Your Expertise + Effective Listening

Is Critical To Client Satisfaction

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger

The simplest concept for travel sellers is basically that your livelihood is exclusively dependent on the satisfaction of every client you book on a trip. And this applies to everything from one couple taking a cruise or tour to the largest commercial based agents booking hundreds of business travelers each month. way

Like all things, every aspect of a trip is reviewed, evaluated and judged based mainly on the information you provide and recommendations you make. In truth, it is daunting task to meet or exceed client expectations that is only fulfilled with an in depth and thorough profiling process. And all of this is critical as it regards your reputation, and the ability to generate both repeat and substantial referral business.

On the leisure side, I consider this a particularly daunting task specifically based on critical factors:   

  • Understanding the particular psychographics of your clients regarding the specific experience they want as it relates to multiple aspects of the trip; level of destination immersion, ship/hotel features, dining and entertainment options, applicable enrichment programming, etc.
  • The growing number of varying products providing travel opportunities to similar geographies and specific destinations which requires significant introspective discussions with clients so that they CLEARLY understand how different brands and in the case of the cruises, varying ship sizes, can provide dramatically different experiences.
  • These factors are exacerbated further in meeting and/or exceeding the expectations of clients the longer and more-costly the trip. Logically there is less time to for a client to be dissatisfied on a quick getaway compared to a more-costly 10-14-day cruise or tour.

This is all part of the profiling discussion that must take place which demands that you be an effective listener. The art of selling has nothing to do your preferences, but what the client tells you they want in an experience. On the other hand, it does require, that based on their expressed choices, you provide them with clear expectations for the experience and how it can impact the cost.

For instance:

  • There are clients who clearly prefer bigger ships with more features. In this scenario the client needs to understand how this impacts the destination experience versus selecting a smaller ship. This is what I refer to as “effective time in port”. Mega ships are usually restricted to bigger mainstream ports, take longer to debark, can require longer travel time to and from the targeted destination, reducing the actual time spent. The resulting port call listed as 8:00 am-6:00pm can sometimes provide as little as 6 hours in port. Obviously, smaller ships can dock or anchor closer, providing faster access, a longer experience, with many staying later into the night or overnight.  
  • Conversely, those clients selecting smaller ships (500-1200) for a more immersive destination experience will not have up to 12 restaurant options, lavish entertainment, extensive spa and workout facilities, etc. And they will probably pay a bit more for being in a more selective environment.
  • And these examples are further differentiated by the cruise destination. Clients may prefer mega ships for cruises to mainstream destinations such as the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, etc. These same clients select smaller ships for cruises where they want a more immersive experience in destinations including the Baltic, east & west Mediterranean, southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand, etc.
  • And back to “psychographics”; there are the needs and wants of clients generationally. Millennials, families, Boomers and seniors/retirees, can all want significantly different experiences. They clearly do not want to find themselves on a ship for 7+ days surrounded by guests far different than their demographic or a brand that does not offer the type of experiences they seek.

Your expertise and ability to listen carefully to what clients tell you is critical.   Remember to “read back” the key components of the conversation so that you can start your recommendation with; “based on what you have told me”…The client is still going to make the final decision using the “expert” recommendations you provide. Providing them with the benefit of your expertise will better insure they come back as happy and fully satisfied client.