I heard a sad story from a fellow travel agent today. It seems a client had missed a cruise, because they forgot the date. Now, he got a lot of sympathy from other agents, but my first reaction was “how do you let that happen?” And to make it worse, he described them as “one of my favorite clients.” If you would let your favorite clients forget their upcoming cruise, I don’t even want to know how distant you are from your average client. And in the same group was someone complaining about a supplier “stealing” their clients by soliciting them through their direct channels.
The funny thing is, I just went to a training with an industry veteran whose rule of thumb is that if you haven’t “touched” them in the last 30 days, they are no longer your client. His people are trained that at least once a month there is a phone call, an email or a message by social media. Some kind of touch. Not an advertisement for a special, but a personal two way communication.
That is a rule I have always followed in all my sales jobs. I can’t say I am perfect at it, but I can say that I routinely get notified by my clients when they are directly solicited by a supplier. Most of them laugh, tell the person I am their agent, and then tell me who it was and how they were contacted. I also tell my clients to let me know when other agents contact them, so I can research the offers they make and match them, if they are legitimate. Quite often they do– but not always, and I have lost a few over the years. But the reason most of them tell me, is that my clients know they are MY clients. Because I keep in touch. Because I think loyalty is a two way street. Because it is too much work to create new clients. I’d just prefer to keep the ones I have.
And I most certainly have never had a client not know what date their trip began. My rule of thumb is 30 days prior/1 week prior/2 days prior to their vacation, I contact them and make sure they have everything they need, ask if there are any last minute questions, etc. There is just no way they don’t know by that last contact what day they are flying/sailing and from where. I do it in reverse when they get home. Two days after for “how wonderful was it?”, seven days after to ask for referrals, and 30 days after to see if they are ready to plan the next one. And then every month after that, until they do.
I had to do this back in the dark ages when “CRM” was a rolodex and a day timer. With the sophisticated software available today, there is just no excuse for not scheduling these contacts and having a reminder every morning of who needs to be touched today.
I hope neither of us ever has a client miss a trip, because we failed to do our job thoroughly. And I hope we don’t ever “lose” a client to another agent or a supplier direct. But if it does happen, examine what you are doing to cause it.
David Holman is a Partner at Bridges & Holman Worldwide Travel, The Mobile Agent Host. He has been in the travel business since 2005, and the author of “Live From…Cruise Ship Reviews” and “Top 8 Cities in America”, both available on Amazon. www.holmantravel.com