoe.
But it’s not just small gestures that earn loyalty. A common characteristic of all of the companies on my list of favorites is the sense of community each exhibits. Social responsibility is another manifestation of customer loyalty. A quick look at Keen’s web site reveals a company very much concerned with being a responsible corporate member of a larger community. One section of their site is dedicated to “Care for the World.” Through a program known as “Hybrid-care” the company has donated more than $5 Million to non-profit organizations since 2004.
Every business is a part of a community. How does your travel agency manifest that sense of community and civic loyalty? By joining others for good causes or civic committees, you not only work toward a positive goal in your community, but you also earn the opportunity to let new people know about your travel practice, your attention to detail, and the personality behind your skill set. As the other participants get to know you in a volunteer setting, their understanding of you in a charitable context serves to create a bond that can translate in a very positive way into a personal or business relationship. Importantly, you will discover that much of the pressure is off of you to “market” as you provide your services to the community. Knowledge of you and your business is a happy by-product of your central mission of giving to others.
A company that involves itself in a community is demonstrating a concern for causes and issues beyond the four corners of its balance sheet. Members of the public sympathetic to the company’s issues will respond in kind.