Home Based Travel Agents New Years Resolutions for Customer Service Power in 2005 and Beyond!

Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC

It’s that time of year again to resolve to make needed changes and improvements in our business and personal lives. We all talk about the need for great customer service but sometimes it gets buried somewhere under the details and deadlines. It is most certainly key to the success of our ever growing industry of home based travel professionals. Unleash you Customer Service Power in 2005 and beyond and watch your businesses soar!
Be the Expert

Or at least strive to be and build yourself as the expert in the eyes of your customers. As you all know, the Internet does not have the warm and fuzzy customer service that only a travel professional can provide, so tout it! Share your passion and expertise to build on your customer service relationship.

Hear, don’t just listen

As travel professionals we know how important it is to be great listeners as we can learn so much about a travelers expectations and desires by asking questions of them and listening for their thoughts. However, really hear what they say as sometimes we might listen and think that they want a vacation in Mexico because they have been there before and love it. Query them and make sure they are not saying something more. Perhaps all the things they loved about the Mexico trip to Acapulco tells you as the expert that they really now need a Mexican Riviera Cruise. Perhaps just asking what are the three things you liked best about your past vacation will help you hear what they are really hoping for in their next adventure.
Be the Solution to the Quest

People love to travel! It is not like buying a new washer and dryer. Sure we need to buy these things but how fun is it? We want our appliances to work as they are sold to do but I doubt too many folks dream about buying that new machine. Travel on the other hand is fun and something they do dream about that trip. They may dream about it before they plan the trip, during the planning stages and even after it is all over.

They are buying good feelings and solutions to their vacation plans. Their needs might well be very emotional and you will have to hear and anticipate what they are really asking for. The better you know your customers, the better able you are to be the solution to their vacation quest.

Stroke the Customer

Make your customers feel great about doing business with you because you are not only the expert and the solution but you also make them feel good and appreciated. Don’t we all value sincerity? It simply feels great to know that making a purchase or a plan to purchase is appreciated by whoever is handling the transaction.

Is it just me or have any of you every experienced and reacted as I have. Here is the scenario. I go into a store and purchase a new pair of shoes. Granted they are on sale but I did not put them on the sale, I just want to purchase them. I finally get the size and pair I want and I pay the clerk for my shoes. The bag is handed to me and that is it…. What is missing? Sure I like my new shoes but did someone forget to say thank you? I am sure I must be mistaken but I know I am not. I just spent $65 and not a peep of a thank you. So, what do I do? Well, I get snippy if I am feeling gutsy and I say loudly “Your Welcome.” This usually gets them paying attention since they know they never said thank you.

The purpose of this scenario is to simply state how absolutely important it is to make a customer feel important and appreciated. Always use their name and be sincere. Sincerity will create feelings of trust. Thank you is one of the most important aspects of the sales process and certainly key to repeat business.
Be the Answer Agent

Certainly we cannot be expected to know all there is to know about travel. It is fun trying to learn it but it is an ever changing and sometimes challenges process. However, our customers expect that we do know it all or at least we know where to find the answers. This is key to making it easy to buy from you. Be the answer getter and the always do what you say you will do. The answer may not be what they want to hear but your willingness to research and give them the facts will be appreciated and make buying from you a process of trust.

Know how to apologize

If you are like most of us, from time to time you might make a mistake. It might be as simple as forgetting to get a seat assignment or as complex as forgetting to advise the cruise line that the customer needed a special needs cabin. We all make mistakes and even our customers do that in their own lives. So be sincere and admit error when it occurs. The customer is always right is the term we are so used to. I prefer to say they get to win even if they are not right. Through my many years as an agent I always found it best to deal with a problem or mistake head on. The longer one waits to address it the more irate the client becomes and the more it will keep you awake at night.

Along those same lines try to give the customer the opportunity to be honest with you about their complaints as we really ought to value complaints. They are how we learn to do it different and better the next time around. They give us the chance to improve our customer service.

Exceed Expectations

If you focus on exceeding your customers expectations it is likely the result will have a twice the impact. You will not only feel great about yourself and your service but you are certain to keep your customers happy and anxious to plan their next vacation dream with you at the helm.