Earlier this week, a client came over to pick up his leather document holder with his cruise documents and asked me to print out his boarding pass for his upcoming flight! Wait…no that’s not right. That was back in 1998. Long gone are the paper boarding passes and heaven forbid that a cruise line supply a leather folio for printed documents. It’s all electronic baby in this hustle and bustle world. And if you are not on board…well you will miss the boat. I am still mystified at how many agents are still clinging onto yesterday.
Last week, I was on a Facebook page for agents and a group was lamenting the “tire kickers” on Twitter and cited a tweet:
#TravelAgents. Starting to plan a European trip with family. Need some suggestions. Can anyone help?
Predictably, the responses were not kind. The Twitterer (I guess that is the term) was lambasted for doing it on his own, for looking for free information, and for not calling a travel professional. Well–who says he is doing it on his own…who says he is not looking to pay…and who says he will not call a travel pro? Talk to your customers the way they want to be talked to. If they want to ask questions using semaphore, then use semaphore. Need a sign? Here it is!
Talk to them by means of a construction sign if needed! OK that’s an exaggeration, but you get the message!
Wouldn’t it make more sense to reply to his tweet and perhaps direct him to a page on your site that discusses the European trips? Maybe a reply asking him to call so you can further qualify him? If you are sitting in your office waiting for the phone to ring while everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, how much business will you get? You need to change with the times.
Let’s look at other tech. I have 3 kids–all young adults. All have had the same email address since birth (for the most part). Zero percent of their personal e-communication is by email. It is by texting, tweeting and Snapchat. Four years ago I woudl have included Facbook. When I send then an e-mail, I have to text them first and tell them to look for it. And if I had to guess, e-mail is on the way out for most things that are not purely business. Think about it…I can DM, text, or Snap a link to this column just as easily and anything else!
Facebook is still very valuable. First, the “old people” are still on it and they are still traveling and spending money, so you need to be there. Second, it is a fantastic TWO-WAY method of communication. Conversations (and fights) start there and often move offline. There is your opportunity. And equally important, since we know that friends have similar interests, Facebook gives you an introduction to your customer/prospect’s friends! And at this point, if you are not aware of Facebook, you are living in a cave in Afghanistan–one of the ones that doesn’t have WiFi!
Many brands are now using Facebook as their entree to the consumer. Why? Because “facebook.com/yourbrand” is probably more recognizable than “mynameismaryshellenbacherandiselltravel.com”
Absolut vodka is one of the world’s most recognizable and valuable brands. You recognize the product without labels, without description, and without sound. All of their television, radio, and print branding uses their Facebook page– facebook.com/absolut.
To survive and thrive in today’s travel business, we need to be ever-vigilant and on our toes. There is a technology or platform out there that is going to emerge in the next year–we better be prepared. Our customers are speaking a different language now and if we don’t know how to converse, we might as well close up shop. The learning curve may be a challenge, but it’s worth it!