I know that Richard Earls and Nolan Burris have mentioned Apple in past columns as a company worth watching. Now it is my turn to jump on the bandwagon. There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the iconic computer company and your travel business.
You open it up, plug it in and it works. Strive to make your business work as seamlessly as an Apple product. When you buy an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac, when you open the box, it is charged and ready to go. Is your office charged and ready to go when someone walks in or calls you? Are you there for them and willing to meet their needs immediately? Do you anticipate? Apple got where they are by listening to their customers. You should too.
With Windows, you click “start” to shut it down. To create an application folder, you need to right click and create a folder, then select a name for it. And then drag the applications into it. With Apple, you drag one application onto another and the machine automatically creates the folder, puts both applications in it and names it something very intuitive. Is working with you intuitive and obvious? Have you educated your clients on how you work? Have you looked at your processes to make sure they are as intuitive as possible?
When you need something from the Apple store, it is the most convenient transaction imaginable. You walk in, ask for your product, have the salesperson scan it, swipe a credit card, and walk out. If you have their app, it is even easier, pick it up, scan it yourself and walk out. When I was in Boston last fall for the Home Based Travel Agent Show, Richard Earls needed a thingamajig to make his Mac work with the projector. We walked in together and asked for a thingamajig (yes I think that was the term) and we were out the door in less than ten minutes. Time is valuable for everyone. Make sure you are aware of your clients’ time and don’t waste it. If you think you are the most convenient solution for your clients’ needs, you are wrong.
As a travel professional, your goal should be to develop an experience that is all of the above. If you are unable to anticipate the needs and provide a product that works, maybe you need to consider a specialty. Apple’s products work right out of the box most of the time. When you are selecting the suppliers with which to align, you need to make sure that they too work—right out of the box. Is the process of working with you as easy as it can be? Can you streamline some of them? If you have a high tech client base, switch to electronic communication platforms. If you are unable to address their concerns on Facebook or Twitter—get off Facebook and Twitter. And finally, make it easy. Yes, we all know it is painful to plunk down several thousand dollars for an unknown. But make it as painless as possible—take only the needed amount of time to consult with them. Seek out the tools available to make your job (and the client’s experience) easier. Put them all together and you will probably still fall way short of Apple (but then again you don’t have a $600 billion market value), but you will outperform your competition both online and off. And by providing the “Apple Experience,” your customers will return to you time and time again.
Disclosure: I am not one of those fervent Apple fanboys and this is not a paid placement; however if Apple wants to be generous—give me a call, we’ll talk!