When I was trying to grow my client base, I found myself frustrated a lot. I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough clients, but I was also annoyed at SOME clients that DID show up (not all of them). My most common gripe with those annoying clients was: they had no clue what a travel agent did and totally underestimated my value. In other words, I was an order taker and no more valuable than an online booking engine. I was there to see if I could get them a better deal.
What I wanted them to understand was that I had an expert opinion and didn’t want them making stupid or costly vacation mistakes. My passion for travel was so deep that I cared about every last detail. I was willing to investigate how far the walk was to the beach, the difference between an ocean view and an ocean front room. I loved discovering the best restaurants, most unusual activities and being able to book them for my clients. If they had 3 children, I knew exactly which beachfront hotels allowed 5 in a room. If they had an infant, I knew which hotels had beachfront rooms where baby could nap and mom could sit on the beach, instead of being stuck in a hotel room with a view of another hotel room (there are very few of these!)
Did I get my clients a better deal than Orbitz? Maybe. Did I get my clients better value? Absolutely. Did they have a better experience? No question, yes!
After being in a funk for a while, one day I decided to stop complaining about the problem and start becoming a part of the solution. Rather than get annoyed at these clients who didn’t understand the role of a good travel advisor, I decided to see it as an opportunity to EDUCATE them. And that’s exactly the advice I now give my own clients when they come to me upset that nobody values them. My first question is “How are you educating them?” Nobody else is going to do it. There is no public service out there extolling the benefits of a good, trusted travel advisor. So, if you want to be appreciated, it’s time you take action and start educating your clients. The more you educate them the more you can change the overall public perception. If we all do our little part, imagine what might change over time.
Here are 5 ways to educate your clients about the value of a trusted travel advisor:
1. Charge a service fee.
I get a lot of resistance to this one – but the service fee conversation is an excellent opportunity to spell out the difference between planning travel one’s self and working with a trusted travel expert. It’s also a great time to establish what differentiates you from other travel advisors. Write out a script if it makes it easier for you. It could start something like this: “My number 1 priority will not be to get you the cheapest deal out there. My number 1 priority will be to ensure you are spending your travel dollars as wisely as possible and making them go further. But this service comes with a fee…” See my other blog post to learn more about this process.
2. Create an “Interview With Jane” document.
This is a document where you place frequently asked questions and then answer each one in your words. Include questions about how you work and the value you provide for your clients. Make sure you send this document to every new inquiry – ask them to read it as a way of getting to know you better. I explain this more in the same blog post referenced above.
3. Ask for testimonials ALWAYS and post them everywhere.
A common question I get about testimonials is “How do you get good testimonials?” The answer is you HAVE to ask for them, on a consistent basis. Each time a client returns, make it a habit of asking them how the trip went and how it compares to a trip planned by themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask. People are happy to tell you and you learn a LOT in the process. Once you have testimonials, include them everywhere – on your website, in your weekly newsletter, post them on Facebook.
4. Boast about your clients and what you do for them.
For example, you might have managed to get clients into a sold out hotel. If so, boast about it. Or maybe, you sat on the phone for 3 hours with a customer service rep fighting for a refund and got it. Boast about it! Where? Post something on Facebook, write about it in your newsletter, and post a blog about it too.
5. Speak on behalf of your expertise.
It’s really not that hard to go get speaking gigs and talk about the travel specialty you know like the back of your hand. There are so many local organizations looking for decent speakers. When I was at Hills of Africa Travel, we got speaking engagements at private country clubs and talked about travel to Africa – not in a salesy way, but in an informative way. In addition, when we decided to sell our services to the travel agent community, I created a series of webinars on travel to Africa, for the travel agent. Thus, you don’t have to travel to speak. So get out there, act like an expert, and speak.
It’s time to stop feeling like a victim and start being a part of the solution to finding better clients by educating them on the value you provide. Pick one or two of these tips today and start doing them. You will be surprised at how quickly things turn around for you.