First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions 

The travel industry is a service profession. To deliver outstanding customer service, you and your business depend on a strong bond with your clients. The bonding process begins with your first interaction with customers — in person, on the phone, or on social media — because that interaction will form an impression of you within the first 30 seconds. If that impression is favorable, great! You’re halfway toward making a sale! If it’s unfavorable, good luck. It’s very difficult to undo a negative.

In those first 30 seconds, you make an impression in how you look, how you speak and how you act.

Embody your brand. Your nonverbal behavior speaks volumes. What do you think when you see your coworkers slouching in their chairs behind their desks? Are they tired, uninterested? Posture communicates meaning. The way we carry ourselves when we sit, stand and walk broadcasts messages to those who observe us. As a professional, you should develop an upright, confident posture that supports your goals in any interaction.

Additionally, your personal style sends forth potent nonverbal messages. How you look to others, in terms of your appearance, plays an important role in the communication process. The clothes we choose in any professional setting — be it the office, a trade show, or a local fundraiser — influence the perception of our clients and colleagues. For example, wearing tight leggings at a conference will send the wrong message. Thus, it is critical to make appropriate clothing choices.

Clients perceive meaning in details: paper-strewn workspaces and stained clothing can send powerful messages of sloppiness and inconsistency to prospective customers, who often make connections between your personal style and your ability to deliver quality services. Attention to little details can provide big payoffs in the travel business.

Talk So People Will Listen, Listen So People Will Talk. How you speak — in person, in a webinar, in a video, or on the telephone — dramatically affects communication. When speaking with a prospective client for the first time, or to show your clients or colleagues you are interested in what they are saying, you must engage in active listening. Here are some practical tips for active listening:

  • Ask questions to find out what the clients need (this is part of qualifying them).
  • Maintain eye contact and give them your undivided attention (there should be no looking at your phone or clicking on the computer unless you are specifically looking something up).
  • Don’t interrupt or try to finish their sentences for them.
  • Use an appropriate communication style (be positive and personable rather than dismissive or rushed).
  • Provide information that is accurate (double-check everything to be certain of your information, or say you need to research it); timely (be sure all information is current, and the clients have time to act on it); useful (it fulfills their needs); and relevant (don’t give more than three options).
  • Express emotions and concern appropriately. In business settings, we often become so accustomed to going through the motions of booking travel that we forget traveling is a very emotional experience for our clients. Keep this in mind as you consult with them. Express your appreciation for their business and understanding of their concerns.
  • Smile. It’s the best way to warm up a conversation. And it even works on the phone!

Be Social. How you act — in person or online — can make the difference between earning your clients’ trust or watching them drift away. This can extend to your business cards, email signatures, and stationery. The images on, and content of, your business card should reflect what your company is about. For example, if you want to sell luxury, you must be luxury.

Additionally, you should use social media to put your best foot forward and promote your brand. You can do that by:

  • Reaching out through Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, Instagram.
  • Posting pictures of FAM trips or tours you’ve led.
  • Designing your website and writing blogs to show that there is a real person — a fun, talented, efficient, creative, and knowledgeable person — behind XYZ Travel Agency.
  • Meeting with clients face-to-face — even in this world of technology — through live video chats, Facetime, etc.

Exceed Expectations. You are a people person. You would not have chosen this career if you did not receive joy and satisfaction in going above and beyond for your clients every day.

So, exceed expectations, forge strong bonds and serve your clients.

Today’s Hot Tip Tuesday was based on The Art of Listening and Communication module in the Certified Travel Associate program.