This past week, I have been privy to several online conversations where travel professionals are second-guessing themselves. First of all, you are a travel professional—period! While you may not know it all, you certainly know your market, your products, and most importantly your clients. Why would professionals ever begin to second-guess themselves? The whole reason you exist is because you bring value to a client that he or she is unable to get elsewhere.
The Loyalty Conundrum
One agent was lamenting on Facebook that a seemingly loyal client was rude and essentially “fired” her. The backstory was she was watching airfares for a client and when it dropped she called and the client had already booked at a higher rate.
The agent was all upset about the way she was treated and was debating how she needs to respond to the client (or former client). While the consensus of many was to make sure that he knew he made a mistake, the one right answer (IMHO) was to ignore it and set the rules for engagement in the future with a plan to go fee. His lack of loyalty and rudeness were not her fault. And, they are certainly not acceptable in her travel practice. Stop second-guessing your expertise! Realize that the world is full of fickle people and move on—under your terms! If the client comes back (and he likely will), just explain that your new policy is to collect a fee up front to monitor the airfare pricing. Believe me, after paying $100 per ticket more this time for his family of 5, a small fee to save that same $100 per ticket will be well worth his money—and it insures that you are compensated for you—wait for it—expertise!
Show Your Bias
Another example of second-guessing surrounded a client that was insistent on a particular cruise line. The agent had qualified the client and felt strongly that another line was much more appropriate and marginally more expensive. She was second-guessing how to “not appear biased” to the client by recommending another cruise line. By definition, we are biased. That is why people seek us out! They want to know what we feel are the best choices for them and why. Never be afraid to show your bias—wear it proud like a badge.
That is not to say that you should be steering clients based on a financial reward or a commission from a supplier—by all means sell to your client’s needs. But never be afraid to say, “I do not recommend Cruise Line X because of …” And yes, at times, clients will override your recommendation (it happened to doctors and lawyers all the time) and do what they want. You will need to accept that, reiterate why you have positioned yourself as you have and then appease them if you are able. Some agents will only sell specific suppliers (and I agree with this position) and allow clients to walk away if needed. I am not sure if they still do, but several years ago AAA used to refer clients to my office for handling of their non-preferred suppliers.
We are in the business of recommending fun. We have experienced far more than most of our clients and with that experience, comes expertise. They have sought out our expertise—whatever it may be—and we need to stand proud. We cannot be second-guessing our expertise; for if we do, then we might as well get out of the game!