Wow as each month goes by, writing this column feels more and more like a stint in front of the “Confession Cam” that the reality shows use – but isn’t it nice to find out you are not alone in some of the day-in/day-out issues of running a business?
So what deep dark fear should we drag out into the light of day this month?
How about the M word – Mistakes. We all make them – for goodness sakes we are human – but it can be frustrating, embarrassing and even a little disheartening. You swiftly move from trying to assess the damage, to thoughts about how you can fix the problem, and then finally, how you will save face in front of the client.
This month is my busiest month for clients traveling – ever. Most of the trips are fairly complicated European FIT’s; and the mental stress of keeping everything straight was great – not to mention the hand holding for the client who lost all of their documents mid trip. I had to get them through the trip and home safely, and then make sure they had an enjoyable time! But I kept “in the zone” and all seemed to go well.
I was actually feeling pretty good about my ability to juggle all of this until I got the call from a client (let’s call her Sue) a few weeks ago. Sue and her husband, Jim, are a newly married couple who wanted an exotic trip to Fiji or Tahiti in the fall. They initially insisted on meeting in May even though I had told them that due to my client load, I could not even begin to think about their trip until June.
Amidst of all the juggling above, the phone rang. I knew it was probably not a great idea to answer it in the middle of a task as I was not mentally prepared to address anything else; but I did.Sue: “Hi it’s Sue!” Me: “Um, hi Sue” (my voice totally gave away that I didn’t have the foggiest idea who she was) Sue: ” You know – Sue, Jim’s wife” (as I madly scramble through the ‘next up’ files) Me: “Oh SUE! How are you?”
It just went downhill from there! So when I received an email the following week saying she didn’t feel comfortable working with me for this trip, it came as no surprise. So I pondered how to handle it. My retainer is non-refundable but I could understand why she was uneasy. Even though I had told her I would not be able to work with her until June, it would serve no useful purpose to play a game of “I told you so.”
So, I simply acknowledged that I had been remiss in communication and apologized – telling her it was understandable that she was uneasy for such a big trip and that I would be happy to refund her retainer. I did briefly explain the situation and nicely reminded her that I had told everyone I met with in May that I would not be beginning until June – but not in any way to make excuses, just to inform her of the actual situation. I then asked for the opportunity to earn back her trust and make amends, but so far have not heard back from her.
My initial reaction was to be mortified I had forgotten this client and began to sort of beat myself up about it – but the reality is that I had a lot on my plate and I had known that would be the case, and I had tried to prepare them. I handled this the best way I knew how – I acknowledged her feelings and that she was upset, I apologized and asked if there was any way to fix it.
Today I came across a great blog post today by Maria Forleo that fits this topic to the letter. I think one of her commenter’s said it best – “Fess up. Ask forgiveness. Do better.” I certainly plan to do better. I also vow to remember – when in doubt – let it go to voicemail!
Barbara Oliver is a 8 year veteran of the industry operating two independent travel companies All Together Now Travel and Romantic Journeys (both currently being redesigned) in the Los Angeles Area. In addition to her agencies she is theLos Angeles director of NACTA as well as a regular attendee and frequent panelist at many trade shows. She has her CTA from The Travel Institute and her ECC from CLIA.