Client retention is a big part of marketing, certainly as important as client acquisition. By retaining your existing clients, you stabilize your travel practice, and provide a base onto which you can layer client acquisition and growth. WOW customer service is the way to retain clients, and a big part of great client service is accomplished by educating your clients.
It is highly likely that most of the public you encounter, including your existing clients, do not fully understand what you do as a travel consultant. The consumer, by and large, does not understand the role of a travel agent. This situation is compounded and worsened by bad press and journalism. The public views you as a retailer of travel. In fact, the public mistrusts much marketing and advertising by travel agencies. But there are steps you can take during the actual buying process to cement your relationship with the client through the booking process and beyond.
- Don’t clearly understand either the role of Travel Agent or the benefits of using an agent;
- Want to feel empowered;
- Fear that agents withhold information;
- Like the convenience of the internet;
- Fear they will pay more
During the process of engaging your clients, you have a window of opportunity to address these issues. Openly dealing with possible objections in the relationship is far preferable to addressing them later as an obstacle to closing a booking. The agent can provide the client with a sense of empowerment, demystify travel and encourage the client to participate fully in the research and booking process without fear of losing the client.
From the outset of your relationship with any client, seek to shift the paradigm away from retail to consultant. You are not going to sell anything. You are going to coach the client into making a good buying decision. Clients are going to research on the internet. Clients will see other opportunities to purchase travel. Your reaction? GREAT! Encourage them to bring you options if they care to research along with you. You and the client can work as a team, coach. If your job is to assist the client in making a smart buying decision, then why does the source of the information matter?
Demystify travel for your clients. Empower them. Tell them how travel works, but more importantly, tell them how YOU work. Explain your expertise and how it benefits them. Explain your consortia, supplier relationships and professional resources and how it benefits them. Incorporate them fully in the process of travel planning.
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Although clients will give “price” as their key reason for doing their own bookings, I suspect the real word for which they are searching is “value.” The risk of the internet is that it makes a cynic of everyone – we know the price of everything but the value of nothing. The failing of the internet is that it can not establish value. This is where your expertise is truly unique as a competitive asset. You know how to match a client with a particular tour operator, you know which tour operators are excellent and which are not. You know the intricacies of complicated itineraries. You know your destinations and logistics. Put them all to good use by making your personal assets accessible and known to those consumers that use the internet.
Educate your clients on the value of your services.
Tomorrow: Respect them