How To Handle A…. Client

by Scott Koepf

Photo: N.C. Wyeth

After an eight-year absence from being on stage, I was able to play one of my dream roles a few years ago in a local production. For years I had wanted to play the role of Lancelot in the musical Camelot—but when the show was finally a possibility, my advanced age forced my dream to shift slightly, as I was cast as King Arthur. In truth it is a much meatier and fun role, so in this instance I was glad for my slightly grey hair (and a beard which I actually had to dye so that I wouldn’t look like King Santa Claus).

As you know, King Arthur created a new and revolutionary order of chivalry. Yet all his plans unraveled, as one of the greatest love triangles of all time destroyed his kingdom. One of my favorite moments and songs in the play occurs when he realizes that what he cherishes most is slipping away from him. While his round table and kingdom are thriving, he simply cannot understand how to handle his wife Guinevere, whom he adores. So he recalls the teachings of his court magician, Merlin, and finds his answer through song.

Now before you begin wondering what all of this has to do with selling travel (you probably already began), I believe the lyrics of the song the king sings are perfectly appropriate for your businesses. While lamenting the intense competition of our industry, the relentless focus on price and discounts, the complexities of booking travel and more, your success is now more than ever dependent on your relationship with your clients. Some cry out that loyalty is dead (think “chivalry is dead”)—but I believe successful agents must still work for that elusive goal on a daily basis because it does exist!

But how do we achieve that “new order of loyalty” in today’s environment? How do you handle your clients so they appreciate the services you provide, tell all of their friends about you and remain in your travel agency kingdom? With a slight adjustment to the lyrics, I think King Arthur’s song gives you the answer:

                How to Handle a Client

                There’s a way, said a wise old man

                A way known by every client, since the whole rigmarole began.

                Do I flatter them? I begged him answer. Do I threaten, cajole or plead?

                Do I brood or play the gay romancer?

                Said he smiling, “No indeed.”

                Then how to handle a client? “Mark me well, I will tell you, sir.

                The way to handle a client is to love them,

                Simply love them, merely love them, love them, love them.”

King Arthur was so distracted by creating new and exciting laws and wordly plans that he took his eye off his first love. This should sound familiar, as travel agents run from building websites to social media postings to newfangled promises of easy solutions for bringing in hordes of clients. All of these things and more may have a place—but when your focus remains on the relationships with your customers, that is the best and most assured way to long term success. And just how do we get to the kind of relationships we desire? As I take on the role of the “wise old man” (well, the old part rings true), it is not by begging, threatening, cajoling or pleading. It is by loving your clients.

It sounds so simple (and yes, even strange) but it is true. I often hear travel agents go on and on about the fabulous products we sell or the last trip they took, but I only hear a few talking about their clients with adoration. Indeed, I often hear the opposite, as they tell tales of being squeezed relentlessly and how unappreciative clients are. Just like in a family, we do not always have to like what clients do, but we do need to love them no matter what.

So step back and refocus your thoughts and efforts so that when it comes to your clients you will:

                “Simply love them, merely love them, love them, love them.”

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