Once upon a time being indispensible to clients was a no brainer, back before critical information became available to the public. In those bygone days, all one needed to do was subscribe to a GDS, join a relatively closed society of information gatekeepers and you were in business. With the advent of the Internet and resulting flood of previously proprietary information, we were flushed out of our comfort zone. No more making a living by being order takers.
Regaining indispensability – The evolution of Web 2.0 is reversing that trend. The same phenomena that took the opportunity away is now handing it back. Where Web 1.0 empowered, Web 2.0 overwhelms.
With the Web offering up more and more mindboggling amounts of information – where everybody has access to everything – including each other, 24/7 – online behavior is shifting. It is turning out that the convenience of universal connectivity has a huge price tag, a stealthy one at that. Managing all of this connectivity – and resulting tsunami of information – eats up a lot of precious time – making already busy people even busier. (A highly recommended read on how to manage the mixed blessing of universal connectivity and the false efficiencies of multi-tasking – “Hamlet’s Blackberry” by William Powers)
It should be no surprise that today emerging online values are all about transparency, loyalty, trust and personalized content. The rush to do-everything-yourself-online-just-because-you-can is ebbing – giving way to specialization and segmentation. New gatekeepers are needed. Only now they are called curators…in our case curators of high value travel information – experts at sorting the fluff from the relevant. We can once again make ourselves indispensible.
Information overload and the resulting time crunch has customers seeking out trusted advisors who can simplify and help make sense of things. The need to make quicker, smarter decisions is the key driver – ones that save both time and money. (For insights on how the very presentation of information can inhibit or facilitate smarter decisions, see previous article, “Confessions of a Serial Over-Informer”).
Personal example – Over the years I have developed considerable expertise with frequent flyer programs and relevant information sources – consolidating and streamlining access to them. This enables me to advise clients in a timely and efficient manner on how to leverage these programs for maximum benefit. I am able to make ‘best value’ evaluations in a fraction of the time required for clients to do it themselves. (I charge a fee for this service – either by the hour or $50 per ticket issued for domestic travel and $100 per ticket for international.)
The same process works for any area of specialization.
A few of the websites utilized for my frequent flyer program specialty –
– Expertflyer.com – An inexpensive subscription service that displays real time award seat availability for most airlines
– Seatguru.com – indispensible for objective consumer evaluations of seat selection options
– ThePointsGuy.com – An excellent free newsletter with daily updates, evaluations of air, car, hotel and credit card promotions, notification of program changes, enhancements, etc.
– MembershipRewards.com – The official website for AMX Rewards points – which are now transferrable to over 20 airlines – a great tool for maximizing value – reward redeems can now check availability across several airlines then fund the appropriate account
– Kayak.com – Offers the most of versatile and unique ways of displaying information on any online source – pulling the data from many different sources – making this site perfect for quickly comparing published fare cost to cost in miles to determine best value
Yes, clients have access to all of this information themselves, but there is just too much of it. Most appreciate the value of a trusted interpreter to distill and communicate only the most relevant information – in an easy to digest form. And they are willing to pay for it.
So, analyze the needs of your top accounts. Then neutralize the competition by mapping out a strategy for making yourself indispensible.
To quote Sir Paul McCartney, opportunity “is knocking at the door…get up and let’em in.”