As a home based agent I do not interact on a face-to-face basis with the majority of my clients. In fact, I probably have met 2% of them in person and only heard their voices 50% of the time. So, how do I keep in touch and connect with them? How do I let them know that I am a real person that really cares about their travel needs? How can I convey the depth of my knowledge and professionalism? These are questions I continually ask myself and I would imagine other agents do as well. How can we reach further than our desks and tap these people on the shoulder and say “I am a real person!” while implementing the use of the wonderful technologies we have today? There is no right answer for everyone, but email is my number one way of communicating with clients.
I prefer email for two reasons, first, it is most often the way they made initial contact, and it is usually more convenient for everyone. The second is because with email, we both have written records of what we discuss—the “he said she said” is reduced dramatically so there are no surprises. Even if they call me I follow up with an email rehashing our discussion. While this is great in so many ways, it can leave a client wondering if the professional on the other end is really who they say they are. It can be a bit impersonal too. And in travel, impersonality can kill a business.
After some trial and error approaches to these issues I have found several ways of communicating with clients that have helped them connect with me over the past couple years. I would venture a guess that they would work for any agent. First, I created a website and filled it with pictures of my family on vacations, articles about the places I had visited and a lengthy “About Us” page with a family photo. I wanted them to see that while I was a professional with many industry affiliations, designations and knowledge of the world, I was also a wife and mother and our business was a family affair. We were real. My next step was to create a monthly newsletter about different travel trends and destinations. It started as your typical travel newsletter but then I started to write about carefully selected bits of my personal life as well. I would share a new found favorite recipe, talk about my garden, or my daughter’s first steps. One I started to personalize it, I noticed a change. I started getting emails from clients just wanting to say “hi” or thanking me for the newsletter. Many started asking me how my family was doing or if I had finished canning my jams. They started to share what was going on in their lives as well. In short, we were connecting on a personal and on a business level; and the referrals started to increase.
While the increase in business was terrific, even better was the way they started treating me. There was more respect for my recommendations and opinions, more understanding if I didn’t get back to their voicemail within an hour, and none of them complained when I started charging a fee for my expertise. I had become more to them then a faceless travel agent who only churned out a price quote, I had become a valued consultant that they knew on a personal and professional level. This to me was the best part of all!
Stay tuned. In an upcoming article, I will discuss some of the nuts and bolts of connecting to your client with easy to follow steps to help you start to make the connection.
Nina Van Harn has been in the travel industry for the past 5 years and services primarily an upscale market. Her favorite cruise line is Cunard because of their traditional approach to cruising and friendly atmosphere. She lives in rural West Michigan with her husband and 2 daughters. She owns Ambiance Travel and her website can be viewed at: www.ambiancetc.com