3 Ways To Keep Clients Coming Back | Travel Research Online

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3 Ways To Keep Clients Coming Back

Isn’t it amazing how one little thing that happens at the wrong time can torpedo what was once a very solid relationship?  There are three businesses in town that I will need to think long and hard before I choose to support them once again.  No business is immune. It can strike anyone at any time. Each of the businesses failed at three very basic tasks, and none of them made a move to make it better. And it lost them my business. As I thought about it, I realized that this can (and likely does) happen to travel professionals across the nation. So here’s a cautionary tale for you to consider.

Be On Time

I had a tech issue last week (hence, my bad mood) and took my phone to the local kiosk in my mall for a screen repair. Prior to going to the mall (which I hate), I verified that they had the replacement screen and the capability to replace it. If you are like me, your business lives or dies on your phone.  They assured me they did and that the repair would take no more than an hour and could be done while I waited.  Perfect. I dropped the phone off and took a stroll around the mall and almost pulled the trigger on a new Mac Studio, and grabbed a slice of pizza. I returned to the kiosk about an hour later and was told it was not quite ready and they needed another hour. I decided to go home and get some work done on my desktop and went back in the early evening to get the repaired phone—or so I thought. When I got there, I learned that they took the screen off and realized that they did not have the part in stock, and it was coming by FedEx and would arrive the next day.  I asked to put my phone back together so I could at least use it with the cracked screen, and they said it was destroyed. Essentially, I was out of options. The following day, I followed up and learned that it was arriving in the afternoon so the repair would not be complete until early evening.  With no ability to go elsewhere, they fixed the phone, charged me the $150, and put me partially out of business for 30 hours. They knew the phone; they knew the part. They told me an hour, and it was over 30.

How could they have solved it? If I were running the business, I’d have a few spare old clunker phones to loan out. Swap the SIM card, and at least some of the functionality is in place. By missing the deadline several times, they ruined any chance for a return visit from me or any type of recommendation.

Be Polite

I had a favorite breakfast place. I went there at least weekly. I knew everyone’s name. They have amazing eggs benedict. And like every other restaurant coming out of COVID, they are struggling. I feel I am an easy customer—low maintenance, eat fast, tip well. I go in, and there is a line, so I want to put my name on the list. The hostess doesn’t look up but says it is a 45-minute wait. That seemed too long for me, and I noticed empty chairs at the counter. I asked if I could just grab a seat at the counter, and the reply floored me. Without looking up from whatever notes she was reading, she says, “well, I guess so—do whatever you want.”  I was taken aback, and as I headed to the counter, I changed my mind and walked out. It’s been six months now, and I miss that breakfast. But in a restaurant, as in a travel agency, the hostess or person who answers the phone sets the whole tone.  I am not sure when I will return. I suspect my desire for their eggs benedict will win out at some point.

How could they have solved it? After the fact, there is little they could do. Proper training of front-line staff is critical. People can detect a scowl on the phone. Management needs to constantly reinforce that we all have bad days, and some days we need to muscle through them and smile. In this instance, I was not looking for anything from the hostess other than “sure you’re welcome to sit at the counter” without even lifting a finger.

Be Honest

And to round out the trifecta of poor service, I hired a landscaper. The project was very well defined, along with the timeline. Work started off like gangbusters and then ground to a halt. I made the mistake of paying up-front, so I have no leverage on the landscaper. Phone calls were not returned. E-mails went unanswered. Finally, he showed up after a two-week absence. I asked about it, half expecting to hear he had COVID, but all he came up with was “I was busy.” We all are busy. We all understand things come up. But be honest about them. The truck broke down? No problem. Laborers calling out sick? I get it! And this point is critical for travel agencies. Be brutally honest with your clients. No, this is not included. You will want to avoid this area. Look out for this type of scam. We will send the documents two weeks before sailing. You get the idea.

How could they have solved it? Just talk to me. People, for the most part, are reasonable. If you run into a problem, own it, address it, and move on!

None of these experiences had anything to do with travel, but the parallels are there, and I can see myself making those same mistakes. This was a wake-up call for me.  If a kiosk, restaurant, and landscaper can all lose my business that easily, how many customers have I lost over the years?

Have you ever promised a client to have a quote/document/information by a certain date and missed it with no explanation? I have. Have you ever ignored a client or simply told them something wrong to get them off of your back? I have.  We cannot control the customer’s reactions, so we must bring our “A Game” to the table every time. It all boils down to communication and keeping the customer informed. It really is that simple.  And of course, using those two magic words, “I’m sorry,” never hurts either.

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