5 Best Practices for Deep Customer Connection
by Dori Saltzman

To drive customer loyalty, travel sellers need to make their clients feel cared about and engaged. This means connecting with clients on as deep a level as possible and at every touch point.

How do you facilitate that connection? At the recent CLIA cruise3sixty conference, a seminar on 40 Best Practices for Travel Agent Success addressed five ways to do just that. The seminar was presented by CLIA regional trainer Heidi Olson, ECC, CTC.

Following are highlights.

1. ‘You’ is powerful
“'You' is the most powerful world in the English language because it connects people,” Olson told the audience.  

'You' is a bridge that connects people to a concept making it theirs. Olson pointed out several consumer brands that make use of the power of 'you.' Olive Garden's slogan for instance is “When you're here, you're family”; and Marshall's tag line is “When you find it, you feel it.”

Travel sellers can also harness the power of 'you' by using the word and its various forms in their email communication and marketing collateral.

For example, rather than write to a client “Good news! I was able to get the requested space we discussed...” a travel seller should write “I've got great news for you! I was able to get the space you requested...”

2. Write for readers & skimmers
People read differently. Some like to read every word and savor details. Others skim for highlights and breeze through the rest. Travel sellers' marketing materials need to be written for both.

One way to do this is to highlight the key words, phrases and messages you want to get across. Readers will go through the entire flyer or email, but the skimmers will latch onto the highlighted parts.

A sentence describing why to take a cruise could look like this: Europe can be an expensive place. On a cruise, you’ll save money and know your costs in advance.

3. Beyond December holiday cards
Everyone likes to get a card in the mail. But businesses are too focused on the December holiday period. If you and five other businesses are sending a card at the same time, your agency no longer stands out.

Birthday and anniversaries, especially milestones, are important times to send cards. Birthday cards for older clients are especially important, Olson said. As clients get older they get fewer and fewer birthday cards, so they’ll really appreciate the fact that you remembered.

Other holidays to consider are:
Thanksgiving – Say thank you for their business;
Valentine’s Day – You can express your love for helping clients or focus on romantic travel options;
Patriotic Holidays – For those with clients in the military or who have family in the military, this is an opportunity to thank them for their service;
Country-specific holidays – Want to market all-inclusives in Mexico? Send a Cinco de Mayo card. Marketing French culinary trips? Send a Bastille Day card.

4. Make small talk
Small talk helps agents establish rapport and build trust with their customers. If you can start every phone conversation by asking clients about something you remember from your last conversation, they’ll be impressed you remembered.

If you know their son was playing in a baseball game, ask if he won the game. If you know they went to the theater last month, ask them how the play was.

“Begin every phone conversation by talking about anything but travel,” Olson said.

Of course, if it’s the third phone call of the day and you’re just confirming something, you can probably skip the small talk, but your first phone call should definitely include a little schmoozing.  

5. Write it down
To help you with your small talk, take notes every time you have a conversation. Jot down the names of spouses, kids, grandkids, parents, even pets. Take note of clients’ interests, upcoming plans and anything else you can use to get a non-business conversation started.

You should also make a record of what they asked for and then summarize what you heard to make sure you’re all on the same page before you make any recommendations.

By taking notes, remembering things they’ve said, and summarizing their travel wants and concerns, you show clients that you care about them – and that helps close sales and helps cement loyalty.

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Tip of the Day
Remember that your travels, too, are part of this important aspect of provenance. Hard-copy photo albums or visuals on a smart phone can be part of the sales process where your photos, selfies, and home-made videos show where you've been and what you've done.
 
Steve Gillick
President, Talking Travel
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