As readers of this blog know, I recently went on vacation in St. John in the US Virgin Islands. I had a great time, and caught up on my relaxation. My vacation, however, is not the purpose of this blog.
You may recall, that while booking my trip I wrote about the missed opportunities on the part of my travel agent. Unfortunately, my travel agent didn’t appear to learn anything from that experience. Though I really enjoyed the conversation I had with him, and (at the time) thought that he was doing an excellent job looking out for my interests, from the moment I agreed to book the trip, it felt as though I might as well have booked it using an impersonal, online option. Actually, that’s not true – online options are actually more proactive.
In the weeks and days leading up to the trip, there was no contact whatsoever from my agent. No e-mail saying, “have a great time, call us if you have any questions.” No phone calls to make sure we had everything under control. Nothing. While we were there, we got an automated fax from the vacation package company we actually booked the stay with, using the travel agents name and that was it. Upon my return – you guessed it – nothing. No how was your stay? What could we do better? Nothing.
This is not a rant about my travel agent – it’s a rant about service-based businesses in general. When you are promising value-added and personalized service, make sure you do things that reinforce that proposition. Look, I spent a lot of money on my vacation and didn’t haggle with my agent in the process. As a matter of fact, every time my agent suggested something that cost more money, I said yes. Maybe I’m a sucker, but the reason I spent the money I did was:
a) I didn’t want to deal with any hassles, and
b) I was buying the experience of being important. I wanted to be (and wanted my family to be) pampered. My wife and I work very hard and I wanted an experience that made us feel important – and I was willing to pay for it.
Here’s the thing: nothing I wanted would have had to cost any money. Sure I would have loved a bottle of champagne when I arrived at my destination (and, yes, I know that lots of travel agents would have done this – that’s not my point), but all I needed was some recognition. A personalized e-mail and call before we left reminding me of the travel documents I did or did not need. That would have been nice. A phone call when I returned so I could have shared some of my satisfactions and dissatisfactions. Additionally, on that call, the agent could have easily begun talking about my next vacation – and who knows, maybe I would have put down another deposit.
Instead, I was left feeling as though I was on my own. It made me question the effort my agent actually put into my interests before booking. Maybe they paid as little attention to me before my purchase as they did afterward. Has my agent lost my business for good? No, they can recover from this. But, I’ll never trust them the way I did before. On my next trip, I’ll do more of my own research; I’ll check prices and options.
Remember, the sale is not over when the client says ‘yes’, actually, it’s only just begun. Also, remember that your job is to read your clients mind – for it’s your clients who decide whether it’s a good experience or not – and the word of mouth follows.