What better way to see and feel your client’s experience then following their Instagram or Facebook feed? You can receive real-time information about how that special shore excursion is going, whether or not the customer liked your dinner recommendation, and if the kids and grandma are happy.
More and more, travel agents – and their suppliers – are using social media to get a better feel for how they are delivering on their brand promise, and what their clients’ travel preferences are really like once they are experiencing a trip.
Stacy Small, founder and CEO of Elite Travel International in Maui, HI, has been following clients via social media for about 10 years. She believes “it's always insightful to see what clients are enjoying most about the trips and experiences we plan for them in real time.”
“I follow most of my clients (both leisure and corporate clients) via social media,” agreed Eric Hrubant, president of CIRE Travel in New York. “I have some clients who are social media influencers, and when they travel, they are very interactive with CIRE Travel and the hotels where they are staying.”
“I have a client whom I follow (and she follows me) on Instagram,” said Leila Coe, CTA, travel specialist at World Class Travel in Kissimmee, FL. “She just went to Japan with her parents and brother, and was posting daily photos from their experiences. Her photos were awesome and I enjoyed living vicariously through her. I had used a tour company for the first time for their trip and so seeing their photos reassured me that it was a good fit for this client. I was able to follow along and ‘see’ the other side of what I do, the actual trip.”
The client had also posted on Instagram when she went to Cancun for a few days at the end of December, so Coe got to see the beach and the resort. “I love seeing my clients’ photos and experiences, especially when most of them I never meet in person as they are scattered around the country,” she said.
“I have to admit. I'm a bit of a social media troll when it comes to clients,” agreed Margie Jordan, president of Jordan Executive Travel Service in Jacksonville, FL. “I do check the social media profiles of my most prominent customers to keep up with their travels. Are they booking things outside of me? How was the last trip I booked for them? Are there any places they're talking about online that they haven't shared with me?”
Real time service
Following clients on social media also makes it quicker and easier to resolve service issues. “It allows us to stay in touch during their travels and act on anything – positive or negative – that may show up via a client’s social media feeds,” Small said. “It allows me to message them, both privately and publicly, and also to step in and proactively give the hotels/suppliers a heads up if I get a sense something isn't right or to thank them when I see the positive posts.”
On the supplier side, Dorchester Collection is installing software and video terminals at some hotels to capture trip experiences before, during and after a client stays with them, to get a better understanding of what their guests’ “complete journey looks like, and deliver moments of superior service when we learn something special about them,” said Ana Brant, director of global guest experience and innovation. “We look for postings about occasions, like anniversaries, and then maybe deliver a special dessert at the end of their dinner.”
Customers have responded very positively, to the point where guests are now posting on their social media feeds, tagging Dorchester Collection employees. “The ultimate has been seeing our employees celebrated for their service successes on social media,” she said.
Said Hrubant: “I like to see my clients’ experience, and if I see that they’ve posted something negative, I can contact them or the hotel and try to fix it.”
Deepening client loyalty
Social media also gives a travel agent a deeper understanding of a client’s life outside of travel, to see if there are ways to generate greater loyalty.
Jordan said she once used a CRM tool “that pulled in a client's social media profiles and posts. It was amazing. I could speak to birthdays, anniversaries, etc. on the phone with them. I can also check to see what things they like when I'm considering client gifts, what restaurants they've talked about lately, what things they like. And if it's a new client, I'm looking to see just who they are, what I can discover about them. You can find out about loved ones getting married, passing, babies being born, things they love, things they don't.”
Any chance for interaction furthers the goal of promoting the value of agents, and promoting his agency, Hrubant said. “As travel professionals, it’s our job to educate the general public about the work that we do and the value that we can bring them. Interacting with existing clients, hotels and destination specialists is a great way to do this.”
Small agreed. “Most people post constantly from vacation when all is going well. They often tag me in their photos which in turn leads to future referrals from their friends who see their posts.”