How to beat your competition…suck less | Travel Research Online


How to beat your competition…suck less

Today’s consumer has extremely low expectations. Aside from New Jersey, when was the last time anyone pumped your gas for you? Much less checked the oil and cleaned your windshield. For the “kids,” that used to be standard fare when you filled up your car for 25 cents per gallon. Department store clerks used to be more than cashiers. Waitresses and waiters used to be more than food carriers. But today, we have grown to accept mediocrity in our lives.  And that’s a good thing… 

For us. When you think about it, how hard is it to exceed “suck”? If we are conditioned to accept a mediocre product or service, how difficult is it to exceed that expectation? From my seat, it should not take much.

Let’s look at a travel experience that might suck.  A consumer sees a call to action for a $399 7-night cruise from their homeport. We all know how that is going to end up; but for the sake of argument, let’s compare buying the product from a large online agency and you. The pricing is the same. The product is the same and it is not that special. All you have to do is suck less than the online agency—how hard can that be?  I can think of a number of no to low cost actions that will put you leaps and bounds ahead including

  • a personal phone call to the client thanking them for their business
  • a pre-departure packing list and destination advice
  • some hand holding if it is their first cruise or first time in a new destination
  • a hand written welcome home card

Instantly, you have eliminated the “suck” out of a vacation.  Now just think what you could do if you kicked that up a notch?

  • meet them at their home or a coffee shop to discuss their expectations
  • purchase a pre-departure goodie bag
  • purchase an onboard amenity
  • finagle an upgrade
  • arrange for a day pass at a local resort while in port
  • pre-sell them shore excursions
  • make dining reservations in specialty restaurants

The list is endless.

While we all should strive to provide over-the-top service to all of our clients, we also need to remember that sometimes all it may take is sucking a little less than your competition.  Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!

  12 thoughts on “How to beat your competition…suck less

  1. Good points, John – though, the degree of how much we suck less depends on the client. Some clients are thrilled beyond belief when you give them luggage tag holders for their cruise, others need a bit more to be sufficiently impressed

  2. Terri Hayes says:

    What a great way to think about it. Definitely true. Thanks for bringing the concept to the front of my mind. It really does not take much to be better.

  3. David Biltek says:

    a positioning statement….we suck less!

    1. John Frenaye says:

      True. I have to think that a “we suck less” tag line might be an effective guerrilla marketing campaign.

  4. John Frenaye says:

    @steve–either way you are sucking less! doesn’t thrill anyone with luggage tags!

  5. Chelsea Bonner says:

    I like this article a lot and shared it with my coworkers. I agree with MANY of the points. However, my problem is that for how long can we continue to offer those kind of services when commission is only $80.00 on these “cheap trips” ?

    1. John Frenaye says:

      Cheap trips suck more! But there are plenty of no-cost efforts (yes it takes effort) that can be used. Even if it is as simple as follow up emails scheduled in ClientBase or sending them a detailed weather report or pre-checking them in or calling a concierge to ask if they can do something special.

  6. So does that mean that if we are blowing the client out of the water with our services we are, in effect, sucking less and blowing more, at the same time? Just another characteristic to add to the list of essential travel agent occupational skills.

  7. I would certainly not use the tag line! No way! But any professional travel advisor who cares about clients will definitely do better than any call center! I am proud to say that because of our longtime associations and great contacts — and the benefits of our consortium — we were able to send off final documents to a honeymooning couple taking the Orient Express showing $4,000 in increased amenities and upgrades that were complimentary to our guests! WOW! If that does not bring this couple back to us, I don’t know what will. I wish I had me back when we were struggling to plan our honeymoon!

  8. Anonymous says:

    a lovely concept in theory, but the commission on a $399 cruise is hardly going to cover any of the extras you suggest throwing in.

    1. John Frenaye says:

      Agreed that the suppliers have decimated the commission levels, but what is the cost associated with an email featuring the weather forecast for the destination or one with itinerary suggestions based on the client info you know from your CRM?

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