Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
The entire Sales Process and all aspects of service provided to a customer before, during and after their vacation should be designed with one purpose in mind: Develop a Lifetime Customer. If you do every aspect of sales and service at an exceptional level and throughout the client’s full experience of doing business with you they are amazed and astounded, will it guarantee they will stay with you forever? Sadly, no. That does not mean you should not try to provide a unique and amazing experience of doing business with you as you will never create 100% loyalty. However, you can get much closer to 100% with the right approach.
A few years ago a study was done to determine why all customers do not return back over and over again and the results provide some wonderful insights. I have listed the results of that study below with some commentary.
Clients Stop doing business with you because:
1% – Die. Not much you can do about this one or if there is you are in the wrong business.
3% – Move. This study was done when most retail sales were done locally so as we know location is no longer a hinderance for you to business with anyone anywhere in the world. You simply now need to make sure that what is astounding about your service can be felt electronically and without face to face interaction.
4% – Just Naturally Float. These are the people that no matter how good you are and how wonderful your relationship is with them just are not wired to be loyal. It is a small percentage so don’t fret over these folks – move on.
5%- Recommended to buy elsewhere. Friends and Family members get in the business or, while I hope this is not the case, another travel advisor has done a better job of creating raving fans. Again, this will happen no matter how good you are so don’t lose sleep over this small percentage.
9% – Found the Same Thing Cheaper. If all they are comparing is product pricing, this may be an even higher percentage. It is incumbent on you to let your clients know what they will get with you that they will not get elsewhere. You still must be competitive with your prices, so it is imperative to be a part of a large franchise, host or consortia to provide the best values. That being said, there are still a small percentage of people who will go to another agency for $5 cheaper and a free key chain. You don’t want them anyway – good riddance.
10% – Experienced a Problem. Sometimes, as hard as it is to imagine, you just may make a mistake. However, studies have shown that when you handle the problem quickly and efficiently, those customers can actually become more loyal than if the problem never occurred. It is in the midst of adversity where your value can shine. No doubt you will also be held accountable for things outside of your control like the weather or a bad meal. If you can appease the client, then it can become a positive but in some cases you may lose a client whether it was your fault or not. If you lose all of these clients and all of the others up to this point you are still keeping a huge percentage of your customers. Unfortunately, this study told us not why or how many customers stayed but why they left. So, the majority of customers stop doing business with you for one simple reason…
68% – Indifference. The exciting thing about this sad statistic is that it is entirely in your control to make sure it does not happen. The solution is simple but not necessarily easy. First you must communicate often and through various media. Simply putting a past customer on an email list will not solve the problem. Secondly, the communication needs to be relevant and as personalized as possible. Keep in mind that nothing is more personal and direct than an in-person meeting or a phone call so try to make those happen often.
You will keep clients for life if they do not have a chance to forget you and more importantly, don’t want to! Think of it this way – what if you had only one customer who bought enough travel during the year to keep you in tall clover (an old expression – rich!). You would customize every message and watch carefully how often and how you are communicating with that client. Obviously, you are going to provide astounding sales advice and amazing service as you handle their travel but that is not enough. It is how you interact between transaction that will engender loyalty. Try starting with your very best customer and create a communication plan which is personalized and consistent. Then create one for your second-best client. I think you will find that as you go through the process you will find efficiencies so that the process is easier for each additional customer. I believe you will be surprised at the loyalty and the referrals that will result by taking this one on one approach. More work upfront? Yes. More rewards over time? No doubt about it. Make it a goal to never lose a client who has already purchased from you because they didn’t think you cared.