The relationship between you and your clients reflects the temperament of your travel practice. The more open you are, the more easily you encounter your clients and the more gracefully you carry your industry knowledge, the better your relationships. The travel professionals with the happiest clients did not win their approval with pricing or vague notions of customer service, but with the power of a relationship.
Every now and again I run into a travel professional whose attitude with their clients is best described as defensive. It is almost as though the agent is afraid of the client. Here’s an example: Last week an agent working on a social media project indicated she did not want to share a Facebook article about a rash of pickpocketing in Paris for fear of saying something “negative” about travel to her clients. Another agent disliked an article I recommended she share with a client because an advertisement for Travelocity was on the same page.
Misapprehensions about client encounters are really not so unusual. Sometimes concern is voiced when a client researches alongside the travel professional. I’ve seen agents driven to distraction prior to giving a quote to a client by the fear the client may have found “a better price.” It’s often fear preventing us from asking for feedback or testimonials, or keeping us from approaching a prospect.
I cannot imagine sending a client to Paris without a warning of the need to watch possessions closely. I’m also pretty sure every client sees dozens of advertisements weekly promising exciting, inexpensive travel. Perhaps fifteen years ago you may have encountered a client who didn’t know how to research travel. Today, however, your clients are plugged into many of the same informational resources as you.
Living in fear is hard and fundamentally unnecessary. Here’s how to stop.
You don’t have to be afraid of your clients. You don’t have to worry about whether they are researching along side of you (because they are) or whether they may encounter travel specials outside of your purview (because they will). If you sometimes find yourself dreading a client encounter out of fear, it only takes a small shift in your own positioning to make the fear dissipate.
The secret to acting with total confidence is to take charge of your client relationships. From the outset of every relationship, establish the ground rules. Since you know your client is going to research, encourage it. Tell them to bring you anything they find so you can explore and evaluate it with them. Because you know your client is not going to be 100% satisfied with everything all the time, tell them to speak with you about ANY issue.
Fill your website with information on the value you add to travel. Tell your clients how you protect their investment, save them time, organize their travel, act as their advocate and help them research. You are quite factually the best thing that has happened to your traveling clients, but if you don’t explain your value to them, if you don’t clear up fundamental misunderstandings about what you do and how you do it, the relationship never takes shape and you end up being more transactional than relationship based.
When you “en-courage” your clients you empower them, and empowerment is what they crave. If you encourage your clients by empowering them, they will relax into the relationship and marvel at your confidence. If, however, you display any fear, if they get the sense you may be less than completely candid, then the relationship will collapse into a transaction based on price. When you demonstrate empathy with a client’s needs, you put them at the center of the relationship, exactly where they belong. The client suddenly realizes you have THEIR best interests at heart.
Coincidentally, clients also have THEIR best interests at heart. That’s the point to meet with them and in so doing, fear is no longer an issue.