Written By: Jesse Morris, Owner – We Book Travel, LLC
Sometimes I feel like we as an industry shoot ourselves in the foot. Check that, sometimes is the wrong word. We definitely shoot ourselves in the foot. We have set a precedent that it is normal for us to take money from our pockets and give it to our clients simply because they ask us for it.
I received a call recently from someone wanting to book a cruise. I spent time learning about them, making sure to match up the right cruise line, itinerary and ship. I made sure the cabin location was perfect for them. We avoided being under the scraping deck chairs of the lido deck and above the party all night dance clubs. I made sure I proved my value and expertise throughout the conversation and they agreed that the price fit within their expected budget. Everything sounded perfect and I knew I was going to have a closed booking by the end of the call. And then I got the dreaded “So what are you going to do for me?”
Excuse me? What have I been doing for you up until now? Of course, I didn’t say that but I did ask them what they were looking for that I hadn’t done already. “My previous travel agents always give me part of their commission in on board credit.” And so it rears its ugly head.
We have set a precedent that we are not worth what we are being paid. We have set a precedent that we will subsidize our clients vacations from our own pockets. Now this isn’t to say that I have never used some of my commission to reward a client. I have arranged home to airports transfers on high dollar bookings and paid for that out of my commission, not to secure a sale but as a thank you for referrals. I know many agents who add a little extra on board credit as a means to win a sale by creating a sense of urgency. “We have a flash promotion that ends today where you receive an additional $50 on board credit.” Whats scary is when a client physically says “out of your commission”. They know that this is coming out of our pockets and are totally fine with it.
So I asked my prospect, “I am curious, if your previous travel agent provided you with additional bonuses to get your business, why didn’t you book with them on this trip?” The reply? “They were not very responsive and I wanted to find a travel agent who would give me better service.” Hmm… Maybe money isn’t the most important thing after all. “It sounds to me like getting a quality level of service is really important to you. That is important to me as well. There are agents out there who rebate part of their commission as a means to get clients. That’s not something that I do. I feel my service is worth something. I know if you do business with me you will feel the same way. Think back to your last travel agent, did they take the time to learn about you and your family? Did they spend time making sure the ship and cabin location were perfect for you? Did they provide you with their cell phone to make sure your needs are met while you are on the trip? These are just a few things that I feel make me worth the extra difference. I hope you feel the same but if you feel a few extra dollars is worth choosing someone else then I understand. You have to do what you feel is best for you. However if you want to receive outstanding service, I am here for you and can book this for you right now.” Order takers beware, you can only say this if you actually prove value.
Ben Franklin once said “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” My client said he would think about it and get back to me. Thats code for I will find someone else who will give me what I want. And so I lost a sale. I am totally fine with that. I am building a business and a client base. I do not want to be the low price leader. I do not want clients who do not understand the value that I bring and are willing to jump ship over a few dollars. When you have those clients it’s just a matter of time before someone else will come along and offer them a carrot on a string to guide them away from you. Now let me be clear, Walmart is a low price leader and has an amazingly strong business. If that’s the type of business you want then you can likely be very successful at it. There are a thousand ways to skin the proverbial cat. I prefer to work smarter and not harder. I am not looking for 5,000 low price clients. I would prefer fewer clients who understand value.
I would love to hear from you. Whats the most brazen thing a client has said to you or asked you for? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time!