Imagine this. You get a new client. You know he will be great because he is a referral from a wonderful existing client, who is also a friend from college. In fact, this friend from college tells you that this new client is going through a break-up of his marriage and wants to travel to get away from it all. Over the third drink, your friend tells you your new client is probably going to get a $5 million bonus this year from his job.
You’re beginning to feel giddy. Talk about meeting someone at the right time in their life. You Google your new client and find his LinkedIn account in two seconds. You see he’s coming up on the 30th anniversary of his high school reunion and that he had one job that lasted only six months. Heck, what happened there? You find his Facebook page where he has a lot of photos of his two kids, ages six and eight, and no photos of his wife. On Twitter, you read through a series of his tweets where he’s railed against two airlines for their bad customer service and praised one for its seamless hospitality. Great information to have, right? You’ve already built a ClientBase profile of this guy before you’ve even met him. And boy, when you meet him, you’ll have so many trips ready to be proposed to him, based on his likes and dislikes, that his head will be spinning.
When you finally do join him for a sit-down consultation, you’re all but blushing, so much do you know about this person. You start off the conversation on a warm note, asking him how Heidi and Billy, his two kids, enjoyed that horseback riding lesson he took them to the last weekend. He looks at you kind of funny. How did you know that, his raised eyebrows seem to question. You realize your blunder; you’ve revealed that you’ve been spying on him on Facebook. You carry on, showing him some proposed itineraries, noting that you’ve crafted some trips for him that he is sure to love. You let it drop that even though he got sick in India two years ago (thank you, Twitter), you think he should give it a try because he’s probably ripe for a spiritual adventure now that his marriage is breaking up. He looks at you aghast. To him, you’re Big Brother in seersucker and pumps. You’re kind of aghast at yourself, realizing he’s right, you are! You stare at each other, mouths open. He looks at his watch, mumbles he’s late for a meeting and leaves you sitting there, alone with your herbal iced tea.
When is too much knowledge a bad thing? At our luxury roundtable in Berlin in March (see pages 40-43), we discussed the fine art of delivering personalized service. As Derek Picot, regional vice president, EMEA, Jumeirah, said, you have to be a psychologist to determine how to balance guest needs and information these days. Along those lines, we had a very animated dialogue about butlers, who can be Big Brother in coattails at times. It all brought to mind a conversation I had with a journalist who said she was perturbed when she got up very early one morning to work out at the hotel gym and was mortified to see her assigned butler waiting for her with a cool towel in hand when she was done. “Was he watching me that closely?” she asked out loud, knowing full well the answer was, “yes, indeed.”
Luxury travel advisors have the same challenges as hoteliers with clients, and, having read the above scenarios, may now be wondering how much download on a client is too much?
That’s not really the question, I believe. It’s how poised are you with that knowledge? How do you use it and when?
Be intuitive when sizing up how your client wants to be dealt with, but throw a little grace and discretion in there as well, so you don’t frighten them off.