1. Understand me
To you it’s a sale – to me it’s a dream. When I look for a family holiday, I am seeking far more than the basic components of flights, rental car and hotel rooms.
I am also paying for the anticipation of a great experience, and for the appreciation that (I hope) my family will share at the end of a trip. Which means I need an agent who will understand how crucial it is for me to buy the right holiday, and provide support when things go wrong.
2. Go beyond Google
Travel and the internet are made for each other, connecting hundreds of millions of travellers with hundreds of millions of elements of inventory.
Plenty of people think that a broadband internet connection makes travel agents of us all. I don’t believe that – but I do know that I want a good agent to provide the kind of insight I won’t be able to find out in two seconds online.
3. Switch-sell – to my advantage
Part of an agent’s expertise lies in suggesting alternatives that might suit my needs – from offering Birmingham or East Midlands flights if Manchester departures are full, to suggesting Madeira as an option when I ask for the Canaries.
4. Think laterally
In a similar vein, when I ask for a winter sports holiday, dig a little deeper and you may find that I’d adore an action-packed adventure trip to Africa as a possible substitute if you can find such a holiday in the same price bracket.
5. Be honest
Whatever you may read in Maureen’s column in Travel Weekly, most customers are reasonable human beings. I accept there will be gaps in your knowledge – so if you don’t know, simply say so.
6. Be open
You are a professional, and therefore I am quite prepared to pay for your services – whether that is in the form of commission or a fee. No problem; but I’d really like to know what sort of margin you are making on the meticulously sold insurance policy, just like financial advisers will tell me.
7. Reassure me
Not solely about the safety of my hard-earned cash in the event of a supplier failure, but also that you will be able to guide me through the recovery procedures – or, better still, provide an alternative holiday while you jump through the bureaucratic hoops on my behalf. And let me know you will be there to solve less serious, but far more common, problems such as changed departure times.
8. Show you care
The travel industry has rarely excelled in providing after-sales service – but it would make a real difference to me if someone called to ask how the trip went, and paid attention to my response in order to provide even better advice next time.
9. Be indispensable
Persuade me, through professionalism and personal service, that you should be my first port of call, whatever my travel needs.
Yes, even on the phone: the most basic human communication shines through.
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