|Ruthanne Terrero, CTC Vice President–Content/Editorial Director|
I ordered something from Etsy the other day for the first time. I know — I’m late to the game to discover the site where you can buy handcrafts from real people. I do buy online, but it’s from Amazon.com and my purchases can range from hard-to-find illustrator pens to a case of laundry detergent.
From Etsy I ordered a tote bag and a mug designed by an up-and-coming artist. I couldn’t wait to get the delivery, but it took about a week, which is about five days more than it takes for my Amazon deliveries to show up. I had to have several conversations with myself while I was waiting, scolding myself to keep in mind that this was one person’s business, that the materials were individually made and that the artist likely did not have thousands of workers running up and down miles of aisles with shopping carts to fulfill and pack up her orders.
I did get a lovely note from her when the shipment was mailed and when I opened up the box I saw my purchases had been wrapped in hot pink tissue paper and fun stickers with some of the artist’s designs on them. It was fun. It felt like a surprise present, as if it was my birthday.
Travel advisors might run into the same dynamic; they’re used to dealing with clients who get an immediate response when they seek information or make a purchase. But the work of a travel advisor takes time because you’re delivering a quality product, not something that’s rapidly pulled off a shelf and deposited in a waiting UPS van.
If you feel there is a bit of a wait time when customers deal with you, say, as opposed to when they’re dealing with an automated vendor, make the experience worth waiting for. Deliver your documents in a beautiful box that delights the recipient and include personal touches so they’re glad they make their travel purchase through you, a fellow human. And my advice, after dealing with this young artist who kept fairly under the radar after she received my order, would be to communicate with the customer while they’re waiting for information from you. You might be slightly delayed as you’re waiting to hear back from that excellent supplier who can arrange a very special itinerary, or perhaps as you’re checking on the extra amenities you can provide for free because your agency network has deals with hotels and cruise lines that cannot be found with online offers.
Spell out to the client exactly what you’re waiting for and keep them excited during the process. If you make them feel special every time they hear from you, they won’t even realize that they’re waiting for you to do your magic behind the scenes. Score? Live Travel Advisor 1, OTA 0.