The most difficult marketing hurdles travel agents face are the misapprehensions of their clients. Every opportunity you have for repeat business, testimonials and referrals depends on your clients’ satisfaction with your services. Misunderstandings will act as an impediment to client satisfaction. Many consumers do not know exactly what a travel agent does. Especially if the client is under the impression that the travel agent is primarily a retail travel outlet, misunderstandings will occur. It’s a good idea in every instance to demystify travel for your clients and to bring their expectations into alignment with the efforts you undertake on their behalf.
Train your clients. At the beginning of every client relationship, set the client’s expectations. Educate the client – empower them. Let the client know exactly what they can expect of you, and explain the principles you use to determine a good value for the client’s travel dollar. Explain the resources you have at hand that you use as a professional: your agency resources, GDS, consortia, on-line forums, relationships with suppliers. In turn, let the client know what you need from them to be the best possible travel consultant on their behalf. An open, frank discussion will help the client better understand the value of your services.
Ask your client about their past use of travel agents. What worked well for them and what went poorly? Listen carefully to your client’s recounting of past relationships. It is likely you will hear key words like “price” that will tell you a great deal about where matters went astray. Dig deep to uncover and correct any misconceptions your clients might have, some of which might have been reinforced by other travel agents!
Early in your discussions with clients, set the expectation that you look forward to a long relationship with them. Ask the clients to be open and to discuss any concerns that they have. Explain that your interests are in establishing a long-term relationship with them over a lifetime of travel. Importantly, describe YOUR expectations of them as clients.
Then, go the extra mile, even for the smallest booking. WOW the client! Practice being insanely great at customer service and follow up with thank you notes and light correspondence. The client that books a simple car rental with you today will be looking for a safari sometime in the future.