Personalization and the Home-Based Travel Agent

Personalization is the latest “hot trend” in travel

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Personalization is hot. So expect to hear this trendy new buzzword a lot in 2016.

The basic idea of “personalization” is that if you (and in this context “you” typically means some big corporate travel supplier or mega website) can get a handle on who the customer is, you will have a better chance of selling them more stuff and padding your bottom line.

But does the hype add up to anything?

Well, let’s start with this infographic from Mindtree,  which seems to be making heads turn in the travel industry.

personalization in travel

You will notice that the emphasis here is on online sales channels, which isn’t too surprising because that’s where Mindtree makes its consulting dollars. They seem to be saying to their hoped-for clients, “See? You can do most of your selling online with only a little bit of time spent talking to real people! And a lot of the things you’d learn by actually getting to know people can be obtained with clever algorithms!”

To give them their due, at least they are not suggesting that travel suppliers will never have to talk to real people.

But there’s no dodging the fact that the emphasis is making those online sales channels look and feel kinda sorta like face-to-face interactions, all through the magic of algorithms.

Personalization is not about algorithms

About those algorithms. If you’re like most people, you’ve noticed that finding the information you are looking for online is getting harder, not easier. These days Google seems to be more concerned that a site loads quickly or displays well on a tiny mobile screen than that it contains the nugget of information you’re looking for.

Then there’s the pay-to-play phenomenon. Have you noticed that when you search for a specific restaurant in city X you get a page (or more!) of results that include several ads and many links to middleman sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor before you see the site of the actual restaurant itself?

And let us not forget the sharp operators who have learned to game the system. The New York Times recently had a story about what happens when you want to send flowers to your sick aunt in Peoria and you go to Google and type in “florists Peoria.” Bottom line: Don’t expect to be guided to a florist in Peoria.

Now that I’ve raised some serious questions about the supposedly infallible algorithms used by almighty Google, take a look at the “Omnichannel Personalization Framework” in the infographic above.

I was going to make some snarky comments about the self-parodying nature of the jargon used, but let’s cut to the chase.

Reading all that, do you honestly think that you, as a customer, would come away with warm fuzzy feelings after being put through the blender of omnichannel personalization?

Personalization starts with a person

Personalization by algorithm is, if not a complete fantasy, at least a crap shoot. Let’s face it, none of the algorithms that the whiz kids in Silicon Valley and Bangalore come up with can match the savvy of someone with first hand knowledge.

And in the travel arena that means you, the home-based travel agent.

You are the personalization  queen (or king) because you spend your time with … you know … persons!

That’s why I always encourage home-based travel agents, especially at the beginning to concentrate on person-to-person contact and communication.

Yes, yes, yes, there is a place for a website and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and all the rest. But all of those are tools, not ends in themselves. And the more they are based on your personal knowledge of the real people you are reaching out to, the more useful and powerful they become.

Personalization equals qualifying

In the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course I devote an entire module to the art and science of selling.

An important part of that process is qualifying, the process whereby you determine, first of all, if someone is qualified to be your customer in the first place. And, second, how you can best satisfy their known needs via the products and services you offer.

Personalization is nothing more than the fruit of successful qualifying!

Once you know and understand what a client or prospect really wants and needs, you are able to craft a tailor-made solution that will result in a booking.

How do you know that the solution you are proposing will fit the client perfectly? Because, if you’re following the guidance in the course, you have heard the client agree with you that, yes indeed, that is exactly what she needs.

‘Qualifying’ Module 3, Ch. 4

Qualifying is the salesperson’s term for getting to know your clients.
Module 3 of the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course is a complete
course on the art of selling. The Qualifying chapter contains a detailed
Client Profile Form for you to use with every prospect you meet.

Click here to access your course.

Don’t have the course? Click here.

Personalization is YOU

Personalization, above all, means you.

The most successful home-based agents develop personal relationships with their clients. This doesn’t mean that they become everyone’s best buddy. But their clients have a genuine feeling that “my travel agent” knows them well and, therefore, serves them well.

If I’ve seemed to be overly negative about the benefits of technology, let me assure you that your computer, the Internet, social media, and all the rest most definitely have a place.

These tools can automate your communication with your clients to a certain extent. They can certainly make sure you never miss a birthday, anniversary, or passport expiration date!

But loading your technological arsenal with the information that will make it truly serve both your interests and those of your clients means taking the time to qualify (that is, get to know) your clients on a very personal basis.

The more comfortable a prospect or client is with you, the better information about their situation they will provide. The more information you gather, the better you are able to create compelling visions of the perfect cruise, tour, independent fly-drive vacation, or whatever it is that will stir the client’s wanderlust and open their wallet.

And that is what real personalization is all about.

Related posts

Know Your Clients and Make More Sales

Understanding Features, Functions, and Benefits

Presenting Travel Products To Your Clients

Selling Benefits? This Sales Guru Begs To Differ

Personalization and the Home-Based Travel Agent was last modified: February 12th, 2016 by Kelly Monaghan