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Listening to ClientsJune 1, 2007 By: Stasha Mills Home-Based Travel Agent
The key to keeping clients happy and getting referrals and repeat business is not only listening but responding
Time and again in interviews we conduct with successful agents, they tell us that attentive customer service is a major component of their success. What does that entail? It requires listening to clients about what types of vacations they are envisioning and not only making their dreams realities but also exceeding their expectations.
But there's more to satisfying clients than planning fabulous trips for them. Customer service also means being pleasant, and preferably friendly, so you develop a rapport and make the client comfortable.
It's also important to keep track of their important personal travel-related information, number one, so you can more easily book their travel; and number two, that you don't keep asking them the same information over and over again. You need to instill confidence in them and they won't trust you with their hard-earned money if you are disorganized and forgetful.
For example, information you should have a database to track includes the correct spelling of the names of all travelers in the family, passport information, numbers for their memberships in frequent flier and other affinity programs, preferences for airplane seating, hotel rooms (High floor? Away from elevator? Near the pool if children are traveling with them?), rental cars and cruise staterooms.
But most of all, they need to feel like they're important to you. You should always take their calls and respond to their e-mails. This advice seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often it's overlooked. If you're not immediately able to reply, at least acknowledge their call or e-mail. And if the client is requesting information that requires some research, let them know realistically when to expect it.
You most likely made the move to work from a home office so you could have flexible work hours. If you have a set schedule that doesn't make you available to clients 9-5, make sure they know that. Manage expectations.
A Job Proposal
A few months ago I referred my father, a sophisticated traveler, to a home-based agent I had met. She had many years of experience and had worked with clients with his travel profile, and she drove more than an hour in each direction to meet him, which I thought was a nice touch.
She listened to my father's wishes and did a lot of research to find the right private plane at the right price, and all hotels and cars and such were in order, but she was not responsive enough. For example, my father would have to call her three times to get a response, and the fax confirming the plane came through at 10:30 p.m. on the night before the trip.
If anyone reading this would like to take on my father as a client, please send me a short e-mail describing why you think you'd be a good fit.
Anastasia (Stasha) Mills Managing Editor [email protected] 212-895-8251