Political sloganeering to the contrary, change is not popular. Clients have a comfortable relationship with the status quo and any attempt to change can meet with great storms of resistance. Most companies make the mistake of thinking their best clients will be the most accepting of a change. However, time and again this proves to be a fallacy. Ask Starbucks. The coffee chain’s recent logo redesign resulted in a decidedly negative response from their most loyal customers. As might be expected, less loyal clients were ambivalent. With no investment in the brand from the outset, casual customers viewed the logo changes with no response or positively.
The dangers of the status quo present all business people with perplexing choices. Change for the better is desirable but risky. Not all change is an improvement, even the most well intentioned. A new employee, new procedures, a different color invoice can all be the trigger for a set of unexpected problems. Resistance from end users can be overwhelming and painful to navigate.
This I know to be true. Having just made a major change in a key service offered by TRO, I am especially sensitive to the perils of altering the familiar.
TRO’s destination guides are one of our most popular offerings. Having once been the publisher of Northstar Travel Media’s Weissmann Reports, I early on in TRO’s inception had an ambition to provide travel professionals with free destination guides supported by travel suppliers rather than as a paid subscription.
Our early choice for a content provider was Frommers. At no small expense we obtained an agreement to sublicense Frommers to the travel agency community. Under the agreement travel agents could email or print for their clients a destination guide for over 750 destinations – for free. In addition, for a small fee we could allow a travel agency the previously inaccessible privilege of placing the destination guides on their website and provide clients with a comprehensive research tool.There were some problems with the content but all-in-all, an amazing arrangement.
All was fine for a good long while.
Then, Google struck. Last year the corporate giant purchased Frommers as part of their overall strategy of world domination. Concerned for the future of the content, and wanting greater control over the final product, TRO licensed a new set up guides and replaced the Frommers content. Over the next two years, we will be rewriting all of the guides to form our own proprietary content, 100% travel professional friendly and as reliable and comprehensive as anything on the market. It’s the largest project we have ever undertaken.
The new content has a great many advantages over Frommers. It is more concise. We have added an exceptional set of weather and climate data. Almost every country report has video and we are now adding video to the city destination guides. We have linked dozens of authoritative articles on each destinations for your clients to better educate themselves. From day one, the new guides are superior and over the next two years will become an indispensible tool for travel professionals.
If you want to have a look at the new content, you can see it here: http://cdn.travmarket.com or click the map graphic above.
Here’s the problem: it’s not enough for the new destination guides to be superior. There are always things we could do better and improvements to be made. The responsibility for determining the improvements and communicating them to clients is always the company’s.
Easier said than done.
The change up in content has been an educational experience. Beyond learning how little love people have for change, I’ve also learned a few new lessons regarding how to correctly market change to clients. Since I’m in the business of monetizing my mistakes by writing about them, I thought I would pass along these few tips to TRO readers.
The next time you change up something in your business involving point of contact with clients, here are five ways to make the transition more tolerable for both you and your your customers.
- Explain The Change – Early and often. We had lots of good reasons for the change-up. The Frommers content is certain to become a central element in Google’s foray into the travel market. Whatever shape their plans may eventually take, it is unlikely to be friendly to the traditional travel agency market. Further, Frommers was actually our second set of destination guide content. None of the current consumer content on the market is ideal for travel professionals. We want to control the final product. All of that is well and fine, but I failed to explain to my travel agent partners how they would benefit from the change. I simply changed without much advance notice and that was a mistake. Mea culpa. In the future, I’ll take more pains to explain myself to the people who matter most, clients.
- Debug, Debug, Debug – We had a relatively short amount of time to program the new content and to make it compatible with the thousands of installations we already have on travel agency websites. As a result, we are de-bugging on the run. We are still having problems with Internet Explorer and iframes, we continue to discover annoying pop-up ads in some of the videos and adding new content we are writing has been a challenge. “Debug” applies not just to computer projects but to any new procedure, employee or process. In short, expect any major project to be twice as difficult, take twice as long and cost twice as much as projected.
- Request Feedback – This one we got right. Every page has a link for suggestions and a link to report bugs. We know they work.
- Respond to Feedback – This is important. Try to impress your clients with the speed of your responses. In business we live at internet speeds and clients expect and deserve quick responses, particularly when you are the source of the problem!
- Never quit innovating and explaining yourself – the point of this article is not to avoid change, but to market it well. Change is inevitable and desirable. Innovation is the absolute key to being a market leader and to distinguishing your company from all others. However, anticipate the blowback your changes will create, market around the turmoil and keep the conversation going with your clients.
One new feature I forgot to mention. A little later this quarter the destination guides will allow agents to embed travel offers. The client looking at the Ireland destination guide will see travel specials to Ireland bookable through the travel agent, one more way to bring business through the door.
And that’s also one more change to navigate. I can hardly wait!