While Business Development Manager visits and calls are becoming more and more infrequent, the travel business must go on. Many suppliers have forced technology and online booking upon us by various means. But, when it comes down to it, we are still a people business. While our clients may not (or maybe they do) ever see us in person, we have nonetheless developed a relationship with them. Isn’t it the same way with suppliers? This past week, I began to think not.
Much of my business is group travel and while a good portion can be handled online, another portion needs the human interaction. I need to arrange events and activities on site, make special notes in the client’s record, assure cross referencing, special amenities, and so forth. We have been doing the same trip (about 30 families per year) for about 15 years to the same resort—the personal interaction had become second nature to me and my sales rep in the main office. He knew not to bother me “off season,” and when it came time to get our groove on, we did it. A single phone call for 5 minutes was usually all it took. And then he retired!
I will not say his replacement is horrible—she does a good job. It is just that he did such a better one and to be honest, I miss it. If I needed to finagle some air schedules, he would do it; she passes me off to an “air desk.” If I needed to find out a balance in the frequent guest account (or establish a new one) he would do it; she passes me off to another “desk.” In the end, it gets done. It has to. But for me, the relationship with this supplier is likely going to be re-evaluated. For full disclosure, my sales for this trip are down this year a bit, so I will also be taking that into consideration as well when I review.
Way back in the 90s, GoGo Worldwide Vacations had an office in Baltimore. It is long gone, as are many of the agents who staffed it. I remember when they closed the office and many of my agents (I had several storefronts at that point) were upset at losing a relationship they had nurtured for years. While the GoGo reps were great in terms of coaching them into their replacements, it did take a while for the relationship to be repaired.
How much does a solid supplier rep play in your decision to use a particular supplier? Do you have suppliers that you use specifically because of the relationship? Is this something that suppliers really need to concern themselves with? Let’s talk about it!