Do you remember the Jet Blue episode a couple of years ago where a flight attendant cursed over a loudspeaker and then disembarked from the airplane? People’s reactions to the event, including my own, shifted uneasily as we all tried to accommodate the flight attendant’s acts in our own ethical and professional framework. Following the story, it was easy to feel empathy for both sides. Certainly we have all seen rude passengers and surly flight attendants. Yet, each time I mentally review what actually happened, I feel the same discomfort that I feel when I see signs behind the counter of a store that say “You want it when?”
Let’s admit that we have all been frustrated with clients. The ones who are totally focused on price and the ones who won’t make up their minds. The ones who treat travel agents like “take one free” racks. The ones who play the blame game, who lay off bad decisions at your doorstep. We know that the clients who refuse travel insurance are going to be the very ones who will need it, the ones who dare
the dark forces of the universe on their vacation by their very refusal to spend a couple of hundred dollars to protect thousands. Indeed, the frustrations can be so great as to create a lot of anxiety and stress in our own work environment, at times sending us running for the exit door microphone in one hand, a beer in the other.
Then we remember. This is our profession. We are the experts, clients are civilians. It’s our job to work with them, to educate them, to protect them. No doubt there are those who cannot be helped – send them packing. But let’s not confuse the fundamental reason we exist as a profession. It’s not about a passion for travel. If that was it you would be on a cruise right now. It’s about a passion for sharing the travel experience with others, for helping others to travel. That psychological shift is an important one.
This 365 Marketing and Sales Tip is provided free to the travel agent community by:
Clients enter into a professional relationship with you not fully understanding what you do. It is your job, as the professional, to teach them. It is your job to train them in their responsibilities and in your own role in the travel planning exercise. Assume responsibility for the course of the relationship. Take charge. But respect your clients. Your attitude is written all over your face. Clients will inevitably sense the way you approach them, the way you feel about your responsibilities.
Forget the incorrigibles, the ones who cannot be helped. Certainly you will run into a few of those and you can professionally remove them from your practice. In fact, continuing to work with clients that refuse to work with you on a professional level is self defeating and over the long-run will do damage to your attitude. For the vast majority of clients, however, your challenge is to learn how to bend the relationship to your will, to accomplish the task of professionally coaching them into the best possible travel experiences. That type of magic can happen only when you respect your clients. Anything less will show.
It is your own skill at handling clients that will at the end of the day dictate the course of events. Otherwise, it may be your clients who will be running for the doors.
Tomorrow: It’s the little things