At our travel design firm, when we plan our client trips, we have one objective: to make it as perfect as can be. That said, as we all know, travel is rarely perfect. There are so many things we cannot control on our client’s trips, namely… weather, delays, unsettled stomachs…and that’s just to name a few. Even the things we think we can control are often beyond our control (the normally fabulous guide has an off-day, the view you thought the room had turns out to be marred by a sudden construction project). What we can do is set our client’s trips up for success by tending to every detail. Attention to these details start from the moment you are approached by a would-be client and then continues throughout the planning stages and during the trip itself.
Here’s how it breaks down:
• Learn About Your Client. Start by gathering as much information as you can about the client. Do this by talking to them if possible, not just having them fill in your agency’s Traveler’s Profile forms. Of course, you’ll want to understand their travel history, not only where they’ve been and the types of hotels they like, but what was their favorite trip ever and why? Make it your business to find out the little quality-of-life details that are important to them. Are they morning people? Do they want to spring out of bed and do the pre-opening hours tour of the Vatican or do they want to ease into their days, sitting on their balconies and nursing their cappuccinos admiring the gardens and views from their hotel?
Try to ascertain the deep reasons why they are traveling. Is it simply to go someplace warm during the holidays or are they craving unplugged time alone with their families? Some are hoping their travels will change them, make them see more, feel more.
• Challenge Their Choices, if Need Be. We’ve had many clients come to us and say with complete conviction that they want to go to a particular place at a particular time of year. Oftentimes, we are aware that there are much better alternatives that might be less crowded, have better weather the time of year they can travel or might be a hidden gem they may not have heard about. We love introducing them to new places, new ideas.
• Design Their Trip as if They are Family Members. If you put all your thoughts into the comfort of your clients (not too many hotel changes, reasonable start times for tours, fun activities, some challenges, but nothing too scary) and work with destinations and properties you have a solid understanding of as well as a network of contacts in the places you are sending them to, you have all the necessary tools for developing an itinerary that sings. Key is you need to care about them the way you would a family member traveling.
• Manage Their Trips as They Travel. For some travel agents, once they send off final travel documents, they feel their work is done. Not today, certainly not if you’re going for perfect itineraries. It’s important to monitor your client’s travel plans, stay at least one day ahead of them, preparing to pivot and make changes if necessary (missed connection or other snafus). Write to hotel partners, reminding them these are your clients. Along the way, write to your clients, checking in, asking if everything is okay.
• Get Their Post-Trip Feedback. Feedback is great for us, but it’s also fun for the client. Who doesn’t love to talk about their travels? Indulge them. Listen to every detail and seize opportunities to mention what you might suggest for their next trip.