Partner in Planning

Families come to agents looking for personalized attention By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

Earlier this month, I was at the Signature Travel Network Owners’ Meeting, in Carlsbad, Calif. At the event, there was a presentation of research from PhoCusWright, and I found one slide from their “U.S. Consumer Travel Report Sixth Edition” especially interesting. The survey asked travelers who use a travel agent why they did so, and the top four reasons were: I wanted personal service, I had questions not answered by the website, I can get better deals when I call/visit an agent and I can get better service if something goes wrong. Clearly, these responses point to one fact: The core of a travel agent’s business is to offer exceptional, personalized service.

I thought about that survey question when I read this issue’s cover story, “What Parents Want.” Author Chelsee Lowe asked parents and travel agents for the most important factors when booking a family vacation with an agent. Not surprisingly, many of the responses were related to service. Whether they are taking extra time to qualify families or staying connected with clients even when the trip is already under way, successful agents develop a relationship with the families they are working with and get to know them as more than just an invoice number.

Of course, this should be the case with all clients, but I think it’s even more important when booking family travel. Parents who use a travel agent are generally in a more vulnerable mind-set. As Lowe points out in the story, having kids changes everything, and formerly independent travelers often come to an agent stressed out and in desperate need of help planning a trip that everyone in the family will enjoy.

I’ve spent some time with Mimi Cassidy, one of the agents mentioned in the story, and I know that Mimi gets a great deal of satisfaction when she arranges a successful family vacation — she takes her clients’ happiness personally. I’m sure that knowing that a family has made cherished memories as a result of her hard work is one of the best benefits of her job. That dedication is one reason why Mimi is such a powerhouse agent.

Hopefully, you feel similar satisfaction when you arrange a great trip, because, like it or not, your customers demand an engaged partner in their travel planning. And if you can’t be that partner, well, an agent who thinks like Mimi is just a phone call or click away.