Well it is winter and the flu is running rampant—at least in the northeast. But, I am not talking about a physical ailment this time around. I am talking about people. Depending on the type of travel practice, it could be a co-worker, an employee, or even you. Face it, we all operate in what most people consider a “happy industry.” We are not doing root canals. We are not auditors with the IRS. We are not used-car salesmen, Amway representatives, or any number of other seemingly “miserable” professions. We sell travel. Barring the occasional bummer trip, we sell happy experiences. We sell dreams (as clichéd as it is). So, we better be sure we don’t blow it. And it all starts with the first impression.
I am not sure about you, but I know when my first impression is bad, the rest of the activity/event is bad by default. It is like a disease that starts out with the sniffles and eventually ends up with a hospital stay. When this happens, there needs to be a lot of making up to get me out of my mood. Take the MVA (DMV in other parts of the country)—I have never come out of that bureaucratic black hole any less than spitting mad.
Recently, I went in to renew a driving permit for my daughter. We called to find out what was required and brought the paperwork. When we arrived, we were told that we needed additional paperwork. I bit my tongue; we went home and returned. Another employee told us it was incorrect and we needed additional paper. We returned, presented all of the documents that three people (cumulatively) told us we needed; and we threw in a valid Passport for good measure. The woman behind the counter explained that a Passport was not an acceptable means of identification! And then it happened—I went ballistic. It got loud. The state police officer in the building moved a little closer. In the end, the permit was renewed, but it was not without me throwing a fit and some harsh words. There were many opportunities for them to correct course; but none were taken and my impression of the MVA is akin to that disease—a cancer. And that singular experience has set the expectation for future ones. Granted the bar has been set very low, but is that anyway to treat your customers?
Don’t let that happen to you. Figure a way to shop yourself for the experience. Ask a friend to call at some random time and critique your phone manners. Observe the interaction with clients and look for anything negative and try to counter that. Your customers are giving you their hard earned money to provide them with a pleasant experience. If you fail on the delivery, do you think they will return? When you answer the phone—smile! Yes, they cannot see you, but they will hear it in your voice. Stand up—I am not sure why, but it changes your voice and lends a more pleasant tone than one where you are slumped over a computer screen with a headset around your ear.
When you meet with your clients, do you look professional (and depending on your travel practice this can vary)? Are you fully prepared to accomplish whatever objective has been set? Are any takeaways (documents, proposals, gifts) professional and move your personal brand forward?
If you find yourself missing the mark, be sure to correct it as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong (and everything right) with apologizing for a slip up in service. If you were gruff and short on the phone, explain that you were just overwhelmed at that particular moment. If you caused some inconvenience by not being prepared, apologize and do better the next time. If you ignore it, it will only get worse.
Agree? Please leave a comment!