I have often said that the industry has changed. One of the biggest changes, if not the biggest change, is that today’s customers quite likely know more than you do. There is a world of information at their fingertips and we are no longer their “google.” Customers come to us based on our relationships, or because they need someone to wade through the muck of booking travel, or because of some access to travel that is not necessarily available elsewhere. They no longer come to us for information about destinations. Sure, they will ask our opinions and thoughts and take them under consideration, but if you think your customers are coming to you with a blank slate, you are sorely mistaken.
It is much safer for your reputation to admit you are short of knowledge on some information than to be vague; or worse, to try and bluff your way through. Earlier this week, a client called me about a trip she was presently taking that I did not book (it’s OK, it was out of my expertise and I am fine with it) with a concern. She was trying to get from the airport to a local hotel and was told by her agent that the only way to get there was by taxi and the fare was about $75.
$75 seemed awfully high to this single mom, and she called me asking for advice and to confirm that the price was correct. I was not familiar with the destination and told her I would look and see. Turns out her information was wrong. Way wrong!
The hotel was located 4 miles from the airport, and under the worst traffic conditions, it might take a half-hour. But this was during off-peak hours and the trip should take less than 10 minutes. A quick Google search on local taxi fares yielded a $10 to $15 estimate. Much more in line than what appeared to be a “safe” answer from her agent. Knowing she was traveling alone with her young son, I suggested that she might also consider using Uber. The car would likely be cleaner and she would know in advance what car she was getting and what the driver looked like—an added bit of security for a single mom.
She had never heard of Uber (I am still not sure how that happened!) and ended up downloading the app, creating an account, and getting an estimate for the trip. The Uber estimate was $15 to $19 and she went with that and it worked incredibly well with a total fare of $14—she tipped the driver $6 although it was not necessary.
I certainly did not mind helping her out—it was literally 5 minutes of my time. But it is important to realize that she came to me because of the relationship we share (one of the key reasons any agent has a client) and in the process, by giving her accurate information, not only did I cement my relationship a bit more, but likely disintegrated the one she may have had with the other agent.
We were talking after all this transpired and she was now questioning if she had received the best pricing on other aspects of the trip and the general knowledge and expertise of the other agent. And quite honestly, I would be surprised if she returned. But there you have it—for what appears to be taking the easy way out and not willing to spend five minutes verifying, a travel professional has lost a client. Are you willing to take that risk? Not me!