The competition is fierce out there. Not only are we competing with the travel agency down the road, we are competing with the one across the globe. We are competing with the big, bad Internet. And, we are even competing with our “valued partners” who are still leveraging their direct to consumer sales. So, how does a small agency (or a large one for that matter) compete in today’s market? Easy!
Bring your “A-Game” to the travel table. It’s just that easy.
I am not sure about your neighborhood, but 10 years ago, Home Depot was the place to go for any hardware store type needs. I remember walking into a cavernous building with millions of items. An associate would approach me and ask if he or she could help me find something. They would not only direct me to the proper aisle (which would have been fine by me), but they actually escorted me to the aisle, and located the exact product on the shelf. Talk about service! And they were putting a whammy on the local mom-and-pop hardware stores as well as some of their larger competitors like Lowes and Hechingers.
But then they got lazy. They knew they were number one and gradually the service began to slip. More automated checkouts, fewer knowledgeable clerks, fewer clerks in general, and the stores simply started to lose their appeal.
And the tide slowly began to turn back to the mom-and-pop hardware stores. In my market, they were closer, more personable, and much more helpful. They certainly do not carry the inventory, but they can usually special order anything and the pricing is competitive if not the same.
I see the same thing happening in travel. The personal touch will always beat impersonal. The suppliers that are selling direct do not have the time (or people) to invest in a personal sale. The Internet has the time, but it will never be personal. So, now it comes back to the agency down the street—or across the globe. We are back to competing like we did pre-1995 (ish)—trading on the experience we pass onto our clients.
Sure, we have more tools and technology at our disposal now and the smart agents will use it to their advantage. We also have our secret weapon—a human being. And no matter the advances in technology, it will never replace the human touch.
As you deal with clients and prospects, make sure that you are liberally injecting the human touch into the transaction. Bring up things they may not have considered—pet care…house sitting…transportation to the airport and back…shipping luggage…customs in the destination…alternative ticketing scenarios…some agent only amenities…your relationships with the vendors.
Don’t become the Home Depot of the travel industry. Understand the strengths that set you apart from the non-agency options and exploit it.