Comment: It’s unwise to judge a booker by their cover

ListenEpisode 8 of the Travel Weekly podcast with If Only’s Gordon McCreadie

Ignore ‘customer types’ as all clients have individual needs, says Gordon McCreadie, If Only sales and marketing director

Type ‘travel industry client type’ into Google and you’ll be confronted with a host of articles and blogs from various sources, telling you which are the most popular and common client types.

Many of these sources seem obsessed with pigeonholing every consumer into a behavioural group.

One popular UK blog asks “Who are travel agents’ ideal customers?” Another promises to identify “Seven types of clients that travel agents LOVE to deal with”. A third, an American OTA which proclaims to “empower” its travel agents, pledges to help you “Identify the six types of travellers”.

Yet in all these search results, one key customer is missing and it’s the one that is undoubtedly the most important of all: the repeat customer!

Repeat prescription

The true validation as to whether you’ve understood your customers’ needs is their faith in putting their holiday plans in your hands, and the hands of the operators you choose, year after year. The only way to do that successfully is to understand that there are no ‘client types’, only customers with different individual needs.

The days of presumptions on holidaymakers’ requirements based on gender, number of people travelling, background or countless other stereotypes has come to an end. It’s down to travel agents to listen, understand and not only meet these expectations but exceed them.

One of the easiest traps to fall into, and the most common cause for complaint, is recommending a holiday based on price rather than product. An article published in Inc. magazine highlights that millennials in particular are 73% more likely to spend more on holidays that meet all their needs than a similar one based solely on price.

As travel becomes more accessible, so the general appetite for adventure grows among generations both old and young.

A holiday with your parents or guardian when you are old enough to buy your own beer is no longer uncommon. Indeed, several celebrities – Jack Whitehall and Russell Howard, to name but two – have endorsed this with TV shows in which they’ve taken one of their parents on an experiential holiday.

Similarly, LGBTQ+ travellers now account for a staggering £168 billion annually worldwide, according to consultancy firm Out Now’s 2018 report. But, here too, so few operators are actively promoting destinations or resorts that are suitable for all customers. Many prefer to leave it to ‘specialist’ operators. Often, it’s presumed that all these customers mentioned above have niche requirements, when really their expectations for what they want from their holiday are the same as any other.

Right questions

It’s all about asking the right questions to identify each customer’s wishes.

It’s easy to ask people “what made you go there?” once they’ve returned, but asking why they want to go somewhere before travel is a question that’s often overlooked. It’s this kind of enquiry that sets travel agents apart from online booking agents.

And agents who can be flexible, ask the right questions and book the right products will secure the most important customer of all: a customer for life.

Listen: Episode 8 of the Travel Weekly podcast catches up with If Only’s Andy Freeth and Gordon McCreadie, about what they’ve been up to since joining the trade-only operator last year

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