Opinion: Client appreciation is the secret weapon of travel agents

Thank You written on cardboard being held in hands by a group of people.  Stock image of a lot of hands holding torn cardboard.

The one defining point between the travel industry and other industries is the immediate heart connection to the customer.

Ask anyone who has just booked their next destination of choice and you’ll hear an emotional expression imagining a future experience of joy and adventure. This creates a unique opportunity for the travel industry to define itself by a new valuable currency known as client appreciation, rather than the old currency of client satisfaction.

Most of our transactions are a combination of emotion and process and at best are just average experiences. Rarely do they create an experience we want to discuss with friends and family. The travel industry has the foundations of defining itself as one that creates the deepest and longest memories of human connection.

Travel often ends up about the people we meet, not just the places we visit and this in itself defines a unique point of difference.

Where else can you purchase something that delivers an experience way beyond what you expected and enhances the value of the purchase?

A company we support in designing the ultimate travel experience has mastered the ability to engage their team in delivering an emotional connection to their client that’s authentic and always with the optimal focus of being of service.

What sets them apart is how they ensure everyone on their team is clear on their intention in every moment of client engagement. The mantra that captures the essence of what’s required from every individual is a very simple ‘it must be 10/10 or nothing’. While I was travelling in Siem Riep Cambodia, I asked one of the tour guides if he knew my contact in Melbourne. He immediately responded with ‘you mean 10/10 John’. I was amazed at how they achieve such a profound commitment from their team. In a third world country with a very different culture and different language, immediately his training kicked in to be of the ultimate experience for us.

From working with some of the most successful private and family businesses we have found a distinction that defines their point of difference of service excellence. It starts with their identity and what they want to be known for. It’s always personal and highly emotionally driven. Their business reputation is the same as we want as individuals who seek integrity and trust as a measurement of our character. Their primary directive is to define their intention towards service excellence in every action and interaction, across every part of the business.

What will it take to be a 10/10 intention in communication, behaviour, service delivery, appearance, empathy, understanding, focus, to name a few? They ensure their team have clarity around what it takes to be intentional to deliver service excellence. It must go beyond the documented process of what to do, it must at its core come from who they intend to be in its delivery.

When the power of a 10/10 intention can form the architecture of client experience development, the results will take the client experience process beyond the sub-standard of satisfaction into a new and highly profitable realm of client appreciation.

Client appreciation is a profound service distinction that defines the identity of a company and its commitment, first to its team and second to its clients.

The focus must be the optimal 10/10 result as anything less leaves a small margin for error. Most companies talk it up but very few can prove it. When it comes to service excellence, talk is cheap and profound results are all that counts. As W. Edwards Deming, the founder of quality process said, ‘without data you’re just another person with an ‘opinion’. For the travel industry to define itself as one that delivers high standards and quality it requires proof that’s beyond the averages of others.

The proof must be in the reasons why clients appreciate their service and it must have a heart connection to the experience. Anywhere satisfaction is used in the language or assessment of service it has already failed to achieve the optimal client connection. Only appreciation can define a unique point of difference for a travel business.

Client appreciation ensures your point of difference is all about being better and it’s always linked to an emotional heart connection.

Darrell Hardidge is a customer experience strategy expert and CEO of customer research company Saguity, specialising in driving revenue growth from customer appreciation. Darrell is the author of The Client Revolution and The 10 Commandments of Client Appreciation.

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