At Travel Industry Solutions, our commitment to providing proactive customer service means delivering actionable and relevant tools, guidance, and information designed to fill our clients’ needs. The bad news for anyone content with just getting by is that this level of service doesn’t just happen by default. You must make it happen. That’s why it’s called being PROactive! Sure, you can just wait and address issues as they come up—and they will—but then you’d be operating in the REactive mode. Having a reactive mindset to your life, your business, or your customer service, means you will fall victim to whatever happens, instead of making things happen for yourself!
So here’s the deal: proactive customer service means anticipating and addressing customer needs, questions, and challenges BEFORE they present themselves. It means thinking things through at the onset, and that requires work—plain, old-fashioned work! When you are proactive, you identify and fix things before they get out of hand, you arm your clients with the information and resources they need before their needs, demands, and (sometimes) dissatisfactions deplete your time, resources, and reputation.
Think about it … As a travel industry professional, you have a pretty good idea of what your customers want and expect. Right? So, by using your head (knowledge), you have an opportunity not only to meet, but to go above and beyond expectations! You can exceed their expectations, build their loyalty, and, subsequently, boost your business through client retention, appreciation, and word-of-mouth advocacy and referrals.
Although the value of acquiring a proactive mindset reaches far beyond your customer services (and we’ll cover many of those in later ‘Sheila’s Straight Talk’ articles), this month’s column drills down to the specific tactics and benefits of proactive customer service. From ensuring contracts are in place to writing and posting FAQ’s on your website to developing an email communication strategy and establishing a social media presence, there are numerous steps you can proactively take to ensure an excellent customer experience with your business—each and every time.
‘Still not convinced? Here are just a few of the lasting benefits I’ve gained from implementing proactive customer service strategies:
- Improved customer loyalty.
When you are proactive with your customers, you strengthen your relationship. As more online options for booking become available, you have to provide a service that OTAs cannot.
- Enhanced brand awareness.
With proactive service, you not only make your customers happy, but you also transform them into advocates for your brand. Happy customers will share their travel experience with your agency, as well as on social media. You can actively participate in and react to these postings by engaging with them online. Such interactions and conversations will bring your business to the limelight.
- Reduced customer calls and complaints.
By proactively alerting your customer to the next steps in planning their trip, proactively offering concierge-related services, and proactively adding value with great ideas and suggestions, you will fill your clients’ needs even before they occur!
- Acquisition of new customers.
When customers are unhappy with services and products, they spread the word within their circles of influence. Likewise, those who have good experiences and are happy with a brand readily refer it to their friends. Being intentional about dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s is part of a proactive mindset that produces excellent results. Positive word of mouth is immensely powerful in attracting new customers and potential clients.
So just how do you make a shift from reactive to proactive customer service? Here are simple steps you can follow.
Plan a customer-centric strategy.
A customer-centric strategy is the key ingredient in effective customer service. This means it’s your job to discern exactly what the client wants and expects, and then to surpass it! It means employing your very best communication skills. And it means paying attention to the details, so you can effectively guide your clients on an effortless journey throughout their buying, planning, and travelling experience. If you do all the thinking and make it easy for your customers, they will return again and again!
Implement a customer communication strategy.
Planning and employing a well-mapped communication approach will create profitable and loyal customers for life. Start with professional contracts that set boundaries and define responsibilities. After the customer is booked, put into action a series of emails that lay out what they can expect, followed by meaningful and timely reminders for when they need to act. You’ll find you also can weave in up-sell opportunities, without appearing pushy.
Make proactive service an agency-wide goal.
While you cannot dictate how your independent sub-agents perform, you can encourage everyone in your agency to adopt a customer-centric approach. By implementing solid communication and support strategies and consistency in both your internal and external messaging, you will build a stronger brand and more loyal following.
Use the right tools.
Tools include everything from booking forms and checklists to technology solutions that help you automate your work, and marketing programs that keep your brand in front of your customers. Choose wisely. And before you succumb to all the bells and whistles you think your customers might love, find out which add-ons they actually would use. For example, many itinerary builders offer apps with city maps. Before saying yes, really think about whether such a purchase will make the most sense for your clients and your agency.
Personalize your communication.
Always try to make each client feel like your only client. Whenever possible, personalize your communication. Engaging through your clients’ preferred platforms makes them feel comfortable and attended to, while developing trust that you understand what they want and will do everything you can to meet their needs.
Measure your customer-service effectiveness.
Measuring your effectiveness helps you understand what works and what doesn’t. Using survey tools once or twice a year allows customers to anonymously rate your service and provides valuable information that will lead you to the best tactics for the future.
Know your product.
This is where you can win hands down! Advisors with stellar product and service knowledge benefit from boosted sales, positive customer reviews, retention, and higher referral rates. Conversely, surveys reveal that more than 50 percent of customers will give up on an online purchase altogether if it’s difficult to find the answers they need.
After seeing this list, what do you think? Are you reactive or proactive? Do you need help shifting from the former to the latter?
Not to worry! Our booking tools, scripts, touchpoints, and step-by-step toolkit are all designed to support you in doing just that.