Who owns the client? Agents push back against supplier ‘comeback’ programs

When suppliers contact your clients post-trip with booking deals, is that a bypass? DWHSA’s comeback survey gets home-based agents talking

Who owns the client? Agents push back against supplier ‘comeback’ programs

About six out of 10 of DWHSA’s 950 members in Canada and the U.S. are home-based agents – either ‘solopreneurs’ or independent contractors, says DWHSA administrator John Hawks. The DWHSA recently released survey results showing agents are concerned about the ‘comeback’ marketing strategies used by some suppliers.

According to the study, 9 out of 10 travel advisers don’t want suppliers making ‘comeback’ contacts with their clients after a stay or trip to offer discounts for booking future travel directly with the suppliers.

The poll surveyed Canadian and U.S. travel agents who belong to DWHSA (the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association), participated in past DWHSA classes and events, or who have been in contact with DWHSA.

DWHSA’s home-based agent members are generally either agents who operate as one-person agencies at home, or who work from home bases for storefront agencies, says Hawks.

Nine out of 10 agents responding to the poll, both home-based and in traditional bricks-and-mortar agencies, said they did not want suppliers contacting their clients post-trip, in a bid to generate future bookings. If suppliers do make ‘comeback’ contacts, the advisers said they believe they should be credited automatically for those future bookings (93.3%) and receive full commission as a result (87.8%).

Here’s a summary of the DWHSA’s findings: 

Q. How do you feel about suppliers contacting your clients after their stays/trips to encourage them to book future stays/trips directly with the suppliers?

  • I have no problem with suppliers following up with my clients this way –7.4%
  • I would strongly prefer that suppliers not contact my clients this way – 90.3%
  • I don’t feel strongly one way or the other – 1.9%
  • No response to the question – 0.4%

Q. How do you feel about being credited for future bookings solicited by suppliers from your clients after their stays/trips?

  • I’d prefer to be credited automatically for those bookings as the agent of record for my clients’ current stays/trips – 93.3%
  • I’d have no problem submitting requests or filling out forms to claim credit for those bookings – 5.8%
  • I don’t feel strongly one way or the other – 0.9% 

Q. How do you feel about receiving commission for those future bookings?

  • I’d prefer full commission on those bookings, since they involve my clients – 87.8%
  • I’d accept partial commission on those bookings, since the suppliers made the sales – 11%
  • I don’t feel strongly one way or the other – 1.2%

Lisa Sheldon is the President of DWHSA and also the owner of I Do Island Weddings in Janesville, WI. “As travel advisers, we believe strongly that our clients belong to us,” said Sheldon. “We book our clients as guests with suppliers – we’re not sharing those clients. And, as the survey results show, we don’t need the help of suppliers to follow up with our own clients.”

Sheldon noted that the surveyed agents want credit and commission when suppliers decide to approach their clients about future stays/trips. “We’ve done the hard work and shouldered the expense of turning consumers into clients,” she said. “It’s unfair – and unethical – for suppliers to take our clients’ information, talk them into future bookings at rates we can’t always match as agents, and reap the profit from those sales.”

Hawks added: “DWHSA members routinely tell us they appreciate the approach of the major cruise lines. If our clients book future voyages onboard the ship, many cruise lines credit the agent of record automatically and pay commission on those bookings – no forms, no hoops to jump through, just a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship.”

DWHSA said it will share the results of its survey with agent groups and suppliers.

The full survey results – including hundreds of individual comments submitted by agents who took the survey – have been posted at dwhsa.com/suppliercomebackprograms.

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