Opinion: Meaningful business relationships are vital when things go wrong

Designer Travel’s Amanda Matthews says suppliers that have casual affairs with their trade partners are probably also having unfulfilling casual affairs with their clients

Although we are offering dreams, selling travel isn’t as easy as some might think.

You can’t touch, feel or see travel products before you make the decision to buy, so getting the right advice and support from an expert is a critical and often undervalued part of the sales process.

At my company, we are lucky as we have a talented and experienced team of experts who are more than willing to share their knowledge and passion with our clients and each other.

We spend time getting to understand our clients and their needs, so that we can provide them with a perfect holiday match. 

Between us and our tour operator partners, everything goes to plan 99% of the time.

The end result is a fantastic holiday and happy clients who return eager to recommend us to friends and family. But while a 99% rate is all very well, what happens to the other 1%?

Mutual support

Things can and do go wrong, as there are so many variables in travel. When this happens, you rely on the support of your partners to assist in finding a solution for your mutual clients.

This is when you find out whether you have strong trading relationships or are just having a casual affair.

A true and meaningful relationship is about trust, integrity, sincerity and flexibility – and it’s definitely a two-way street. We listen to each other, are there in times of need and celebrate success together.

Whereas those that opt for a casual affair with us tend to be inflexible, unpredictable and can’t see the wood for the trees.

It amazes me just how these (often large) companies survive; if they have a casual affair with us they will be having a casual affair with all of their clients.

‘The computer says no’, ‘it’s in the terms and conditions’ and ‘it’s against the rules’ are phrases we regularly hear.

Practices take place such as charging admin fees to add an extra passenger or upgrade a room, taking 48 hours to confirm a reservation when a phonecall could be made in five minutes . . . I could write a book.

Lasting relationships

On the other hand, we are lucky to have made lasting relationships, where our suppliers will listen to us and take a commonsense approach, understand costs, respect our time and efforts, and strive to provide our mutual clients with a great experience before, during and after the actual holiday.

It’s vital for suppliers to keep their relationships going, as knowing each personally builds a connection.

Our Disneyland Paris contact helped to save our clients money when their child was taken ill; Classic Collection helped us save an £11,000 booking by working with us and the hotel in a more flexible way; Beachcomber Tours tried to recover a precious item left in one of its hotels; and ITC arranged for a hotel to change a private pool from saltwater to freshwater. I could go on and on.

We all realise that margins in travel are not overly generous and how hard we have to work for a living, but sometimes it pays to take a longer‑term view of a situation and to apply a commonsense approach rather than a textbook one.

If you think about long-term relationships, rather than just spouting out ‘the computer says no’, your business will be better for it.

By making casual affairs a thing of the past, love will prosper.

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