No travel consultant escapes the trap: friends and family who travel will ask for your assistance. You are the family “travel agent” and, as such, fully exposed to requests for “discounts”, “good deals” and “freebies.” Just beyond your gene pool are the neighbors, acquaintances and friends who want and need your professional assistance.
Friends and family – there is no more accessible, nor unforgiving, collection of clients anywhere to be found. Acting as a travel consultant for close friends and family (F&F) can be something just short of torture when things go wrong. Here are a few tips that can both salvage your relationship and provide you with a close group of intimate clients and evangelists.
Remember that F&F do not begin their association with you from the perspective of a professional relationship. These are people who have known you as a child, as a student, as a teenager or as a golfing buddy. They know you as an intimate: you must work to gain their respect as a professional. The temptation is to permit your familiarity with your F&F to control the professional relationship. This is a crucial mistake that can lead to a laxity of performance and misunderstandings if something goes wrong.
It is important to treat F&F exactly as you do your other clientele. Do not skip client service steps or neglect to properly “train” the client. Begin with a client interview just as you would any other client. Follow through properly with the same presentation, documentation and formalities you would use in any other circumstance. In other words, remove yourself from the familiar tone of the relationship and set a professional tone. Be sure that your F&F, as professional clients, fully understand not only your business, but their responsibilities as well.
Once you have established a professional relationship, F&F can be a terrific source of business and referrals. Some portion of the training they receive should be on how to speak about your travel consulting services to others. Make certain that they communicate your core values to referrals, your concern for the well-being of the client and your professionism.
Remember, too, that not everyone is your client. On occassion, that includes some friends and some family. What’s true is that some people cannot be helped, and those closest to you are sometimes in that group. If so, remember that while you can not choose your family, you can choose who is a client.