Stay calm, rise above the situation and win them over for good, says Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley

I’m not an angry person, and am often told I’m too nice (whatever that means). However, the general public must feel it is their right to speak to us caring and considerate travel agents, who have been nothing but nice to them, any way they like.

I’ve seen many an article written by colleagues and have had quite a few chats with friends in travel who have shared more than one horrid story of how a client has been quite hurtful during this crisis.

The Yorkshire saying ‘there’s nowt so queer as folk’ stays in my head continually. Trust me, I do often want to get cross, argue back and tell certain clients to take their business elsewhere. But we can’t do that; we should not do that; and it definitely does not pay to do that.

Stay calm

In my experience, staying calm, listening and empathising will help. It might not feel like it at that very moment, but eventually it will. In fact, handling difficult situations calmly has won me a few of my best clients, who now call me “buddy” and refer us to friends all the time.

I believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say it at all. While I can’t control the words people say to me or my team, we can choose how we react to those words and how we let them influence us. We can’t control someone saying something that hurts us, but by not responding to negative words, the eventual outcome is more likely to be positive. Holding on and taking a chance with your clients is worth it. The long-term win is better than the short-term bad feeling.

“We can’t control someone saying something that hurts us, but by not responding to negative words, the eventual outcome is more likely to be positive.”

One of my clients became angry due to no fault of our own. Annoyed and frustrated, he suddenly threatened to contact a lawyer. We listened and patiently explained the other side to his complaint, but he still felt aggrieved.

I remained positive, friendly and calm, even though I was seething inside at how rude he was. I asked the client to please be a little more understanding of our situation, and I always tell clients we’re on their side.

The situation with this customer remained tense for a few weeks. I kept in touch, reassuring him that we were doing all we could, and made sure I was always friendly. And guess what? In the end, we won him round. Now, this client rings constantly for chats and is so friendly we can’t get him off the phone.

Don’t be proud

That said, if you have done something wrong, apologise. Even a small gesture, like flowers with a card to say you are sorry, can go a long way. Never be too proud.

And there was one experience that got the better of me. My closing sentence to this particular client was: “I would like to confirm that the team here at Ponders Travel are all of the highest standard and I feel it would be fairer to all that, seeing as you are unhappy with our services, we draw a line here and we wish you well with future travels.”

“If you have done something wrong, apologise. Even a small gesture, like flowers with a card to say you are sorry, can go a long way. Never be too proud.”

So, you can’t win over every individual. But the important thing to remember is that, however rude someone is, it’s not you they’re angry with – it’s the situation.

Rise above the situation. Remain calm and friendly, and nine times out of 10 you’ll retain the client for life.


Local kindness was blooming marvellous

A lady who runs a nearby beauty salon came into our shop this week with a huge bunch of flowers for the team here. Her words were simply: “You deserve it!” She is not a regular booker – she has a baby and another one on the way – but her message was: “Well done on opening and helping send out a positive note to the local people.” It was a wonderful gesture and meant so much to us. She was kind, her words were kind and we all felt better for it.

Flowers

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