A few years ago in this column, I asked a simple question: “Can you trust your clients?” The equally important question remains, however. Can your clients trust you? What are the elements of trust? What does “trust” mean in a commercial context? Consumers want to know the personality of your company and the people behind the company facade. The consumer wants to know that the people with whom they do business mean what they say. No hype, no false promises. It is what it is.
I, for one, find enormous consolation in that perspective – the freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be the cheapest, the best looking, the richest or the most fashionable. You have to be yourself. You have to keep your promises. You have to demonstrate your competence. You have to understand what “value” means for each client.
Each of you can do that. We all seek authenticity in the businesses we frequent. So how do you bring a sense of authenticity to the fore?
Clients want a clear understanding of your company’s values. Why are you in business? What is important to you as it relates to the client? Are you loyal to the needs and desires of the client? If you are not, all the passion in the world for travel, your niche, the destination mean nothing. Clients want to be understood. They want to trust, they don’t want to worry, they want to believe you are looking out for their interests. You can do that, too.
Clients want value. Don’t mistake value for price. Price is only one component of value. A good value for me is not a good value for a very wealthy person. A good value for a college student is not a good value for a family of three. Treat clients as individuals. Match the trip with the client. Be client-centric and move outward from there. You can do that.
Be strong about your recommendations. Your clients are not the experts. You are. You have access to the promotions, to the best suppliers, to industry news and to travel agent peers with years upon years of experience. You better have some educated recommendations to make that, again, puts your individual client needs at the center of the process. You can do that.
Clients want to be empowered. They don’t want jargon. They want to understand how travel works. They want to understand how you work. Tell them. You can do that.
Do you work with suppliers you trust or are you just trying to pacify the client’s need for “cheap”? Trust extends beyond you and the client to the suppliers you use. The hotel, the tour operator, even (shudder) the airline. Who do you trust with your clients? It’s your own sense of integrity that should ward off cheap for cheap’s sake.
Travel professionals who can affirm all of the above are worth more than gold – they are trust-worthy.