Written By: Jackie Friedman, President – Nexion LLC
A frequent topic of discussion I have with Nexion members and travel industry professionals is that it’s important to work ON your business. In fact, it’s also equally important to work IN your business, which is the focus of this month’s column.
Following are seven tips on how best to work in your business by staying organized with good time management skills:
1. It starts with a system.
Attention to detail is extremely important to be a successful travel professional. Have you ever missed a deposit deadline or lost a booking because you forgot to call in final payment? Hopefully the answer is no, as the smallest mistake could have a big impact on your customer’s vacation.
It’s up to you to keep yourself organized, so you don’t miss important deadlines. Having a system in place to help keep those details in check will help immensely. The type of system that it is can differ depending on the nature of your business and how you operate.
BEST PRACTICE: Build in buffer time for certain deadlines where you can. For example, if a final payment is seven weeks out, ask for it at least eight weeks out in case you can’t reach your client. Consider holidays, including bank holidays.
2. Have the discipline to use it.
Ideally you should use a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, such as the kind that Nexion provides for all of its members as part of their membership, and have the discipline to input all of your bookings at the time you initially make them.
Schedule reminders for the various milestones and deadlines associated with the booking – not just the hard dates the supplier has given but also opportunities along the way to engage the customer. You’ll want to ensure they have all the information they need and that you’re building excitement. Consistent communication has proven to contribute to “booking stickiness” and also protects you in the event that a client comes back later and says, “You never told me.”
If you don’t have a CRM, you can use Microsoft Outlook tasks. Or use paper files or a journal, if inclined. The important thing is you spend some time every day to review those things that must get done that day.
BEST PRACTICE: Many CRMs let you batch scheduled dates or deadlines and apply those same timelines to multiple bookings. You can apply these batches to all bookings and tweak as needed for added efficiency.
3. Keeping yourself organized helps convert customers to clients.
When you book a person’s travel once, they are a customer. When you form a relationship with that person and book multiple travel events, that person becomes your client. Some of the touchpoints you schedule can go a long way to ensure you’re taking care of your customer on that booking and building that relationship into a client relationship, so they’ll come back time and time again.
BEST PRACTICE: A few weeks before your client departs, send them last-minute tips on their destination. Because you’re organized and have set up alerts in your CRM, you’ll know exactly when this date is.
4. Know the importance of documentation.
In your conversations with your clients, document what they like and don’t like, as well as important trip decisions and what you offered. Did they decline travel insurance, for example? You’ll want to get this in writing.
In addition, ensure you have a process to check on documentation such as health requirements, visas, etc., and send out reminders to your clients when those might be due.
BEST PRACTICE: Attach relevant correspondence to the booking.
BEST PRACTICE: Keep your clients’ passport expiration dates in your CRM, so you can send reminders with plenty of time for them to renew. A little bit of thought upfront can help you avoid mistakes and client disappointment upfront.
5. Use a calendar diligently.
Schedule recurring tasks on your calendar to ensure they get done. Reschedule items on the calendar that don’t get done. At the end of day go back and ensure nothing critical slipped through the cracks – do a final check before calling it quits for the day. Some people also find a system of prioritization to be helpful.
BEST PRACTICE: Block your calendar for the first hour of your work day to take care of deadlines before your day gets away from you.
BEST PRACTICE: Set realistic expectations. When committing to providing details or anything to your clients, refer back to your calendar and don’t get overwhelmed or overload yourself.
BEST PRACTICE: If you can’t meet a deadline that you have committed to someone else, be sure to communicate this. Tell that person you haven’t forgotten about them and you’re still working on XYZ.
BEST PRACTICE: Have an understanding that what might not be time sensitive for you may be for a client. Saying something such as, “My day is really full. I am committed to sending you XYZ. Is it ok if I give it to you tomorrow?” Always respect other people’s time sensitivities.
6. Know what your distractions are.
Keeping organized in a home office setting has its own set of challenges. I recommend having boundaries around your office and your day to keep distractions – such as pets, children and delivery people – at bay. Know what your distractions are and have a plan to work around them.
BEST PRACTICE: If you get distracted easily by emails, turn off the alerts, so you’re not getting pinged every few minutes. Set up rules for emails, so the less important ones go to folders that you can review later. However, make sure you check email a few times a day for critical items.
7. Keep a good filing system.
For those of you who have just completed or are getting ready to complete your annual tax filing, ensure you are tracking or logging what you may need in the future. Do you have a good system for filing receipts, for example?
BEST PRACTICE: Don’t mix business and personal files.
Remember, at the end of the day, the more prepared you are, the less overwhelmed you become. And the less overwhelmed, the better service you’ll be able to provide to your clients. Until next time, here’s to your success!