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Agent Diary: Turn negatives into positives and you’ll save bookings

Inspired by my daughter, we have changed how we handle negative news – and saved bookings, says Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley.

My heart sinks each time I receive an email from an operator that starts along the lines of ‘we are so sorry to advise that we have to cancel…’

Such emails have been pouring in again since recent government announcements, from the removal of Portugal from the green traffic light list to last week’s delay to the domestic reopening.

“My heart sinks each time I receive an email from an operator that starts along the lines of ‘we are so sorry to advise that we have to cancel…’”

The easy thing to do would be to simply forward these emails on to our clients, then wait for them to confirm they want a refund, which most would in that instance.

However, we have decided to be better than that from now on – and the inspiration for this came from my daughter Dani.

After hearing me moan about another difficult day for the business, she said: “Why don’t you offer your clients solutions rather than giving them a problem?”

Positive approach

Eureka! It was that simple. We needed to turn a negative situation into a positive, showing again how we offer additional value for our customers. The seed was sown and since that moment we have changed our approach to how we have reacted to phone calls and emails from operators and clients.

We all agreed to react and consider every situation in a more positive light, which fits our long-term desire to be ‘Positive Ponders’.

In one instance, an email arrived from a small cruise operator saying: “Unfortunately, the inevitable has now happened with this sailing and it has been cancelled as of today. Please let me know how your customers would like to proceed with either a rebooking or refund?”

“We needed to turn a negative situation into a positive, showing again how we offer additional value for our customers.”

Now, I’m aware some agents may already have been doing this sort of thing, so I don’t wish to steal their thunder. But since our change in attitude, what we have been doing is to look for the same holiday a year on, check cabin availability and check the price.

If there is more than one option on the sailing, we will offer our customers other dates too, providing them with greater choice.

At this stage, we also try to upgrade them too. We say in our email that we understand they have had to wait so long for this special holiday and that we think they may be interested to know the extra value they can get for just an extra few pounds. We say, ‘Why not spoil yourselves a little more and enjoy better facilities when the trip has been so long in the planning?’

Upgraded bookings

This approach has been working well for us so far. Most customers have been rebooking and, of those, about half have upgraded or enhanced their holiday by adding more nights or other extras they hadn’t opted for with their original booking.

“Let’s hope that from now on the emails we receive from our suppliers will be about them putting products on sale!”

Since taking this stance, we haven’t discussed refunds, we haven’t been negative and we haven’t got anxious about losing another booking and the revenue that goes with it.

Nevertheless, despite the success we’ve had with this approach, let’s hope that from now on the emails we receive from our suppliers will be about them putting products on sale once we start to get a bit more clarity on the resumption of international travel!


agent diary rep visit

We’ve really missed reps’ visits

We were super-pleased to see Kevin Gaddes from Travelopia visit the shop with a wonderful gift we’d won in their May competition. It used to be that we would regularly have visits from suppliers’ trade-facing sales teams, and it is something we’ve truly missed over the past 15 months. The prize was a beautiful Mulberry purse, won after making a Citalia booking the week before. It was lovely to see Kevin and learn more about all of the Travelopia brands. Thank you, and we hope to make more bookings with you soon.

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