This past weekend, I took a road-trip to North Carolina to drop my daughter off at college; she was a mid-year transfer so things were a bit different than a fall start to the school year. While in the end, it all worked out (it always does), the process was infuriatingly confusing and unclear. As I tried to navigate through two days of orientation, I was thinking if the processes I had in place in my travel business were clear to my clients? Or were they experiencing a similar state of frustration dealing with me? Throughout the weekend I drew a lot of parallels to my travel practice and booking travel in general.
There was a lot of excitement. My daughter was excited to start a new school and to meet new friends and begin a new chapter to her life. I was excited for her and along the way down was hoping that the right choice of schools was made. I was looking forward to the nine hour car ride to be over. The ride eventually ended and we are pretty sure we have the right school.
With travel, it is the same. We need to assure our clients that the vacation they have selected is the best fit for their needs. This is only accomplished after a thorough qualification process. Once qualified, the agent and the client should be assured that the trip will meet or exceed expectations. And from there we play the waiting game. Just as I looked forward to the end of the drive; clients are looking forward to the end of the wait (beginning of their trip.)
Move-in day and orientation
After we arrived, it was time to learn some more about her “trip” and move in her belongings and here is where the University fell down. Granted a January orientation is smaller than an August one, but the process still needs to be the same. The road signs (literally) directing us around campus were inadequate. The agenda was sparse and ill-informed. At one point, we were told to check back with someone for an answer and they left. In the end, it was an irritated tweet that got some answers (the cell number of the orientation coordinator.) And we were not alone.
How confusing is the process of getting the vacation underway for our clients? Without having experienced it ourselves, we are at the mercy of the travel suppliers and hope that they perform adequately. But if they fall down, have we done all we could to help ease our client’s experience? For the University, all it would have needed was a “hotline” for confused parents throughout the day. For your travel clients, that “hotline” should be you if you. Make sure your clients know what to expect in the first place, and then give them a lifeline if they get a little off course. Remember, while it is old hat to you and the supplier, it is a brand new world for your client.
As I said, in the end, it all did work out. On Saturday, it was time to have one last supper, share some laughs and hugs until we see each other on the spring break. In the travel world, this is the bon-voyage. Your clients are settled in their cabin, have relatively good idea of what to expect as the ship sails, but also know that there are some new adventures that lay ahead.
As a parent, I am entrusting one of my most prized possessions (hey, I have three kids, it’s not like the car outranks my daughter) in their care and I pray that they take good care of her while she is with them. As a travel professional, each time I put a client in a berth or a bed, I entrust the supplier to take good care of them while they are with them as well.
Many analogies can be drawn by comparing college to travel…but not the bill. I have yet to be as fortunate to have client with a travel bill to rival the tuition.