We walked into a car dealership recently and couldn’t get anyone to help us price out the car we were interested in. Our body language couldn’t have been clearer, we sat in the showroom model vehicle for awhile, then stood outside of it, smiling expectantly, but no one came over. They were all too busy helping other people. Maybe I should have kicked the tires to grab their attention.
It reminded me of a key finding from a report we commissioned for our Luxury Travel Advisor Ultra Summit, which is that most travel advisors don’t have the time to take on all of the business that’s coming their way. They’re also extremely concerned that if they do take on new business, they won’t be able to do a stellar job for the new client. It’s a justifiable concern. Vacation planning is all in the details, adding in custom elements and signing off on each reservation to ensure everything is guaranteed to come off as planned. You can’t do that if a barrage of emails and phone calls are coming at you from your existing clients.
On a recent American Airlines flight from Miami, the flight attendant in business class was extremely sweet but she ran into difficulty at the very beginning of the food service. After she’d taken everyone’s orders, she served the entrees to those in the first two rows. When the time came to serve the next few rows, the first two rows of people wanted more bread, more drinks, more wine and water. She stopped serving others their meals to accommodate their refills. By the time she got to me in row five, she had come undone. I got a tray of food, but none of the add-on amenities. No bread tray, wine or sparkling water for me. But I fared better than row six. Their tray landed in front of them just as the captain announced we were beginning our initial descent into JFK. Those passengers politely laughed, chalking up the experience up to a silly folly. Good sports, I say.
The point is, the flight attendant had every best intention but she didn’t have a proper process or the manpower to serve 12 people during a three-hour flight.
If either of the above scenarios reminds you of your business, it’s time to make some harsh decisions. Decide not to take on new business (as the auto showroom above apparently had) or set up a process to handle incoming requests while servicing those you’ve already committed to. If you’re a one-person shop, post an ad at a local business school for an organized individual to help you with the details of your work so you can remain as the up front person who takes on new clients. Another option is to form an alliance with another advisor who excels in the things you don’t excel at. Perhaps they’re all about the details while you’re the one who loves to network.
If simply not having enough time is your challenge, set the alarm clock for an hour earlier each morning and tackle the details of your existing business before your inbox piles up with issues that need immediate responses. Select two other times during the day when you can turn off your email for 45 minutes to deal with matters that require your full concentration. If you fear everything will collapse if you’re not online for 45 minutes, you’ll be shocked at how many matters resolve themselves without you or were still salvageable even though you didn’t respond to them within 60 seconds.
If you’ve gone with the option of turning away business, politely respond and retain the potential client’s contact information. You may find the odd moment when you can assist them (you might have even created some mystique by having not been immediately available). Do your best to maintain a relationship with them. You never know when the economy might turn again and you’ll be seeking new business.