Did you ever expect to simply make a purchase, but instead got in to an engaging conversation with the salesperson? Perhaps they asked you about your interests, or where you live, and found some similarities with themselves or with a close friend of theirs. You might have initially been in a self-imposed hurry, but instead got in to a relaxing conversation with another human who really seemed to care about you.
Best part? A day or so later that salesperson followed up to ensure all was well with your purchase and you found yourself smiling afterward. In your mind, you vowed to return to this person next time you needed something because you trusted them and actually felt like continuing the conversation you’d started with them.
That’s the difference between selling and building a relationship. The amount of time spent on either isn’t dramatically different, but the experience and outcome are worlds apart.
What makes the difference between a transactional travel agent and a trusted travel advisor? Matthew Upchurch outlined exactly that at Virtuoso Travel Week in August. He was actually alluding to what Virtuoso is doing behind the scenes with its Orchestrator digital platform, but his insights, as usual, are valuable for everyone.
“We have specific consumer research that tells us that the number-one thing that differentiates a transactional travel agent from a trusted travel advisor is whether or not they have a conversation or some sort of connection post-trip to make it a learning relationship,” said Upchurch.
And it’s not just a random conversation. Instead, that advisor is garnering intel on the client, using it to plot out future travel experiences that speak to the long-term interests of that person.
Upchurch says the super-star advisors he knows who have great relationships with their clients are never working on just one trip at a time.
“They’re always planting seeds,” he says. “They have a much more holistic view of what they’re doing.”
That, for example, could mean the travel advisor notes the ages of your children and points out that in about two years, they might be ripe for a trip to Africa. That advisor also knows that certain Africa experiences sell out more than a year in advance, and so you should start planning for that particular vacation right now. If you wait, you’ll lose the opportunity.
“They’re much more about the bigger picture,” said Upchurch.
As for Virtuoso’s Orchestrator; its technology lets clients turn their random bucket list trips into an organized travel portfolio. Upchurch lauds the technology but is quick to caution that it should just be used as a platform to keep track of ideas and not replace those very valuable conversations.
“I love technology that enhances the ability of humans to be more human and removes those things that take up so much of your time,” he says.
In this issue of Luxury Travel Advisor, we write about another visionary, Paul Metselaar, chairman and CEO of Ovation Travel Group. He is also all about the human connection, but has launched a digital platform called Skylark that lets the consumer plan as much of their trip as they like without having to speak to another human. However, when that consumer is indeed ready to talk, they can do it in any form they like, via chat or e-mail. They, of course, could also speak by phone, but Metselaar isn’t banking on that too much. “The phone is like an anathema [to younger travelers]. They’d rather go online first,” he says.
It’s all such a careful balancing act, but the real message for advisors is to remember you’re speaking to another human being, whether via chat, e-mail or phone. Clients want to be fulfilled in some fantastic manner with the trip they’re planning — whether they’re in front of a computer or in front of you directly — and that makes them a delicate soul that needs nurturing.