Where is consumer loyalty? We are living in a “me” generation. It’s basically the same story about the small guy vs. the big corporations, and how do we compete? How do we keep our clients faithful?
In this day and age, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with our service, our marketing skills, our ability to price match, the personal touch that we provide, or how much knowledge we have about a particular destination.
I recently attended the Royal Caribbean Road Show, and they mentioned that when consumers were polled, the results indicated that they are not loyal to one agent. The majority of the time, I do not believe that it is the fault of the agent or agency. Consumers are savvy. They shop around using different methods, and when they come across what looks like a good deal, they jump on it. One time they might use an agency, the next they might book online, and they might even use another agency the time after that. They might even come back to us for another trip and not think anything about their last few trips that they didn’t book through us.
The question remains, how do we compete with consumers who have this carefree attitude and are lacking the loyalty that we’ve seen in previous years? Many local businesses have closed down because they couldn’t compete with the volume discounts offered by large corporations. Many agencies have become home-based to save on rent and other expenses that come with running a storefront agency.
We all like to believe that we have a loyal following Most of us do; but where is the benefit of the doubt when something goes astray? They act like it’s the end of the world and we get tossed to the side like a rag doll. Consumers know that there are other fish in the sea, and if everything is not perfect in their eyes, they move on instead of giving us the opportunity to make things right.
We do our best to dot our “I’s and cross our “T’s,” and it’s disturbing when someone tells us that their trip wasn’t perfect because they didn’t have towel art on their bed every day. It’s upsetting because all of the hard work that we put into planning our clients’ trips goes unnoticed. We are sure to be told if one small thing that they are hoping for is missed. We should be held accountable for our mistakes, but why are we being held accountable for things beyond our control such as inclement weather, slow service in Mexico, a hotel room that can’t be confirmed, or lack of towel art on the bed? We are there to help our clients when they have issues, but we can’t be blamed for all of them.
We work extra hard as agents to go above, beyond and really give our clients the greatest experience possible. It really hits home when our clients don’t recognize and appreciate this. That is why I have an e-mail folder entitled “Zapps” where I store all of the e-mail praises that I receive from my clients. When I’m having a bad day, I can refer to these and remember the positive outcomes. As we know, most people remember the negatives and rarely ever comment about the positives. We see this all the time on Trip Advisor.
Those who want all of the comforts of home should not travel. Traveling is an adventure. These experiences – good or bad – should be filed away. I think we learn from these experiences, and I know personally, that I wouldn’t change any of mine.
For instance, when I was delayed by 5 hours in Cancun due to a crew change, I met some very nice people and it made the time fly by. When my Spanish immersion teacher in Playa Del Carmen wasn’t able to communicate with us effectively, I moved to another school, but cherished what I learned from the experience and the people that I met. When my tour guide didn’t show up in Jamaica, I was thankful that it happened to me and not to one of my clients.
When people plan road trips on their own, do they think that the kids won’t have a melt down in the car, that the dog won’t get sick, or that they might get a flat tire in 90° weather on the way to their destination?
Travel is not a constant. We cannot ensure perfect weather and turbulence-free flights; but we can guarantee the best service and follow-up.
One question we need to personally ask ourselves is “are we loyal to specific brands or stores?” When we are looking to make a new purchase, do we go back to the person who was very helpful in the past, or do we randomly search through the weekly ads looking for the best deal. We need to train our clients that the best price is not always the best value and we need to remind ourselves of this as well.
If we want to see loyalty return, let’s do our best to stay loyal to the brands that have been good to us, and we might see the karma return. Do you think?
Mary Jo Babiarz, Senior Travel Consultant with Cary Travel Express, has been in the travel business since 2005. Her love of travel has taken her to destinations such as Hawaii, many Caribbean islands, several Mediterranean port cities, and lots of Mexican vacation destinations. She is particularly knowledgeable about the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but has extended knowledge in the Caribbean as well. An avid photographer, Mary Jo is known to thrill her clients with her first hand photos. You can reach Mary Jo at Cary Travel Express or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.