Last month, I sat in on a presentation by a receptive tour operator who was giving travel industry representatives some advice about how they can succeed in working with tour operators. I was surprised to hear how often she emphasized the importance of returning client phone calls and emails, a best practice that some tourism salespeople apparently fail to observe.
It should go without saying that responding to customer inquiries should be priority No. 1 for anyone working in sales. But in the professional world of the 21st century, the competing demands of our jobs can make it all too easy to lose sight of our core missions and the fundamentals of customer service.
Whether you’re a hotel salesperson, a tour operator or a group leader looking to attract passengers on an upcoming trip, providing great service to your clients is among the most important things you can do on a daily basis. Here are five key attributes of great customer service that should be priorities in tourism.
Information moves at blazing speed in today’s world, which means that people expect to get answers to their questions very quickly. If a customer calls or emails with a question, you should try to respond as soon as possible, even if it is to tell them you need more time to gather the information they requested. If you will be out of the office, set up an away message on your phone and an auto-reply on your email so customers will know that you’re away, and make sure to direct them to someone else at your organization who can help with their request.
Your clients should always know exactly what they’re going to get from you, exactly when to expect it and exactly how much it will cost. You can avoid a lot of confusion, problems and complaints by communicating clearly. Important details, rules or conditions should never be assumed, glossed over or hidden in the fine print.
You should view any customer interaction as an investment in a long-term relationship. Some of the country’s best-loved companies understand the value of relationship and will invest in loyalty by offering generous refund policies and kind gestures to clients, knowing that a small upfront expense will pay off in long-lasting goodwill. So when you have a tough choice to make, go for the option that will best serve the relationship in the long term.
If you have great relationships with your clients, it allows you to exercise an important measure of flexibility. Every organization needs rules, policies and procedures, but successful companies also know when to set the rules aside and focus on taking care of a client. When you know your customers well, you know when you need to stand by a written policy and when you can afford to make an exception to help a friend.
Ultimately, the best way you can serve your customers is by offering creative ideas to meet their needs and solve their problems. Dogmatic traditionalism and lazy thinking don’t win customer loyalty. But if you can deliver new travel experiences that your clients have never considered and exercise creativity to solve problems in a proactive way, you’re likely to have continued success in your customer relationships.