It’s no secret that running your own luxury travel business comes with a set of demands that aren’t for anyone who likes to close up shop at 5 pm daily. The nature of this business, along with the expectation for consistent and rapid responses, dictates that it’s pretty challenging to completely turn off the phone and email (despite knowing that doing so is good for your health). As a student in the art of meditation who is constantly striving for balance and better time-management, I am actually the perfect example of a business owner/travel advisor/entrepreneur that struggles at times to get the balance just right.
We always want to keep our clients as happy as possible, and I’ve found this requires answering their emails in a timely fashion whether they are requesting rates and ideas for an upcoming trip or expressing displeasure about an incident that just occurred at their hotel. Case in point: I had just returned home from a meditation workshop last night, when I checked my email one last time before bed. Unfortunately, there was a message from a favorite client letting me know how unhappy they were with the lack of attention to detail and service at their current hotel. These clients always trust me to choose the absolute best hotels for them, and apparently, this one didn’t have its A-game on this weekend.
The first thing I did when I woke up was research the names and emails of a few people connected to the property and let them know about the situation. By 9am (on a Sunday), the client had received a call from a manager inviting them to return for another stay in the future to compensate for the disappointing experience this weekend. While I would have liked to be at a yoga class instead of answering emails at 8am on a Sunday holiday morning, I value the relationship with these clients too much to not make an effort to resolve the issue quickly and effectively.
Similarly, last weekend, while I was in Deer Valley, a client emailed on Saturday afternoon asking if we could change their flights and get them set up for a few nights in Palm Beach. By Sunday morning, we had their flights re-booked, connecting rooms confirmed at the Four Seasons, and even VIP Select service arranged for their tight connection in Atlanta (something they had never known was an option when booking directly with the airlines in the past). This client must have texted me 20 times over their three-day stay to let me know how elated they were; from the customized in-room amenities for the kids to the VIP welcome they received on arrival to the overall ease of the experience, it was clear that another Sunday afternoon scramble was totally worth it in ensuring our clients’ happiness.
I’m regularly asked by newer ICs and advisors what are some of my “secrets to success” and my response is always along the lines that there is no “secret”, but that you just have to be willing to be adaptable to your clients’ schedule and ever-changing requests as that is the luxury travel business. Anyone who wants to take nights, weekends and holidays off is not in the right business! Many of our clients are busy running their own businesses or spending time with their kids so they need to know they can count on us to be available to “talk travel” as it suits their schedule. The benefit to this is that I can often take a morning break for a spin or yoga class during the week as my clients understand that I am available to them as needed, not just from 9-5, Monday to Friday. I rarely turn my phone off for more than an hour at a time, but I also have a terrific team of back up support that enables me to take needed “health” breaks. No one can work 24/7, but in this business, high-level clients do expect you to be available to assist with unplanned changes and scenarios that inevitably pop up. Having the type of relationships with the right people at the hotels you are booking your clients into will also go a long way, as the travel advisor who knows how to reach the GM or salesperson on his or her cell phone on a Sunday evening will have an edge on the one who waits for the reservation line to officially “open” on Monday morning. My advice: Take the initiative in being available to your clients as they need you, they will respect your need for occasional vacations/time off of your own as they see that you have back up support in place. Let your clients know ahead of time if you are going to be unavailable (i.e., on a plane, traveling, taking personal time off). Don’t leave clients waiting for responses or worse, totally ignored. Make sure that either you or someone on your team is at the very least, acknowledging clients within a reasonable time frame and this will go a long way in ensuring your top clients remain loyal as well as great sources of future referrals.
Stacy Small is the president/founder of Elite Travel International, an LA-based Virtuoso travel firm. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elitetravelgal.