The ability to communicate effectively with other people—in other words, having good interpersonal skills—is a basic element of doing business, no matter what line of work. But, in an industry in which consumers are comfortable finding their own travel information, good communication and listening skills can make the difference between success and failure for travel professionals.
Last week, we hosted a fantastic webinar on communication: Don’t Shoot the Messenger! How to Effectively Deliver Bad News to Your Clients presented by Paul Pelletier. Don’t worry if you missed it. If you have Premium Access, it is available 24/7 in your library. If not, you can head over to the Premium Library today.
Building soft skills—like better communication and listening—is at the very core of our Certified Travel Associate (CTA®) program. This program contains in-depth education in 15 practical and professional skill areas.
The following is a peek into the CTA’s Art of Listening and Communicating module:
Did you know that, like most travel advisors, you spend nearly half your day listening? This far outweighs the time you spend speaking and writing. It is a critical component of your relationships with your clients, coworkers, and colleagues.
Therefore, it is vital to engage in active listening, especially when you are communicating with someone in person or virtually. Listening at this level requires your highest degree of involvement. Active listening shows your clients you are interested in what they are saying.
Here are six specific tips to improve your ability to listen actively:
- Be alert. Use nonverbal and verbal cues to show you consider your client’s message to be important. Upright posture, fluid gestures, animated facial expressions, and supportive verbal feedback will help you be perceived as an alert listener.
- Lean forward slightly. Leaning toward your client is an effective way to focus your attention on that person. Your client will in turn perceive you as an interested—and interesting!—professional.
- Face your client squarely. This nonverbal cue says you have nothing to hide and are giving him or her your full attention. It also helps foster your client’s perception of you as trustworthy and honest.
- Maintain an open position. Avoid gestures that may close you off from your client, such as sitting with your arms folded, legs crossed, or body turned away from your client.
- Communicate actively. While you’re making a conscious commitment to listen empathically, use physical movements to express your support of your client’s message. Nodding, tilting your head and smiling are all supportive behaviors. Avoid movements that will distract from your messages, like fidgeting, pen tapping, or shifting in your chair.
- Make eye contact. Effective eye communication involves establishing direct eye contact with your client then periodically averting your gaze to avoid causing your client any discomfort or anxiety.
As a travel professional, you should become accustomed to active listening practices because a great portion of your job involves helping others with their vacation plans or solving an occasional travel problem. Taking these six small steps can ramp up your interpersonal skills and improve your relationships with your clients as soon as today!