Written By: Sandy Elson MCC
These challenging times present us with a unique opportunity to reinvent our business processes so we can deliver more to our clients using fewer resources and WOW our customers. The use of easy and accessible technology allows your business to provide a high level of service to distinguish you from the competition, increase your client base, and create customers for life.
I have created eight “WOW” factors that are low in cost and have a high success rate in enhancing your efficiency and profitability, while impressing your clients with an unexpected level of service. Many of these group techniques are easily adaptable to individual sales as well.
WOW factor #1: Hook potential clients with a speedy, impressive response.
When potential clients contact you by email or telephone, it is possible, even likely, that they are contacting other agencies at the same time. I have prepared a “canned” email response which contains a lot of information regarding my niche, family reunion cruises. This stored response can be immediately copied and pasted into a new email, which is quickly and easily personalized. In my “canned” response, I thank the client for his/her interest, list the many things my agency does for its groups, answer some frequently asked questions, and provide all of my contact information. I personalize this response by using the client’s name, dates of travel, and type of group. With one click, my response is on the client’s screen.
I have my “canned” response on my smart phone as well. This allows me to respond quickly when I’m out of the office, or even out of town.
It is typical for the client to respond with “thank you for your quick reply.” I then set up a dialogue about the client’s specific needs, which gets the sales process started, usually long before any other agencies have responded.
WOW factor #2: Become a mind reader.
Anticipate the objections and fears your client is likely to express. For example, in my initial contact with potential group leaders, I always stress to them that they will never be put into the position of asking their family or group members for money. They are always very relieved to hear that I deal directly with each family within the group, when it comes to reminders about payment deadlines or late payments.
Anticipate other questions such as safety and security, air or sea sickness, or availability of payment plans. Having complete and detailed answers commited to memory or to email, or written down and kept handy, will go a long way in garnering trust and overcoming objections.
WOW factor #3: Set up a “private,” dedicated web site for your group.
It is far more efficient to set up a “private” web site for your group members, than repeating the same information over and over again by telephone or email. I use a content provider for my agency’s main web site that allows me to create many of my own pages. When you have hooked a group, copy and paste pages from previous groups to new pages, personalizing the new pages with the new group’s information. These pages include general information, prices, a booking form, passport information, shore excursion or tour information, and the like. When the pages are created, buy a unique URL, or web address, such as www.sandyscruisers.com. Discuss preferred and alternate web addresses with the group leader. Buying a URL is quite inexpensive, as little as $9 per year. Set the URL to point to the home page of the “private” site. Encourage the group leaders to email pictures of themselves and group members, which can be included on the new site. While an efficient means of disseminating information for the travel agent, it’s perceived as cutting edge personalization by clients. Creating a web site has high impact on the group while costing little in time and money.
WOW factor #4: Streamline billing.
Use a billing program that allows invoices and receipts to be emailed to clients. Most clients with email addresses will not object to receiving the information in email, which they can then print if they so choose. Emailing invoices and receipts allows for very timely turn-around once a check is received or credit card payment has been made. It saves on paper and postage, especially when multiple invoices are necessary because of payments received, price changes, or the addition of services.
Email final payment reminders to your clients at least two weeks prior to final payment due date. The ability to email invoices is a real time and money saver.
Technology allows you to provide potential, new and existing clients with “high touch” with just a few clicks of the mouse. This is important to your clients, particularly in this era of globalization, when you may have clients across the country and not just in your particular geographic area. The groups themselves, even family groups, may be decentralized with group members living in various areas of the country.
I will discuss the next four “WOW” factors in my next column. In the meantime, give these WOW factors a try, and use your newly created extra time to do additional marketing for new business!
Sandy Elson, MCC
Sandy Elson, MCC has been working as a travel agent since 1986. She is credited with starting the first ever online travel agent community, “The Biz,” on CompuServe in the early 1990s. Sandy owns Your Cruise Concierge, LLC, a home-based agency specializing in groups and Family Reunion cruises.