Five Steps to Enhance Your Customer Service Ethic
By Steve Gillick
This article originally appeared in past Travel Market Report.
What exactly do customers expect from travel professionals? And the even bigger question: Are you up to providing it? Here are five points to ponder.
Protocol every client and track every incident.
Create a customer service protocol- an official procedure for everyone to follow. This sets the tone for your business, allows for updates and documentation of incidents as they arise, and provides a platform to train your staff.
Include as many situations as possible: phone and email etiquette (how long should a client be kept on hold, how long should a client wait for a reply), how to respond to complaints, how to deal with errors you’ve made, how to handle difficult people, etc. The more clients and the longer you’ve been in business, the more valuable a protocol becomes; you can easily review how you handled a tricky situation five years ago because, guess what? The client is back again!
Greet your future.
Greeting a client—whether in person, on the phone, or through email or texting—establishes a relationship. Until you know more about the client’s way of communicating (see “social mirroring” below), the emphasis should be on a proper, friendly hello, a real or virtual smile and handshake, addressing the client by name (Mr. or Ms.—at least until they say “Just call me Betty”), and establishing a level of comfort for the client to want to entrust you with his or her travel plans.
Beware information over and underload.
Travelers are looking for expertise that adds value, while at the same time saving them time, money, and avoidance of the inevitable mistakes that would occur if they attempted to make their own arrangements.
But travelers have different levels of “need” and understanding. Informationoverload results when you don’t properly qualify your clients and end up spoon-feeding them information they probably discovered on Google a long time ago. On the other hand, information underload dangerously assumes that clients have done their homework and therefore omits critical details (e.g. travel documentation, travel insurance, possible upgrades for accommodations and flights).
Either of these situations will result in a negative customer experience and challenge the goal of making each experience the prologue for the next. Instead, interview your clients to find out their travel history, how they research, what they dream of doing and how you will work together to accomplish this.
Talk to the hand.
When a client has a complaint…take it to heart. Listening is one of the strongest skills a travel consultant can possess. Remember when you complained to your cell phone company or cable provider and after all your time and effort you received a reply full of meaningless motherhood statements? It’s easy to project how your clients will react when you do the same. Complaints are the portals to future business! Solidify customer positivity by breaking down the complaint and responding to each sentence or paragraph…and do so in the spirit of conflict resolution: Strive for the fairest and most empathetic way to deal with the situation.
Use social mirroring.
My email opened with “Hi Jane” and I signed it “Regards, Steve.” Jane responded with no salutation and signed it ‘j’.
Many clients who use social media and texting have their own language of text-talk: jargon, shorthand, and emoticons that keep “conversations” minimally precise. Mirroring your client’s preferred means of social communication is one way of cementing the customer service relationship. A 140-character Tweet may work for some, but not all.
And that’s exactly what a healthy customer-service ethic should include.
Information originally appeared in past Travel Market Report.