Using the “ARK” principle to gain more sales | Travel Research Online


Using the “ARK” principle to gain more sales

These two questions are most often on the mind of many travel agents “Do you know if there is a supplier for this destination, shore excursion, bus ride, experience, etc. that pays commission?” OR “Who pays the most commission?” . I see it asked in every online travel agent forums, and I have heard it in many conversations between travel agents.  When did you last hear it asked, or ask it yourself?

Have you ever heard of the ARK principle? ARK stands for the acts of random kindness we do in our daily lives. I firmly believe it is possible that one ARK a day could help your business grow. An ARK is done with absolutely no thought of personal benefit or financial gain. I won’t go off on a lofty goal of living a more spiritual life or serving like Mother Theresa, however, let me share a more secular example of thinking about others first.

Back in February, my daughter and I were on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. On the second day we met up with a family of three from New York City. They mentioned that their planned ship’s excursion in St. Thomas had been cancelled. They didn’t find out until after they boarded, when they received a note from the cruise line. After we said our goodbyes for the day, I went back to my stateroom to email the tour operator I was booked with and asked if there was room for three more people.

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A few hours later I got a response. He had no extra space; however, he gave me the contact information of another tour operator. Still at sea, I emailed the new tour operator and after dinner I had a response that there was space and their pricing. As we were sailing into San Juan, I gave this information to the family. They called the tour operator and confirmed the excursion. Little did they know I told the tour operator their son would be celebrating his ninth birthday. After our day in St. Thomas we came back from our separate excursions at the same time. As we rode back to the ship together they were bursting with satisfaction from what they called “their perfect day.”
Did I earn anything more than warm thoughts and praise that day? Not one red cent. However, almost a month later the matriarch of the family – the planner, the Cruise Critic active reader, the one who always looked for the best deal – called me out of the blue wanting to book a Canada cruise for this August. She usually books direct or with some other agency, but she said she had seen the level of service I provided and to her that spoke volumes. She even willing paid my consultation fee.

Don’t take from this that you should never be paid for your services or that you should give away all of your profits in service of others. I truly believe that exceeding a customer’s expectations instead of seeking the highest commissions for yourself has the potential of earning you a far better reward.

Should you find a vendor that you know is not only the right fit for a client but will make the difference from a good trip to a great memory but does do not offer a net price or pay commission, don’t be so quick to strike them from your sell list. Those ARKs you perform in life will reward you in the long run. Of course if you are really concerned about how you will pay your bills, you should charge a consultation fee. However, that is the subject of another article!

Chuck Flagg is a regular contributor to TRO and an independent owner/operator of Cruise Holidays in Canton, GA. His website is He can be found on Twitter @theflaggagency

  4 thoughts on “Using the “ARK” principle to gain more sales

  1. Cheri says:

    I love this way of thinking. No matter the outcome the joy of doing something nice is just plain satisfying.

  2. MARYANN says:

    I agree 100%. Our agency runs on Karma…

  3. I just re-read this column, and I wanted to reply in a different way. In our agency, which focuses on deluxe and luxury rail vacations, we want every aspect of the journey, from start to finish, to be perfect. This includes their air schedule, their airport transfers, their hotels. And it goes without saying we are going for perfection on the trains! But sometimes choosing the best — what you know in your heart will be wonderful — is not the cheapest. We have decided to go for most wonderful, and explain to our clients what we are doing. If they don’t want us to do their air, that’s fine. If they don’t want our hotels and transfers, that’s fine, too. But we can see a direct correlation between passenger happiness at the end of the trip and how much of the trip we coordinated. If we did the whole thing, they are ecstatic. If we did just the train program, and they arranged everything else on their own, they might be happy, but not usually AS happy. And this is because agents know the best transfer companies, the best hotels (well located, great service). I have found making these arrangements regardless of commission paid and focusing on the client experience no matter what is the best way to go. As one of our clients wrote to me recently: “We SHOULD have let you do all of our extras. It would have made a huge difference.”
    Eleanor Flagler Hardy
    The Society of International Railway Travelers®

    We have celebrated the World’s Top Trains since 1983.

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