The other day I was talking to a friend who is the General Manager of a Wegman’s supermarket. For years, he has been begging me to shop at his store, but I haven’t. It is not like they are much more expensive—they can comparable to any number of their competitors. For me, it is that they are not convenient.
To get to Wegmans, I would literally have to pass 7 other grocery stores—all of which are more convenient and one that is a three-minute walk from my house. Which of course brought up an uncomfortable conversation about loyalty. Now granted, given the right opportunity, he would run to Whole Foods…but we are talking about my loyalty. And then I got to thinking.
What makes me, as a consumer, loyal to a business? Is it the people? The product? The brand? The convenience? The cost? I think it may be a combination of all of the above. But more importantly, what would make me take a 10-mile drive to shop for groceries? And what should I do in my travel business to make sure that my clients are willing to take that drive as well?
I cannot rely on the product. Every grocery store sells milk and eggs like every agency sells tours and cruises. I cannot rely on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Sandals, or Apple Vacations because—well let’s face it many others offer the same brands, and many will have a more lucrative deal than you to be able to beat your pricing. I know thousands of agents who are all outstanding, so a good customer service ethic may not be the solution either.
If Wegmans gave me a reason to drive 10 miles and shop, I would. But so far, they have not. The customer service at my local Giant grocery is fine. The prices are slightly lower. The location is more convenient and they sell the same food. So for me, the convenience keeps me loyal to the Giant. But in travel, convenience is not a player since we are not dealing with hard goods. We can deliver a dream trip with the click of a mouse.
So, what’s a poor travel agent to do? You have heard it before, but I believe the key is to create a first impression that will surpass any prior experience your client has had—online or in person. We already know that money is not necessarily the deciding factor in a purchase. Brand or product is not a factor in travel—we all have the same ones. Convenience has been eliminated by technology to a large degree. So that leaves you!
If I went to Wegmans and something happened (regularly) that blew me away from a service point of view, I would make the trek. If I could shop online and have them deliver the goods to my car when I want without a crazy surcharge—I’d be there in a heartbeat. So, what do you do that sets you apart from the rest. It can’t be “my passion for travel” and “my outstanding customer service.” We all have that!
Let’s start a conversation now in the comments—what do you do that makes you so special that will keep clients coming back for more?