Today I got into my car and realized it was trashed. I attended a wine festival yesterday and it was covered with dust and the inside looked horrible. So, off to “my” carwash where they do a meticulous job for $30 plus a tip. I am not a weekly customer, I am an occasional customer, but when I am in the market for a car wash… I go to the same one. But no more!
You see, I did not realize they were recently sold and the new owners do not have the same customer-centric approach that the old owners had. Usually the lines spill out onto the roadway. Today there was no line. When I got my car back, it was clean and looked a lot nicer than when it came in. But, it was the little things that fell short. Dust remained on the center console, the carpets did not seem to be vacuumed under the seats, the doorjambs were not wiped down, and the trunk was not vacuumed. I asked about it and was told that those items were now “ a la carte.” To get what I wanted done, would have cost me an additional $15. Goodbye!
So, let’s substitute the word “travel agency” for “carwash.” See where I am going? The carwash made some changes (in this case a sale of the business) and left the customer out of the loop. And without customers, carwashes and travel agencies are soon out of business. I am not suggesting that you need to involve your customers into all of your business decisions; but you had better make sure that you are sure of any changes that effect your customers. Raising fees. Changing 24-hour call service. Cutting staff. Selling your agency. All of these are severe changes that can have a dire impact on your bottom line.
Customers tend to be the most understanding people in the world, until they are surprised. Think about it: When a customer does not get the room category they requested, what happens? What happens if they know about it in advance? When you know a change will likely negatively impact your business, be proactive and frame it in the best possible light.
Raising or implementing fees? Which is better—just start charging them and let the chips fall where they may? Or explaining to your customers that the cost of doing business has increased and the revenues from travel suppliers have decreased so in order to maintain the level of excellence they have come to appreciate, a nominal fee increase was necessary.
The balance between appeasing your clients and managing your business is a delicate one. I have to believe that all clients understand that you are in business to make money. Walk that line very carefully. Now, I need to head out and find a different carwash!