You finally made the decision to go into the travel industry. You want to be a home-based agent, so now you have to think of ways to promote yourself. Hmmm, to who and how? Of course, your first thought is “I’ll send a letter to all of my friends and relatives. I know that they all travel and now I can let them know that they will have a ‘friend in the travel business’”. How exciting! Piece of cake!
Not always… All too often these friends and loved ones become our biggest abusers and constantly try to take advantage of our knowledge and time.
These sometimes misguided folks flood us with questions and request for discounted travel, thinking somehow we must be able to get a “special deal” just for them. After all, we are in the travel business and they are sure we get “secret discounts” that are only offered to us. Such a misconception.
And they are usually the most demanding of all clients. Calling numerous times, asking the same questions over and over, questioning the pricing at every turn and, worse than anything, always questioning our expertise and advice.
Here’s a recent email I received from an agent regarding an incident from a relative that I am sure many of us can relate to:
“I have an aunt who has repeatedly asked me to look up vacations for her, yet never books. Lately she asked me to do tons of research for a group cruise for her family. Of course I was happy to help, and even suggested other ships and dates that might be better priced. I just got a response back from her indicating that she decided to with another travel agent who had a better price. To add insult to injury, I found out it was actually on the ship that I had previously suggested! I am at a loss for words on how to respond to her email tactfully, and how to avoid this situation in the future. I am not sure if I am taking this too personally, but to be honest, I am offended and feel used. -Cynthia”
This is what I suggested as a response to the Aunt: I would politely tell her how hurt I was that after the work I had put in that I wasn’t at least given the another opportunity match the price. I would also let her know how much I was looking forward to finally showing her my services and how I planned to make sure that her cruise was a wonderful experience for everyone. I would also add that I was totally surprised to find out that she was working with another travel agent all along (handing out a little guilt works great as revenge)… and then wish her a “Bon Voyage”.
We need to stop the abuse! If this type of incident happens more than once, the next time they contact you tell them in a nice way to go ahead and shop around for the best deal and then give you a call, and you will be happy to see if you can match or better the price at that point.
It may be a good time to send out a newly revised letter to everyone. This letter and all correspondence should be well-written and sent on professional-looking letterhead. If you want people to take you seriously, you will need to project a professional image. Make sure you clearly point to what this business means to you, exactly what type of business that your are looking for, and exactly what you will offer in return to them in the way of services and added value for their travel planning. Let them know exactly what type of travel you do and do not offer.
You will need to set boundaries for yourself and your business. For example, since I am not an ARC agency and do not issue airline tickets, in all of my correspondence I always emphasize that I am a “Cruise and Vacation Specialist”.
It can sometimes be frustrating when after all of your hard work and long hours that you find that you are not taken seriously. It seems that the perception is that you are just dabbling or are in the travel business as a hobby, especially when working from the home. Sometimes even well-intended relatives don’t really believe you will succeed.
The projection of a professional business will breed more successes, and with that will come the well-deserved respectability. Eventually you will be looked at as a serious business owner with the confidence and support of those around you.
Anita Pagliasso is the author of “How I Made A Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent”, “From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE!” and “Anita’s Toolbox for Home-Based Agents CD” (www.redticketproductions.com). She is the President of Ticket To Travel-Host Agency (www.travelagentathome.com), Conference Director for the Home-Based Travel Agent Forum and President of PATH (Professional Association of Travel Hosts). You can contact Anita at 408-531-9228.