This week, TRO’s 365 Guide will be examining the theory of client loyalty. In the context of your travel practice, what does the term “customer loyalty” mean? Does it mean that your customers always travel with you? Does it mean that they always come to you instead of booking online or with a supplier direct or instead of booking with another agency? Are these acts in themselves examples of customer loyalty or are these the result of customer loyalty?
Let me suggest the latter. Let me suggest that we might have the whole thing backwards. Perhaps the concept of customer loyalty has more to do with the travel consultant’s attitude toward the customer than the customer’s attitude toward the travel consultant. In other words, to have great “customer loyalty” we have to be loyal to our customers. Customer loyalty flows from the travel consultant to the client, not the other way around. It’s manifested in your communications with the client, in your empathy for their needs, in your client-centric approach to obtaining the best possible travel experience for them.
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I’m hoping this is causing you some confusion, that your perception of customer loyalty is taking a hit. But think about it for a moment. Aren’t all the things we normally think of as loyalty, such as repeat business, the direct result of our treatment of our customers? Simply put, doesn’t customer loyalty begin with the travel consultant? Isn’t it the result of the relationship that we form with the client? Don’t we first have to be loyal to the client?
Here’s the thing – customer loyalty means we have to be loyal to the customer long before they do business with us. We have to take the lead in forming a relationship. The travel consultant is responsible for training the client, for educating the client and for moving the client out of a transactional relationship to one of long-term relationship. The client is a free-agent. If you as a travel consultant are not loyal to the customer – continually returning to relationship building, why would a customer demonstrate any loyalty?
Note, too, that this process could go on for a very long time before the client ever books a trip through you.
What if you took the lead in loyalty formation? Building relationships, going the extra mile, placing the client at the center of the equation?
Think about the brands and companies to which you are the most loyal. Certainly it all begins with a great product or service. But, and here’s the secret, what is it about the product or service that makes it “great”? Does it seem the company has a special insight into your needs? Do they “get you” better than their competitors? Do they have an intuitive knowledge of the way you work and play? Do they pay attention when you have something to say?
Loyalty flows from the travel consultant to the client long before it will be returned. Loyal clients are more profitable than those who are not, more easily accessed, more likely to grant testimonials and referrals. You want as many of those as you can acquire.
But the first move is yours.