Column: Why Charging Fees Is Still An Issue

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It’s 2015, yet some travel agents still grapple with the concept of charging service fees to their clients. Here are seven reasons you might still be holding back.

It’s just too awkward: Let’s face it, you’re embarrassed to bring up the topic, especially after you’ve had a friendly conversation with a client about the amazing vacation you can plan for them. You’ve cooed over photos of their kids and you think this person could even be your new best friend. Bad start. Don’t get emotionally involved. Your clients are not your potential friends. You’re in business and you need to feed your family, even if that’s just you and your cat. Calmly assess their travel needs and then be very clear about the cost of your services. Explain when and how the fees will be paid.

You don’t feel you deserve it: Sometimes you don’t even know how you get up in the morning and get to your desk, which is a jumble of papers and post-it notes. Sometimes you don’t even have time to take a shower and brush your hair, which is totally embarrassing when the UPS guy comes. Clean up your desk; install a bulletin board for your reminders. Write up your to-do list the night before; waiting until morning is too late, you’ll likely be interrupted and it will seem funny that you even thought you could have a to-do list. Always dress professionally, even if you’re working from home.

You’re not in a professional setting: You have an office, you even have agents working for you. But if a client walked through the door right now, you’d be mortified for them to see the unmatched furniture and the faded travel posters falling off the walls. If some of your agents have made their desks their second home by piling all sorts of travel riffraff and personal items all over them, hold a summit and ask for suggestions on how to make the place look more professional. If you’ve outgrown your office, look around for larger space. Invest now so that you and your team will feel more confident; you’re sure to reap the returns.

You don’t have a support system: Find a colleague in your network so you can tell each other why your services are worth fees. If you’re an office manager, huddle once a week to encourage your team to feel their worth and to celebrate their victories.

You can’t explain why you charge fees: If you had 30 seconds in an elevator to explain your worth, could you do it or would you still be hemming and hawing by the time your potential client gets to the next floor? If so, sit down and craft two to three sentences explaining succinctly what you do and how marvelous you are at it. Practice saying it confidently and with joy.

You don’t have a straight answer: When asked if you get paid extra for selling a certain supplier, you respond, “Well, it depends.” That’s just plain cringeworthy. Do you ask service providers how they make money in their business? Turn the challenge into an opportunity by saying you do get special privileges you’re able to pass along to your clients because you’re a star producer for certain vendors. Or deflect the question all together, creatively.

You’re willing to negotiate: Have you ever questioned the price of something you really wanted, only to be told that the price is firm, and bought it anyway? You didn’t question the response because it was delivered with confidence. Do the same when someone asks you to reduce your fees or commissions just so they can put the money back into their own pockets. Unless you wake up one day thinking, “Today, I’m just going to randomly give money away to strangers,” there’s never a reason to reduce your worth.