The Perfect Recipe!
By Jack Mannix
October 30, 2012 11:45 PM
I’ve never been a huge fan of having automobile dealers perform non-warranty work on my cars because, candidly, they’ve tended to provide mediocre service and charge a lot. But a couple of years ago, I discovered an exception and this dealer’s combination of superlative service and a highly specialized technician has earned them my loyalty. Providing exceptional service and having thorough knowledge of a specialty can be your key to acquiring and retaining lucrative clients.
For more decades than I dare admit to, I’ve owned Corvettes, one of the world’s least practical vehicles. While you may rightfully deduce a lack of good judgment on my part, the loyalists hold them in high esteem and not “just any mechanic” is worthy of servicing my “baby.” We expect people to know what they’re doing.
Casey Lowe of Ed Morse Chevrolet in Sunrise, Fla., is just such a specialist. Unlike most dealershipswho work on all models, Casey works exclusively on Corvettes. Anything that he has to deal with, he’s seen multiple times before. He’s meticulous and attentive to detail when he’s working on cars. Medical professionals would be impressed to see that he even wears surgical-style latex gloves when doing so.
Casey’s management invests in his knowledge and ensures that he’s fully up to speed on changes and improvements. When making a normal maintenance appointment one time, I found that he was in Atlanta for three days of training. He’s a polite and articulate young man with a delightful personality. You can tell that he loves what he does and he’s passionate about Corvettes (not surprisingly, he owns one as well and fully grasps the insanity of doing so).
Casey’s colleague, Wayne Quick, is the service advisor and is equally impressive. Wayne possesses superb skills in dealing with the customer. He listens carefully, asks lots of questions to ensure he’s clear on the challenges, offers options to meet the needs of his customers and makes recommendations. He’s also very responsive: on one occasion when he returned a call to me, he apologized profusely for having missed my call and for not getting back to me sooner (even though it had been less than five minutes since I left him a voice mail). So what are our takeaways here and how can we apply them to your travel business?
Specialize: First, specialization should be a key strategy for you. If you’re not already focusing as much of your business around a particular specialty, you need to right away. Clients today are sophisticated and knowledgeable and they expect you to be even more so. Specializing enables expertise. The good news is that “specialties” can be virtually anything and, today, you can market yourself to any prospects you choose on a worldwide basis.
So what should you specialize in? What interests you? You’ll be most knowledgeable on those products or destinations that capture and motivate you personally. Your passion will show through to the customer and that’s critical in building their enthusiasm as part of making the sale. Regularly selling a limited number of destinations or products enables you to become intimate with them and their nuances, which is a real benefit for your customer.
Train Regularly: Like Casey, you’ll need to be sure that you are regularly training and learning as information quickly becomes stale. Take advantage of supplier and third party training to stay at your peak. Invest in yourself.
Provide Exceptional Service: Regular readers of this column will not be surprised that I’ve raised this topic again. It seems so elementary yet it’s practiced so infrequently (remember, I’m talking about exceptional service). Not only will you strengthen your relationship with the client, you’ll create a real differentiator for you and your business. Build your customer bonds by being in touch regularly throughout the year. Use the telephone for some of those contacts. Don’t hide behind email! Lastly, be highly responsive. The customer doesn’t care how busy you are; they want what they want now!
Sell Quality Products: With virtually every sale you’re trusting one or more suppliers to provide your client with a quality, high-value vacation. Sell as limited a list of preferred suppliers as you can and ensure they are delivering, have sound financials behind them and take care of your client as well as you do. Irrespective of your niche, focus on selling premium and luxury products. They’re where the client needs you the most and they’re the ones that will earn you the most income.
Providing highly knowledgeable capabilities for your client combined with exceptional customer service is a great recipe for success in any business. Yours included!
Jack Mannix, CTC, is head of his own consulting firm, Jack E. Mannix & Associates (www.jackemannix.com). He also serves as chairman of The Travel Institute. You can reach him by emailing email@example.com. This column is adapted from one set to appear in the November 2012 issue of Agent@Home magazine.