Questions Travel Agents Should Always Ask Clients
A vacation purchase is one of the largest purchases many people are going to make during a year, and this is especially true for families, those traveling in small groups and honeymooners.
For travel agents, starting the process right is the key to a successful booking, but asking where, when and how much clients want to spend is the bare minimum of what a good advisor needs to know about a client’s next vacation.
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Travel agents almost have to channel their inner therapist to really understand and comprehend what their clients want and, to do this, there are a few questions that agents should make sure they incorporate into their sales strategy in order to get to the heart of what their clients want.
Jason Coleman, CEO of Jason Coleman, Inc., said that he starts with “Have you ever used a travel agent before?” And then follows up based on their answer.
“If they say yes, I follow up with, well why are you not going back to that same travel agent,” he said. “Not that I don’t appreciate that they are here with me, but their answer gives me insight into them.”
Coleman wants to know if a previous travel agent did something wrong, if they are shopping around for travel agents or if there is another reason that will give him insight into their planning process.
“The more information that you can learn about your clients, the better,” he noted.
For clients who have never used a travel agent, Coleman asks “Why are you here with me right now?”
“I need to understand what it is about this trip that has changed for these clients,” he said. “Why is this trip the one they wanted to reach out to a travel agent for. If they typically book trips themselves online, what’s so different about this trip that they are reaching out to me?”
Coleman noted that even with big trips such as honeymoons or family reunions, many people still book themselves so it is important to really understand their motives and the question gets to the heart of what clients really want. Which leads Coleman to his next question about his clients’ expectations.
“I hate surveys that ask ‘did I meet your expectations.’ How can I meet them if I don’t know what they are up front? So I like to understand what clients expect from me in terms of communication—how fast they expect a response and in what form? Do they prefer a phone call, an email, a text message?
Coleman noted that not everyone likes to or has the time to talk on the phone, and some don’t want text messages.
“How I communicate and what I prefer doesn’t really matter…it’s all about the client and how they want to work with me,” said Coleman.
He also notes that he takes time to decide if the client is a good match for his business.
“I’m strongly opposed to ‘firing’ clients the way some travel agents describe it,” Coleman said. “I think if a consumer is going to take the step to contact a travel agent, telling them I don’t sell that or that I won’t work with them does our whole profession a disservice. That’s why I love having a close circle of trusted colleagues that I can make referrals to.”
The next question is absolutely essential to successful vacation planning, noted Coleman. Make sure you ask “who is involved in the decision-making process?”
“If I am working with someone or presenting a recommendation to a person who doesn’t have a final say, I want to know that,” Coleman said. “And I really need to explore why the final decision-maker is not involved, or what I can do to make sure the presentation is to the right people.”
This is especially true when booking family travel or small groups. A red flag to watch out for is a situation in which there isn’t one decision-maker, and there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
“If every family member has a different preferred cruise line or a different island they want to travel to, that’s going to be too many cooks in the kitchen,” Coleman pointed out. “I need one person to act as the group leader, and then make the decisions.”
To resolve the issue, Coleman encourages that groups—family or otherwise—pick a leader.
“Usually, I try to work with the person who contacts me and who I have been communicating with,” he said. “I try to get them to see their role as the leader, making decisions for the group and working directly with me. Rather than trying to get everyone’s input and let everyone have a voice in the decision. My goal is to empower the person in front of me to be that leader.”
One of the most important aspects of booking the right vacation for clients is to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
“I love to ask… ‘so tell me about the research you’ve already done on this trip?’ said Coleman. “I never assume they’re not researching on their own, double-checking everything I’m giving them. I prefer to have them see us working together in partnership, and it helps me to know what research they’ve done and what things they already know.”
This also avoids pitfalls, he said.
“Sometimes they find misinformation that I can correct,” Coleman noted. “Frequently it gives me insight into what they’re thinking and wanting from this trip.”
Adding these questions into the mix of establishing the basic facts of what clients want—the what, when and how much—will ensure that travel agents get the big picture rather than just a sliver of information and will certainly lead to greater success for both the travel advisor and the client.