In travel, we interact with customers in a different way from almost every other retailer. We spend more time with our clients and learn more about them (sometimes it can even get really personal).
Which is why it’s a pleasure to have great clients. And awful to have ones that don’t click with us.
The truth is, not every client is going to be a good fit. And if you’ve been in the business a while, you probably have more than a handful of these. Remember, we cannot be everything to everyone, no matter how hard we try.
This is your business, and it’s so important to understand and prioritize what is best for it – and for you.
An existing or potential good client may be a timewaster (AKA a tire-kicker): asking for everything and purchasing nothing, or worse, going straight to the supplier to purchase after you’ve done all the research. Are they taking so much of your time that the ROI isn’t worth it? Are they constantly negotiating with you, changing plans, dates, destinations?
Having a lot of clients does not always mean a lot of revenue. Being the business owners you are, take some time to review all of your clients for the past few years. How many do you have? How much have they spent with you? And most importantly, how much revenue are they bringing in? Do you have too many clients that you’re not earning enough from, and how much time are you spending on those bookings? This is important to understand. You can have 15 clients that bring you more money than 100!
For new clients, introduce your service fees early in the conversation (I’ve said this before). This alone will give you insight into whether they’re a potential valuable client. If you get push-back or if you don’t think it’s going to be a good fit, there are a few diplomatic phrases you can use from the get-go:
- “My fees are part of my service, and I don’t waive those.” And don’t apologize for charging fees!
- “If you feel you can get it cheaper elsewhere that may be the best way for you to book.”
- “I don’t believe I’m the best person to help you with this.” And, if you are feeling well-disposed to them: “I may be able to recommend a different travel advisor you can work with.”
If this is an existing client you’ve been working with for some time and you’re sure it’s not in your best interest to continue working with them, here are some stronger messages:
- “I am unable to assist you with your trips, but I have a colleague whom I’ve brought up to speed and they’d be more than happy to work with you going forward.” If you don’t have a back up for them, you can absolutely feel comfortable simply breaking up with them! It’s hard and may be uncomfortable, but it’ll be worth it.
- “If we don’t find something that works for you within the next day, I’m afraid I’m going to have to give up this search.”
- If they become abusive or rude, try, “This is not a conversation I am prepared to have.”
Yes, you may lose a few clients, and maybe even referrals, but it is more important you recognize your own value, feel comfortable about your profession, and who you work with.
Sometimes firing a client can be the most rewarding thing you do all day!
Joelle Goldman is the Vice President of Host Services & Luxury Hotel Programs for Direct Travel in North America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org