I just came back from London where I held several editorial roundtables; watch for them in a future issue. I also got to see The London Edition just days after it had opened in a great neighborhood near SoHo and the British Museum. I’m shown here (right) with Jill O’Hare, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing (center), and my colleague, Megan Meeres (left), who handles business development for Luxury Travel Advisor in Europe.
That’s my favorite wine!” a waitress said to me recently. I had stopped at a great spot in Seattle called Purple Café and Wine Bar and I’d asked if the Columbia Valley Washington State Semillon was any good.
“Fantastic,” I said. “I’ll have a glass of it, then.” When she brought the wine I told her I was thinking of having the Margherita pizza. “That’s what I always order when I’m having pizza,” she said with enthusiasm. “Bring it on," I replied.
As I sat and enjoyed my meal, I saw the same waitress throw on an Army jacket, pull a knit cap down over her head and slip outside. When she returned a few minutes later I realized she’d gone out for a smoke. Too bad I don’t smoke, I thought. She could recommend her favorite cigarette brand to me. It got me wondering why had I been so willing to accept her recommendations because they were her favorites.
It made me recall how I recently had asked a concierge at a hotel to suggest an Italian restaurant. “I know a great Italian restaurant,” she had said with great confidence. I was so relieved to just be able to follow the route on the map she had marked off for me and be off. Within minutes, I was having a good plate of pasta.
Relieved is the operative word here. In both of the above instances I didn’t want to have to make a decision or even think about doing so. The stakes weren’t very high in either case. Give me pizza or pasta and I’m not going to go too far out of my comfort level.
But what if the stakes were higher? What if I was planning, say, a big expensive vacation and I fell into the hands of someone who made their recommendations based on what they would do on their vacation? Here was potential for disaster. What if the travel advisor in question liked funky shopping and dining establishments (think all vintage shops and cafés with bitter-tasting coffee and smoke shops with ads for medical-grade marijuana taped to their windows)? I, who could not get out of the college I graduated from quickly enough because Birkenstocks were de rigueur there, would cringe if I found myself paying to be in such a place. Funky rattles the heck out of me.
How do you make recommendations to your client? Would you ever suggest a destination or a hotel to someone based on the fact that it was your favorite spot? Or would you say to them, “I know what you like and I know you will love this new property.” Or better yet, “I know what you don’t like and I will not let you book this hotel, you will hate it.”
Keeping the focus on the client’s likes and dislikes is vital to your success. For years you’ve been told, “Don’t think with your own pocketbook.” Don’t hesitate to quote the price of a private jet because you think the price is just ridiculously expensive. Taking that private jet might provide enormous value to the client because he’s going to close a real estate deal that will yield him huge profits.
Or maybe he’s just rich and wants to have fun. It’s his trip, not yours.
Along those lines, ensure you’re telling your junior advisors not to make the same mistake when it comes to recommending luxury travel products. Remind them that it’s not about them and that they must take the time to truly get to know the customer inside and out so they can build a well-suited, proper travel portfolio for them.
Now that’s luxury travel!