In a previous article, I talked about the idea that FAMS are work, that the ship or resort you are enjoying on that FAM is a workplace, and that your supplier host is, for the duration of that FAM and in a very limited sense, your employer. I further floated the idea that in our Internet-fueled age it seems nothing we say or do, especially if we “share” it with “friends,” is truly private and that it makes sense for travel agents to adopt very stringent codes of professional conduct when it comes to FAMS – not just what you do on the FAM, but what you do and say after the FAM.
Now most of the time you don’t really have to worry too much about this whole issue. After all, what are the odds that anything bad could come out of a FAM trip, which is almost by definition a highly positive experience hosted by a supplier doing its utmost to showcase its products and services at their very best?
Well, for starters, unfortunate things can happen on even the best-run FAMS to even the most scrupulous suppliers. Mistakes happen, baggage gets lost, specialty dining reservations get lost, things break, and so forth. If you’ve been on enough FAMS, you’ve probably had at least one negative experience. Usually, these are isolated problems that are solved graciously and do not affect the overall experience.
Sometimes, alas, FAMS are plagued by so many problems that they defeat the very purpose of a FAM – to get agents excited about selling that supplier’s products.
The question then is what do you do in one of those situations? Unfortunately there is no simple answer to that question, but let me pass on this piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it very carefully because you never know who might be watching or listening.
Now I’m not suggesting that suppliers are spying on you but if you have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a newsletter that you send to clients, a blog on your web site, or even just an email account, more people may have access to your gems of wisdom than you imagine.
Last year a high school girl in Kansas tweeted a dumb remark about the governor to her 63 Twitter followers. Turns out the governor’s office monitors Twitter for mentions of the gov’s name. The result was that she was turned in to her principal and subjected to a one-hour tongue lashing. Not incidentally, the number of her followers exploded to over 10,000 and the governor finally had the good sense to apologize.
It should come as no surprise that many suppliers likewise monitor the vast Inter Webs for any positive or negative mentions of their brand and take remedial action where necessary. This activity even has a name, “reputation management,” and many companies have employees who do nothing else.
It is perhaps an unfortunate quirk of human nature that we like to grouse about bad things more than we like to praise the good. Tales of things that went disastrously wrong on your last trip are a lot more interesting than a story about how the appetizer at your Tuesday dinner was beautifully prepared and presented. Not only that, they can actually become funny with repeated tellings as the unpleasant memories of the actual event fade from memory. So we have a natural tendency to share.
I can think of nothing good that can come to a travel agent by Tweeting or blogging about a bad experience on a FAM. Even emailing can be a problem, because now your thoughts are part of a permanent record on someone’s computer. I suppose using language like “This is for your information only. Please do pass this message on to anyone” can help, but it’s no guarantee that your tale of woe won’t get passed around until it lands in the inbox of just the wrong person.
These days you even have to be careful about what you say to fellow passengers. The amusing story of a cabin snafu you tell to someone you meet in a ship’s bar may show up on a cruise review site, ascribed to “a travel agent who was comped on the trip.” Now suppose you were taking part in a FAM extended to agents of your host agency? It wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes working in the cruise lines employ to connect the dots on that one! Neither the supplier nor your host will be too happy and, frankly, they’d have no reason to be. Maybe the time has come when we all need to travel incognito.
“What do you do?”
“Me? Oh, I’m retired.”
“But you’re so young!”
“Mind your own darned business!”
So that’s what you shouldn’t do. What about what you should do? I’ll cover that thorny question in another article.
Kelly Monaghan, CTC, is a writer and publisher who has been covering the home-based travel agent scene since 1994. Prior to his entry into the travel industry he was a sales trainer for major companies such as AT&T, Arrow Electronics, and Brinks and wrote widely on sales and marketing for a number of professional publications. HisHome-Based Travel Agent Success Course has been endorsed by OSSN and The Travel Institute. His publishing company, The Intrepid Traveler specializes in Orlando area attractions and offers discounts to travel agents who wish to use its guides as gifts or premiums.