Over recent years, many people who had spent their entire lives as victims of disorganization and chaos have learned organizational skills—thanks to a global, self-help movement toward achieving a sense of order. Television shows about hoarders have earned surprisingly good ratings, and talk shows have featured psychologists and experts on order have touted the importance of life simplification for gaining greater peace of mind. If you Google the term organization guru, videos and stories of people like Marie Kondo will pop up with countless strategies and tips for getting organized. Indeed, in today’s face-paced and sometime frenetic world, organization is synonymous with an oasis on a desert.
Certainly, we, as travel pros, must have strong organizational skills to be effective in our industry. Otherwise, how would we keep track of everything we have on our plates? How could we possibly manage the countless details we must handle for even one trip—much less, several at a time? Some agents—even advisors who’ve been in the industry for decades—confess that they often wonder whether they’ve missed anything in the travel-planning process. Certainly, NOT KNOWING that everything is covered is a huge stressor, and who needs more stress these days? What can an advisor do to KNOW that everything is handled from the very first exchange with a potential client, to the traveler’s happy return home? Let’s take a sip from the oasis and then dive right in!
As a result of the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, travel has begun to open up again. However, trip planning is much more difficult and requires more research, diligence, and fact-checking regarding differing restrictions and requirements around the world. Hence, people are hesitant to go it alone—and many who have never before used a travel advisor, are flocking to agencies for advice and planning. This introduces one of the best opportunities travel pros have ever had to demonstrate their value and grow their business. It also provides an opportunity to spruce up their organizational skills!
From your first interaction with potential clients, you can begin to understand and chronicle their wants and needs. What do they value most? What is the key goal for their trip? What types of food, drinks, and activities do they prefer? What is their level of physical agility, mental curiosity, and historical interest? Can you discern whether they have the ability and willingness to pay for extra services and suggestions? What are their fears and concerns—especially during the global pandemic? By asking questions, taking notes on your conversation, and later appropriately filing all the information you’ve garnered, you’ll be prepared to best meet needs, make relevant suggestions, and prove your value as an alert, accommodating, and organized advisor.
Here’s an inventory of all the tools necessary to stay organized and keep up with client information and process steps.
- Client Intake Form
- Booking Checklist
- Trip Template
- Cancellation Checklist
- Traveler Information Form
If you can check each box, indicating that you have the tools above in place and use them systematically, good for you! If not, I strongly recommend that you add what’s missing to your organizational toolkit.
How about the contracts essential to legally protecting yourself, your business, and your clients? Do you have every agreement you need in place? Although there are other contracts that are good to have in place, these are absolutely essential:
- Travel Services Agreement
- Terms and Conditions
- Planning Fee Agreement
- Travel Insurance (Waiver/Acceptance) Agreement
Whether your clients are traveling by land or sea, there are many points in the process that you must communicate with them and provide additional trip information or reminders. Do you take advantage of every possible opportunity to reach out and connect with your clients? By doing the thinking for them, being proactive, attentive, and diligent; providing reminders and updates; and continuously keeping them informed about all the details of their upcoming travels, you will demonstrate the value you provide to your clients as their travel advisor!
Here’s what I have on my connection-point list with clients:
- Welcome email with trip confirmations.
- Travel insurance reminder.
- Referral request.
- Shore excursions and tour reminders.
- Dining reservations reminder.
- Spa reservations reminder.
- Final payment reminder.
- Final payment confirmation.
- Bon voyage and have a great trip reminder.
- Welcome home.
Having these tools is just part of the equation! Process flow is just as critical. What I mean is that the step-by-step timing for using each item, providing each contract, securing the necessary client signatures, and personalizing and emailing each message is all a part of my organizational process. As soon as you book a client’s trip, it’s critical to put in place all the tools, automations, deadlines, and processes that keep you organized. Unless you do this and ensure everything is scheduled immediately, you likely will get sidetracked and forget an important detail!
I can think of few (if any) skills that are more important to the success of a travel advisor than organization. Without a doubt, it is invaluable to both my customers and my business! My system ensures that I never miss a deadline or an opportunity to connect with my clients. Not only that, but it improves efficiency—which, of course, contributes to my bottom line and ROI. By having all the right tools in place for easy access and systematically implementing each of them at the right time, I stack the deck for client satisfaction and retention, and business sustainability and success!
How about you? Have you embraced organization in your business to keep everything on track? If not, why not?
Isn’t it about time to assess your system of organization and take the steps necessary for improvement? After all, if you’re like me and want your clients to be your clients for life, striving for improvement is not optional!