I live in Toronto, which helps to explain why I am unabashedly a Toronto Raptors basketball fan. On one night of the recent NBA Championship Playoffs, one of the announcers, Jack Armstrong, spoke about the future of the team by suggesting that Raptors President Masai Ujiri had vision, which Jack defined as “seeing the end product before you start the journey.”
As I tend to put everything in the context of travel and customer service, I started to think about “vision” from a travel advisor’s point of view. As far as “seeing the end product,” there could arguably be a few “end products” that could include revenue enhancement, job satisfaction, supplier support, and agency/host agency/consortium sales fulfillment. But I think we all know that the true end product is the client whose value expectations have been exceeded and who will partner with the travel advisor again (and again), as well as refer family and friends because of the excellent service that was provided.
And as far as “starting the journey” goes (with the end product in mind), there are many ways to proceed. For those of us who have seen the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” at least a dozen times, we can recall the scene when Dorothy asks Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, “How do I start for Emerald City”? Glinda responds “It's always best to start at the beginning” (and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road).
Your packing list
Starting at the beginning involves figuratively preparing all the equipment you need for the journey. As you acquire more experience in the industry, you may not think it is necessary to list all the items to pack. But a thorough list, updated from time to time, serves as a template – and a reminder – for success, even to those who have embarked on the journey hundreds or thousands of times before.
You can develop the equipment list on your own or in a team setting, but it should include some or all of these actions:
- Having an open mind and a willingness to learn.
- Developing a list of questions you need to ask the client.
- Listening to what the client says.
- Knowing the most up-to-date products and services (and having knowledge of where to acquire this know-how!).
- Maintaining a list of key contacts who can value-add to your clients’ expectations.
- Being mindful of all the travel experiences you’ve had and those that your clients have had, and considering what you learned from these experiences and how they relate to your clients’ travels.
- Recalling the training you’ve received in travel school, on the job, at conferences, and speaking with your peer network.
- Strategizing to deal with all the details involved.
- Remembering that every journey begins with one small step.
The devil is in the details
We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” It usually refers to a person who is so caught up in the details of a project that s/he loses focus on the project as a whole. This is not to say that details are not relevant, as another expression, “The devil is in the details” refers to the hard work, concentration, research, and time it takes to “dot the I’s and cross the T’s” every step of the way toward reaching the final goal.
Reaching a fine balance between seeing the forest and dealing with those deviled details comes with experience, but you can start by identifying all the details toward the goal of exceeding a client’s value expectations. This can be a great agency/office/conference team-building exercise.
Good old-fashioned brainstorming
You can have a good old-fashioned brainstorming session, where every idea generated by the team is added to a list, and then afterward, the team evaluates each idea to decide if it is supported by a set of agreed-upon criteria. For example, one person’s suggestion is to give each client a small bottle of alcohol related to the destination to which they are traveling so they have “a taste of the place.”
The agreed-upon criteria include such things as “easy to manage, ability to deliver in a timely manner, applicable to all clients, cost efficient, relevant to the client’s travel expectations, etc.” So, this idea would inevitably get tossed from the list as not supporting the criteria.
Mind-plotting the details
You can engage in a mind-plotting (also known as mind-mapping) exercise, where you write down the end goal in the middle of a page or on a whiteboard and circle it. Then, you identify every possible detail related to reaching that goal. Each detail is circled and has a line connecting it to the end-goal circle. And each detail inevitably leads to sub-details and sub-sub details. The finished product resembles a computer circuit board with circles and lines. The purpose of the exercise is to show how “the devil is in the details,” and attention to these details leads to the end result.
A quick example would be:
- End goal: exceeding client expectations.
- One detail: customer service.
- Sub-detail: customer communications.
- Sub-sub details: greeting skills, talking to the client, social media communication, handling objections, resolving problems.
Other main details could include sales skills, time management, and destination knowledge — each with a list of related sub- and sub-sub details.
Vision statement sets and measures success
Successful companies, including the suppliers with whom you work, have a vision statement. This can be simply defined (thanks to Wikipedia) as “a declaration of an organization’s objectives, intended to guide its internal decision-making.”
But there’s no rule that only organizations can have vision statements. Individuals, such as travel advisors, can have them, too. And a vision statement is good to keep handy to set you on the right track toward success and, if needed, remind you of your own end goal(s). If anything, it instills a sense of pride and accomplishment every time you achieve the goal(s) that you set.
For instance, a travel advisor, let’s call him Bill, has put together this vision statement: To be the most effective travel advisor in the U.S., by inspiring my clients to explore as much of the world as possible, and impart to my clients feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment and happiness.
Once the vision is set, an instance and notice of goal-achievement can arrive in a simple email, phone call or card in the mail that says, “That was an amazing adventure. Thank you. I’ll be in touch soon for our next trip.”
Take a few minutes today to start improving the vision for your business. It’s a spectacular journey that you don’t want to miss.