I’m thrilled to report this month has been fantastic and business is excellent! Since it’s summer, the focus has really been on wrapping up summer trips for clients, distributing documents, and handling any last-minute requests. Many clients have already returned, and the feedback is generally positive. Of course there are some challenges – some are in my control and others are not. Regardless, one constant is that problems do come up and wreak havoc! It was my goal this month to create a plan of prevention and resolution, and that has been helpful.
I think the issues travel professionals face can be broken down into three categories:
- Client Centered – Indecision, last minute travel plans, inconsistent communication, and differing expectations
- Supplier Centered – Delay in responses, price inconsistencies, and access to timely assistance
- Advisor Centered – Multiple details and itineraries, educating clients on services, handling travel emergencies, and prioritizing and limiting stress
Firstly, I need to focus on clients and where to begin with the whirlwind of obstacles they can put up! They can be all over the place with destinations and completely unable to make any type of decision, then couple that with unrealistic budgets, and being last minute; it all could add up to dissatisfaction for everyone. I am trying to improve, but have certainly noticed that when I do not clearly lay the groundwork and explain what I do (and do not do), what fees are involved, and the importance of their response time things can quickly head south. It’s challenging to really set those boundaries and clarify what you need to get the job done and create their amazing travel experience. All I can say is: JUST DO IT! Whenever I do not systematically explain and send clear information (in writing) for using my consultative services, I’m an order taker and resent the tedious amount of time bookings will take.
Secondly, suppliers can really make or break us! There are many amazing colleagues in the travel industry that are responsive and offer additional expertise for a fair price structure. Often for FIT’s, I’ve found the details really drag on and the response time makes it challenging to close the sale with clients. In addition, if an issue does arise I’m often stuck without a back-up person to work with. I’d love to hear ideas to prevent that situation and improve FIT delivery time. For now, I’ve tried to be very strict with my clients to completely give all of the necessary information regarding their budget, wish list, firm dates, etc., before I contact a supplier for a quote. Hopefully this prevents excess time on changes and the clients understand that decision-making is imperative.
Now, for what I’ve learned that is within my control to help prevent crises: First and foremost, stay ORGANIZED! Whatever tools you use or need, just keep on top of it to prevent mishaps and stay ahead of client’s travel plans. Be extremely resourceful and keep reaching to get the people and information you need. This might sound like a no-brainer, but when you hit a wall and need help, try to go around it and be creative to resolve to issue. Lastly, one very helpful tool is a script I have and I email it as a follow up for all new clients, and I use it every time. Honestly, I am striving to never fail to the expectation for my clients. I have had that happen and it has resulted in a lot of frustration for me because clients are only looking out for their own interests and have no focus, unless I clearly state what I need from them to have a mutually beneficial professional relationship, and explain how this will result in better travel experiences with added value. That’s one critical lesson I have taken away from a very busy year!
You know the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — that’s certainly true. So hang in there when issues happen and do your best to extinguish situations that can lead to problems. Onward!
Marti Litwin is an independent Virtuoso travel advisor with En Route Travel in Southern California. She has a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Marti shares her value of sharing unforgettable family experiences with her clients. In addition to travel, she enjoys yoga, health and wellness, her 2 children, and an adorable rescued Golden Retriever, Cookie.