I was recently in the Caribbean for a quick trip and was heading back home on a connecting flight. I would say most of the other passengers were making a connection as well. On the first outbound flight we were delayed because of the weather and just about everyone around me started to worry about getting home that night. This was an afternoon flight and options beyond the connection city would likely be slim for most. As we sat on the runway for an hour, you could see and feel the panic set in. Then the final blow came; the captain announced we had mechanical issues as well. All of a sudden, there was an eruption of chatter, with everyone asking each other what they should do.
But I was cool. I had just received a call from my travel advisor who had me rebooked on a flight scheduled to leave in three hours; it was even non-stop. There wasn’t a pearl of sweat on me. I was in fact happy as I’d just realized I could catch the Argentina/Netherlands World Cup match in the airport lounge. Before we got off the plane, I went into research mode, asking those around me if they’d used a travel agent. Most hadn’t, but even those who had weren’t getting calls to help in their time of need.
From all this I saw two opportunities. Your message needs to be in front of the consumer when they need you most, and that’s in in-flight magazines and on airport billboards. I convinced many people that day to use a travel advisor on their next trip. This type of advertising is expensive and out of reach for most agencies, but it would work. I can see the ad saying, “If you’re reading this ad now, you probably didn’t use a travel advisor.”
The second opportunity is the chance to evolve. Advisors today must make customer service their number-one priority. You all sell the same end product so you’re on equal footing, but customer service has endless opportunities. I know many of you do monitor your clients’ flights for delays. No matter where you are at the level of customer service you provide, raise the bar, push the envelope and go beyond what you provide today. I live by the motto, “meet and exceed expectations."
I recently attended a Cayman Islands press event in Manhattan where officials thanked the media for all they do for them. I’m shown here with Cayman Island executives Tom Ludington, U.S. general manager; Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism and Oneisha Richards, Deputy Director, International Marketing and Promotions. It really resonated, since many destination events simply give you a hard sell on why you should write about their destination. It was a class act for a classy destination. When you do raise the bar on your customer service, think about what you can do differently that will set you apart.