I have updated and rewritten this blog for my 10 minute talk at Fab Women Isleworth this morning and deleted the previous one
What is more important Price or Value?
Well of course both are important. What you are looking for is quality at a decent price
So what is value and how do you provide it?
Valuing clients with personal service or knowing that product is right for them
Attention to detail
Love of the product or the task in hand
Unique Selling Points
Extras and expertise
When choosing a travel agent or shopping around, the first thing you might consider is price, but price isn’t everything, value is far more important.
Simon Calder, the travel writer, is a highly experienced traveller who has travelled to literally every corner of the earth so what he said at a recent conference surprised me and showed that even a traveller as experienced as him, understands the importance of experience and value.
“I will spend through an agent because I appreciate value. Travel agents are fantastic and people don’t appreciate them,” he said.
Despite the wealth of information and resources available on the internet, Calder said that most customers still don’t want to spend hours sifting through that information, and would rather have an agent organise everything than “assemble” it themselves.
“There’s so much an agent can bring,” he said. “The internet enables people like me to make terrible mistakes.”
Calder told delegates at a recent conference that to improve their business they need to use their experience and industry knowledge to provide the customer with a personalised approach and to highlight the small print that the internet too often doesn’t.
Examples he gave included keeping tabs on a customer’s details so you can pre-warn them when their passport expires, and marking their hotel on a map of the city that they can take away with them (I do both these things)
I will of course offer the best price I possibly can. An initial budget is helpful because it is sometimes totally unrealistic and impossible to achieve. For instance a request for 5* all inclusive somewhere hot in the school holidays for £400 would be impossible whereas the same request for sometime in June or early December might well be achievable.
A couple travelling with a baby living in Harpenden. First of all I would consider that their nearest airport is Luton and secondly, I will assume that 0630 would be a really bad time to travel. I can think of few families that would relish waking up a baby at 2 or 3am to go to the airport, even if they are driving.
If there is a choice, I would offer them an afternoon flight, plenty of time to set off calmly to the airport, talk to the toddler about the exciting journey ahead. I also send a sticker book or story book suitable for the gender and age group . They arrive at their destination in time for supper and bed and ready to sleep in their strange surroundings
As this a family with a toddler, I will also assume that they would like a short transfer at the other end, that they would prefer a short flight because travelling with a small child can be difficult
I would also assume that you want a hotel or apartment with a lift or a room on the ground floor in a reasonably flat family friendly area close to shops and restaurants but not too noisy. I would look for family friendly, kids club, children’s pool and so on. I would have researched all this and previous feedback before offering choices.
So what about those 0630 flights? Business people with a meeting at 10am or those just going on a 2 or 3 night city break who will want to maximise the time they have to see all the sites. I will choose a hotel right in the centre, close to a station or public transport and I will supply maps or guide books wherever possible and some suggestions of things to see and do and if I can, prebook the tickets so they don’t have to queue up
Elderly couple. They like flights from the easiest airport to get to from their home as they prefer to get a taxi to the airport. They like flights around midday so they miss the rush hour. They also want to get to their destination before 7pm so they can have something to eat and unpack before bed. They might want assistance at the airport if they cannot walk far, they prefer an aisle seat not too far from the toilet. They want a more or less child free hotel in a flat area within walking distance of shops and restaurants. They like a promenade for nice evening walks.
Honeymoon couples generally want a Sunday evening or Monday flight, they would like their seats prebooked on the aircraft. They want a small, child free hotel that provides great service. I will always contact the hotel in advance to make sure they know it is a honeymoon, same for birthdays and anniversaries.
So what about the dreaded night flights. price or time conscious stag and hens , generally the 16-30 age group and business people travelling after work and those with a business meeting early the next day.
I will also assume the amount of luggage needed based on the number of people travelling and for how long and quote the most suitable, for instance I would assume that 15kgs is not enough for two weeks and that hand luggage only would be OK for two nights in Paris, but for 5 nights one suitcase should be enough for a couple. Women almost always have more luggage than men so while 15kgs is alright for men. It has to be 20kgs for women. I would also assume more luggage for shopping trips such New York or Hong Kong
Of course it isn’t always possible to dictate the day or time of travel but I would have considered things like this before offering a flight or hotel and every client is different and not all will be happy with what I offer but the point is that I do always try to offer the best and most suitable choices
A recent example was of a client who wanted a Costa Brava campsite. He had done a lot of research and decided that the best way to get there would be to fly to Barcelona, then wait for the thrice daily bus to the campsite which takes 3 hours each way (what if there’s a delay?) I suggested going to Girona and getting a preorganised private taxi for around the same price but much more convenient as the transfer is meet at the airport and it takes less than an hour. His reply? I don’t want to fly on Ryanair. Ok you can’t please everybody I suppose. I can hear the children whingeing already
Attention to Detail
Choosing a hotel that isn’t too far from the beach, close to the station, where their business meeting is or near the friend they want to see and providing a map
I would also have written out the luggage labels, completed the APIS details and provide sealed freezer bags for your liquids, advised which adaptor you need, time difference at your destination, entry requirements, give details of how and where to check in so all you have to think about is turning up at the airport
Loving your clients
Building a relationship of trust. Getting to know what they want. Offering something they they might want such as seat sales to a place they normally go.
Unique Selling points
I am available 24/7 in an emergency, for instance I had a client who turned up at the wrong airport in New York last Sunday (she should have read the itinerary I had carefully typed out) All my clients have my mobile and now that I have her overseas mobile, I will text her the day before she comes back.
We are fully ATOL licenced but for holidays not protected by ATOL we have our unique financial protection which is the best in the industry
Extras and Expertise
What is the point in quoting a really cheap price and then adding luggage, seats, transfers, single room supplements and so on, so this is why I believe that making certain assumptions and tweaking them offers a better service and is less confusing to the customer. This is where value is far more important than price
I can also organise a complete service, car parking at your local airport, an overnight hotel and either shuttle or private transfers at the other end. I will also advise if public transport would be a cheaper or a viable option. I can organise car hire at your destinations, day trips, attractions, museums and tickets to shows and operas (not sports tickets though unfortunately)
. I will be aware of weather patterns at certain times of year, for instance a recent client wanted to go to Mexico in September. I warned her that it is the hurricane season. She booked Portugal instead and coincidentally Mexico suffered a tropical storm while she was enjoying the sunshine in Portugal
I will also be aware of current FCO advice, political situations, cyclones, civil unrest, potential strikes etc. For instance FCO advise against travelling to around 99% of Egypt so although Sharm is considered safe, I wouldn’t offer it unless the client insists.
I also know what documentation you require and visa requirements, and if it’s Australia you are going to I can even issue them for free
And if at the end it comes down to Price
Point out the added value once more
Readdress – look at the enquiry with a fresh pair of eyes
Ingenuity – be inventive in tweaking to save on cost
Compromise is essential otherwise
Exit and walk away, a cheap client will always be a cheap client who will never care about you or value your business