In life, I’m all about not really caring what others think or say about me. I live my life, in my own way, with my own standards; and make my own choices, without worrying about whether anybody else agrees or not!
In the business world—it’s a totally different story: What others think and say about me can either contribute to my success or ensure my failure. It is absolutely essential that I care about what my clients and industry peers think of me!
How about you? Do you really know what your customers think about you and your agency? As an owner, it’s vital that you understand how they feel about you and the service you provide. Regardless of how hard you work to be the best travel advisor you can be, in reality, you cannot be all that unless your customers think you are.
Face it! Customer reviews can build or break a company’s reputation, so you need to (1) pay attention to what your customers think and say, (2) care about how they feel, and (3) allow NOTHING to tarnish your reputation.
A hands-on reputation management strategy can give your agency the positive image and prestige it might currently lack. By paying attention to what people say and giving them a positive impression of you, in return for their honest opinion of your service, you will build client trust. You also will gain trust from new customers wanting an authentic advisor who produces real results that won’t disappoint them.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management is the process of controlling and improving how your brand is perceived by others. With social media, anyone can post pretty much anything about you. Maybe you feel like there’s nothing you can do about that…
And that’s the whole point of this article. Here are five steps to claiming your power to manage your reputation!
1. Read and respond to reviews.
This is the first and the most important step. When you read, hear, and readily respond to your reviews, you are actively stepping up to the plate to ensure customer satisfaction. With so many travelers using online reviews as their main way to obtain travel information, monitoring them and responding promptly will visibly demonstrate how much you care about your clients’ travel experience and ultimate satisfaction!
It’s a fact that 85 percent of travelers say that a thoughtful response to written reviews improves their impression of the provider. That’s a significant percentage of people you may miss out on booking because you either ignore reviews or do not respond appropriately.
No one is a superhero every day. Things can and will go wrong, resulting in a less than optimal travel experience for a customer. Heading off negative reviews is part of managing your reputation. If someone has an unsatisfactory experience, APOLOGIZE, and emphasize your commitment to providing quality service. Your apology demonstrates a number of things:
(1) Accountability. When you hold yourself accountable and accept responsibility for your errors, you actually are building greater trust.
(2) Commitment to customer satisfaction. Letting your customers know you will stop at nothing the make them happy creates loyalty.
(3) Credibility. Claiming responsibility and making things right demonstrates that you do what you say you’ll do and live up to your side of the bargain!
In your response, let everyone know exactly what you are going to do to make things right for your client.
2. Request reviews from satisfied customers.
This is a great way to keep track of, and publicize, successful experiences you’ve created for your customers. By requesting reviews from pleased customers, you can attract more happy patrons to your business. Be sure to ask them to share their thoughts on social media or leave an online review for your company after each trip!
Send out post-travel surveys, allowing the clients to rate the quality of your services and include what they found most valuable about working with you. If you use a survey company, you will be notified privately of negative responses and given options for how to handle the situation.
Compiling and addressing honest feedback—both positive and negative—will enable you to determine how you’re doing, as well as identify changes you can make to ensure everything runs smoothly in the future.
Although score-based email surveys provide feedback from clients who want to respond quickly, they cannot replace real discovery that only come from a one-on-one exchange by phone or in person. Surveys also may provide great testimonial quotes but, if there is a complaint about a client’s trip, it’s critical to speak with the client and delve into the situation. Ideally, post-travel surveys and calls should be used in tandem.
Sometimes you’ll learn that whatever went wrong was completely beyond your control. It’s important, though, that you have a conversation and obtain all the relevant information about the client’s experience to determine whether (1)you did something wrong, (2)a supplier dropped the ball, or (3)your customer is a perpetual complainer who will never be satisfied by anything. Your job is to serve your clients and be their best advocate. However, that does not mean taking the blame for something that’s not your fault!
If you did something wrong, make it right. If a supplier caused a problem, go directly to the source. Suppliers must be held accountable, too. Depending on how serious or negligent the mistake was, you might even need to reconsider whether you’ll continue your relationship with that supplier. If, however, you determine that the trip was actually fine, but you have a perpetual complainer on your hands—perhaps you’ll decide that client is not for you!
3. Discuss reviews with your IC’s and employees.
After reading a particularly positive or negative review, be sure to share it with your team. It’s likely that team members aren’t monitoring online reviews, so treat each positive review as acknowledgment of their hard work. Share the good feedback and express your appreciation!
When reviews are negative, and they sometimes will be—use them as an opportunity to rethink and improve your own performance, as well as to teach and mentor your staff. When a client has complaints, don’t be defensive or blame those involved. Instead, listen carefully and take advantage of the feedback. Brainstorm ideas with your team on how to turn the unpleasant situation into a win-win! Model good conflict resolution tactics for your staff, and demonstrate how to turn the negative into a positive. It’s also useful to assess what worked well, and how you might prevent such negative situations in the future.
4. Get social.
The rise in popularity of social media has resulted in almost limitless opportunities to get your company noticed. Develop creative ways to gain exposure and attract attention to your business through your own travels or pictures from trips taken by your happy clients. However, don’t think of social media as just a place for photo sharing. It has become one of our industry’s most powerful tools for inspiring travel all over the world.
Your presence on social media platforms can position you for demonstrating why followers should book their next dream vacation with you. Use it as a great conduit to testimonials and positive reviews. By engaging your clients online, you can enhance your authority, and the feedback can demonstrate the value of your knowledge and services. In other words, social media is a great platform for customers and prospects to experience your authenticity, expertise, and value.
5. Focus on your customer.
If you want to improve your reputation, make sure you offer the very best client experience. Focus on providing excellent service and value for money from the initial exchange with every prospect, to long after every client has returned home!
What’s my best “no BS” recommendation here? Make your customers feel valued by taking care of them. Don’t just talk the talk. You must demonstrate your authenticity and trustworthiness by also walking the walk. Show your customers how much you care about everything that happens while they’re traveling. When you dazzle your clients with your services and attention to detail, word will spread about you more than any advertising campaign could ever hope for. And, as a result, your customers’ families, friends, and acquaintances will follow your reputation right to your door!
So, are you ready to take control of your reputation?
Your reputation is your future. You really cannot afford to let it fall to chance. Instead, mitigate any negative comments or concerns about your agency, so they don’t affect your bottom line. I’ve given you my “no BS” prescription for reputation management in five easy steps. Now, what you do with this information is up to you!
Travel Industry Solutions (TIS) understands the busy life that travel advisors live every day! That’s why we offer proactive solutions for managing your business and your customers’ bookings flawlessly. Our no BS solutions help you build your authority and relationships, and provide legal protection and tools for effectiveness and efficiency. All of this frees you up so you can earn those positive reviews and enjoy watching your reputation, popularity, and bookings soar!
You can find more articles by Sheila published on Travel Research Online.