"Why should I pay you to research and book my trip when I can do it myself for free?"
"Don't you make commission?"
I was recently asked these questions by a potential new client during our initial zoom consultation and I have to admit, my heart jumped a bit. Since leaving an agency and starting my own business in May, this is actually the first time a client has came right out and asked me this question. With her permission, I am sharing my response (in point form):
1. Much like other professionals in your life (think personal trainer, lawyer, financial planner, mechanic etc. ), I charge a fee for my services. With 30 years in the business I provide my time, knowledge, expertise, and commitment to each and every client. Working with a select number of clients a year, allows me to work with more intention. This commitment to high-level customer experience is what keeps clients coming back. You will find I am extremely flexible, approachable and accessible and I believe in collaboration with my clients. I am working with you for YOU!
2. Travel is much more complex than it was pre-COVID. You need a professional who is dedicated to ensuring every detail of your trip is looked after. I walk you thru each and every aspect (from health authorization forms, to vaccination requirements), alert you to possible obstacles, interact with you as needed during your trip and follow up upon your return.
3. On average I spend 10-20 hours in time per file from initial consultation until the client returns. Yes, it is true, our suppliers do pay us a small commission for recommending their product but not until travel is complete. Sometimes this can be a year or more later. They DON'T pay us for our time. Do you have 10 to 20 hours of free time to spend researching, booking and deal with any issues should they arise?
4. Providing each and every client with a peace of mind knowing they have an advisor, advocate and professional on their side, is what sets me apart.
During our initial consultation we discussed her and her spouses likes/dislikes, previous trips, current travel requirements, special needs and how they had previously booked trips. Her current request involved a cruise, land stay with 2-3 locations, rail passes, apartment style accommodations, and local excursions. Her budget was modest (by her own admission) but do-able and she had a little bit of wiggle room. At the end of our conversation, I advised her of my fee for this type of trip and the amount of work involved.. She felt it was high. She wanted to think about it. Absolutely, is always my response. Our working relationship has to be built on trust and communication.
A few days later she called me back and asked me to send over my client agreement and she provided her credit card for my professional fee. I thanked her and asked what made her decide to proceed. She told me in addition to being highly recommended, she had tried piecing her idea together online but got frustrated. She contacted her local agency, keeping our conversation top of mind. She felt the agent wasn't listening to her or asking the right questions and was giving her suggestions way outside her budget. She received 2 options for the cruise portion with no explanation of the choices. In fairness, during their initial conversation, the agent mentioned she was busy, the phone was ringing in the background and she disclosed she was working alone. Everyone is short staffed.
The clients latest comment to me was this:
"All travel professionals should be doing what you are doing- working with less clients , charging what they are worth to be able to provide a more personalized experience to their customers is a game-changer."