We know it is no easy task to handle the various continuing effects of the pandemic. During this time—when it seems global protocols and regulations are changing hourly—it can be frustrating for all travel professionals. But it’s vital to have empathy with your clients. You must listen to their needs and fears and do your best to address them.
Education can be your best ally when advising your clients. The Certified Travel Associate (CTA®) program includes critical skills—like understanding customer needs, listening, and communicating—that will prepare you to build deeper client relationships and have more meaningful conversations during these difficult times.
Stay Tuned: Coming this month is the industry-leading Certified Travel Associate program, 10th Edition!
One of our graduates, Evan McElligott, CTA, owner of Longer Vacations, is putting these skills into practice today with his clients and wants to share some important advice:
I think that the greatest thing you’ve got to do is appreciate your relationships with your clients. Your future will depend on the depth and richness of this. It is the very foundation of a small business and very likely your only way through this.
You’re going to have to ask the right questions. Being able to communicate your expertise, to clients and suppliers alike, will be massively important in our industry moving forward. The benefits of tourism must be a harmoniously symbiotic relationship for your clients.
Finally, practicing empathy with your clients will get you through some of these tough conversations. And always follow the Number One Rule of Travel: Be respectful.
We agree with Evan that it is critical to be empathetic in order to connect with people. Your relationship with your client is everything. When you are speaking with clients, are you making the effort to see the situation through their eyes? This is known as being socially aware or having empathy, and it is vital to building strong client relationships.
So, connecting with your clients means doing your best to understand their emotions, share their feelings and respond to them with sensitivity and compassion. This empathy then leads to trust. But this won’t happen unless you have a strong reputation for being credible and worthy of trust. Clients who do not perceive you as trustworthy and credible are not likely to buy your services…at least, not more than once.
How do you build that bedrock of trust with each client? Here are some practical tips on constructing that foundation, one brick at a time:
- Understand that the process begins with your first interaction with customers—in person, on the phone, or on social media—because you often make an impression within the first 30 seconds.
- Practice interpersonal communication skills, which will create an image of you as competent, confident, and credible. These skills involve verbal, written, and nonverbal behaviors, such as sincerely greeting customers, being enthusiastic and interested, listening actively, and responding to customers clearly, completely, and correctly.
- Continually educate yourself. Be sure you constantly are researching current travel trends, destinations, and best practices in serving your clients.
- Commit and deliver. Know your inventory and then customize the trip to the best of your ability. Be sure to follow through and do what you said you were going to do. Don’t cut corners because the customers you lose through this tactic—and the hundreds or thousands of dollars they take with them—can cripple your business.
- Always be your clients’ strongest advocate. Have your clients’ best interests at heart. This doesn’t mean you should look for the cheapest options. Rather, it means you continually are searching for the most added value for each client by exceeding your clients’ expectations EVERY time.
When you make an effort to practice your communication and customer service skills, they will lead you down the path of empathy, which now—more than ever—is critical to your success in maintaining your clients’ trust. Often, these soft skills are overlooked in your toolbox. But remember: they are, in fact, the BOX that keeps your tools together.