How to handle a bad FAM experience | TravelResearchOnline

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How to handle a bad FAM experience

In earlier articles on the subject I mentioned that you are on a fact-finding mission when you are on a FAM. I also noted that any and all service glitches should be documented and noted. Was your room overlooking that all-inclusive resort’s garbage dump? Well, at least you now know not to book that room!

But to go back to the metaphor of agent-as-employee while on a FAM, if there are problems with a supplier’s product, don’t you have a professional obligation to share that information with the appropriate person? It’s another tricky question. I’d like to say, “Well, of course you do!” And yet, discretion is often times the better part of valor, as the old saying has it. Maybe the best thing is to just let it slide.

The most important thing to remember is that it is never wise to react in the heat of the moment. Let’s say your FAM is being escorted by a member of the local tourism board and you are up all night because some unsavory form of wildlife is rummaging around in your beachfront suite while a leak in the ceiling has forced you to move the bed. Collaring the unsuspecting tourism rep first thing in the morning and yelling about the dump they’ve put you in, is not really very productive.

Like Wordsworth’s definition of poetry, negative feedback is best recollected in tranquility. A good strategy is to contact your BDM when you get back, after you’ve had a chance to get some perspective on what happened. After all, it wasn’t the supplier’s intention to give you a bad experience.

Be sure to start the conversation with praise. The food was terrific, the staff was responsive. Then something along the lines of, “However, there were some issues that I think Brand X might want to address.” Present the problem factually not emotionally. If you had to change rooms in the middle of the night because of some maintenance issue, you don’t have to add that your husband was cursing a blue streak and blaming you for becoming a travel agent in the first place. The BDM will understand that you were upset without the gory details.

Think of yourself as a fan of the product, which in fact you should be. Stress that you are merely pointing out a few minor flaws in an otherwise excellent product–precisely because you enjoy and admire it so much. Don’t lay it on too thick, but be diplomatic.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially about when the problem will be addressed. A resort or ship that is rundown and rough around the edges may not be something you want to book next week, but after it’s been refurbished, it could be a terrific product to sell.

If you are in a situation where all the agents on a FAM are from a single agency, share your experiences with the appropriate person at headquarters, on the phone if possible. That way, there’s no paper trail. If you must do it in writing, use old fashioned snail mail and stress that this is “For Your Eyes Only” correspondence. That way there’s less likelihood that your critique will be disseminated inappropriately.

Of course, if you want to shout about a lousy FAM experience from the rooftops, that’s your privilege and right. Just don’t expect to win much share of mind from the supplier down the road. Above all try to be aware of the collateral damage you may cause to fellow agents in the process of getting your grievances off your chest.

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.

  4 thoughts on “How to handle a bad FAM experience

  1. Valerie says:

    Good read Kelly! There are so many tactful and professional ways to address an issue. Afterall,
    constuctive criticism can bring about some great change if addressed properly.

  2. dcta says:

    Worst FAM ever was to an island “ABC” sponsored by the local tourist board. The host hotel’s area BDM however, got on the bus with us and attended each site inspection on the island. Each time we got back on the bus, she would offer her very negative opinion(s) of the property we just saw and would compare her property favorably to each. Unofrtunately for her, her property was having many issues that week with an almost full scale staff revolt and the local health department CLOSING the pool bar for lack of cleanliness! Now really, how often would a Caribbean Health Department actually enforce the law that way?!

  3. Excellent advice Kelly. American Georgian Travel Group recently completed a FAM tour to the country of Gerogia in September. The agent feedback was professional and constructive. We escorted the agents every day and received real time input on each day’s activities. This gave us the opportunity to take corrective action if needed. The only “complaint” – Georgians serve too much food!

  4. Paula says:

    Good article on tactful criticism of Fams. I’ve never figured out how to address the following: My two worst Fams ever were totally due to the un-organized (sites or meal not scheduled with hotel; daily start time delayed with no notice to agents, hotels or activities waiting on us) and unprofessional tourist board reps escorting! Loved the 2 islands and have been back to one twice….

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