Our gentle and honest approach with customers is paying off as many are now making bookings, says Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the start to the year we’ve had so far. In fact, I’m thrilled and, to be honest, a bit bemused at how well it’s gone.
At the start of January, we set about planting the seed: talking to clients, keeping in contact and trying to tempt them with lovely offers. Well, all that’s been working.
“Clients want something special to make up for not having had a holiday, and we’re finding families are planning these sorts of holidays with several generations.”
Many of the people who we’ve been keeping in regular contact with have been getting in touch with enquiries, which has led to some great and varied bookings, including a lot of long-haul. Clients want something special to make up for not having had a holiday, and we’re finding families are planning these sorts of holidays with several generations. Lots of bookings are for 2022 and 2023; clients are happy to plan much further ahead.
Plant a seed
Many of our clients sound like they’ve won the lottery when they’ve had their vaccine. It’s as if they feel like life is about to begin again. They want something to look forward to, and feel holidays are now more achievable. We need to talk to them now more than ever!
Don’t be scared to say we still don’t know when travel will be allowed, and don’t worry about promoting holidays. Just remember you’re planting a seed.
Be empathetic if they say they’re just enquiring but not ready to book yet. Work with this. Tell the clients you understand, continue to do the enquiry and make sure you’ve done so much that, when they are ready to book, they book with you.
“Believe in how valuable you are. Know that clients need you, and that with care, understanding and patience, they will come to you when the time is right.”
I’ve said it before, it pays to be kind (see box). Tell clients you feel the same as them, and that you want them to feel safe and secure about any holiday decisions they make. People will come back to you if you are understanding.
Clearly, fully refundable offers are great, and help encourage people to book. We are all used to people enquiring and never hearing back, but I truly believe that’s different right now. Believe in how valuable you are. Know that clients need you, and that with care, understanding and patience, they will come to you when the time is right.
Talk, don’t sell
Keep a list of all the enquiries you’ve had, and put them into categories, maybe by destination, cruise line or type of travel. Then, when you see offers you know someone could be interested in, you can write a nice personal email explaining you have seen a great offer. Make it clear you know they are not wanting to book right now, but say you wanted to share it with them so they know what’s available and what could be possible when they’re ready.
At the moment, it’s important to keep in touch – not to sell. Be a friendly face in a difficult world. Find the time to chat, to listen and to care. This will pay off. As they get to know you better, trust is built.
“When you see offers you know someone could be interested in, you can write a nice personal email explaining you have seen a great offer.”
Make sure your advertising includes all of these points too.
In my Christmas email to all Ponders clients, I thanked them for their loyalty and patience. One replied with: “Thank you for your kind words. Not many companies bother. We will certainly be in touch for future holidays.” This client is now booking a Caribbean cruise for 22 family members.
Being kind has paid dividends
I have done a little bit of volunteering in the community recently by becoming a buddy with a lady who is lonely. I do a little shopping, ring for a chat regularly and just try to be there for her. Last week, I received a call from the lady in the community who organises all us volunteers to let us know that we were being offered the chance to have the vaccine because we are helping in the community. So here I am, still in my early 50s, having had my first jab. Yet again, it pays to be kind.