Last week, a colleague called me asking for the name of a Canadian agent. She had a client and needed a referral. Have you ever done that? While the airlines have made a ton of money by relocating their call centers to India where people earn far less than a livable US wage, when was the last time you just gave away a customer? Maybe it’s time to consider it.
We have discussed taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. We have discussed developing a niche around your expertise or passion. So what do you do with a client who does not fit your mold? Send them away.
Sure we all would like to have all the business that comes in our collective front doors; but are you truly doing your client a service (and charging them a fee hopefully) by “winging it” on their dream trip? You probably have a wonderful chance of losing them in that single transaction!
Mike Marchev suggested listening to your own business and how it sounds. Now, take a look at the transaction from the client’s perspective. They came to you because they know you or somehow have heard about you and the great job you do in planning travel. Why on earth are you going to allow that preconceived notion the opportunity to be ruined? If you are shopping for a sleek and sexy sports car, how well will you be treated at the local Hyundai dealership? They can obtain that Porsche and sell it to you—but they can’t service it. They likely can’t even tell you about all the bells and whistles–or that the engine is in the rear.
With so many networking opportunities available, why not create a network of trusted travel professionals who can help each other out by servicing clients out of their areas of expertise? There is a good chance you are not buying too many Porsches, but if the Hyundai dealership referred you to the Porsche dealership (rather than selling it), who are you likely to return to for that lower end car when yo are in the market again? Travel should not be any different!
Many times, we are dealing with peoples’ dreams. As professionals, it is our job to fulfill them as best we can—even if it means turning them away. I once had a client come to me for a destination wedding for a blended family. The bride and groom had traveled with me before and now they wanted thirty people to Australia for the wedding for a week; the bride, groom and their children for two weeks; and the bride and groom staying for an additional week. At first I saw dollar signs—I admit it. But when I realized the downside potential, I knew I had to give it away to an Aussie specialist I knew in Dallas. I probably lost out on a quarter million dollar, once in a lifetime booking. But I also knew this was a once in a lifetime trip and I would lose a lot more if I screwed it up.
The wedding went off without a hitch. I received a “thank you” check in the mail from the Dallas agency; and, more meaningful to me—another check for $500 from the bride and groom thanking me for putting them together with the “only person who could have pulled this off.” Subsequent to their wedding, they have returned to me six times.
Don’t be so greedy and give it some thought. Identify some agents with whom you have a decent relationship (online or off) and have the discussion. There could be a referral fee involved or it might be as simple as a promise to pass a client back to you.
By embarking in a program such as this, you will have defined yourself as a true professional. The client will know you are all about the relationship and not the money; and in the end, you will reap the rewards.