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.