Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Lessons from Maister’s book: The Trusted Advisor

I am a travel advisor. I am not a travel agent.

A travel agent focuses on transacting a single sale.  They take your order, go to their warehouse of cookie-cutter merchandise, and deliver a basket of goods at price “x.”  Now, travel agents may indeed do their work well. They may work with care and expertise in following automated processes to deliver your order. But a travel agent has a very specific task to do. There is a very limited scope to their activity. They are process experts.  

As a result of being a process expert, a travel agent has a very low “added value” in the mind of their clients. The whole relationship becomes price-based.

If a travel agent is good, she may transact a lot of business, and the money will flow … kinda like it does at MacDonald’s. If a travel agent’s processes are fast and efficient, she may indeed make money, because there is indeed a market for cookie-cutter burgers, as MacDonald’s has proven. But, with a focus on transactions, there isn’t much room, or time, for a travel agent to give you individual attention, care, and advice.

That’s not what I’m about. I choose to set myself out as a travel ADVISOR.

Sure… I still have the same technical skills as a “travel agent.” I deliver information, and can transact the sale of travel services. But I want to be relationship-based in my business. 

David Maister’s book, The Trusted Advisor, offers an important perspective. For businesses to move from a “subject matter or process expert” to a “subject matter expert plus affiliated field” to a “valuable resource” to a “trusted advisor” relationship, the depth of the breadth of the business issues involved must increase, as well as the depth of the personal relationship.

And to move from a “service-offering based” to a “needs based” to a “relationshp based” to a “trust based” client-advisor relationship, the breadth of business issues must increase, as well as the depth of the personal relationship.

If you like graphs, check this out maister, which is excerpted from The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford; 2000 Touchstone.

I like graphs. They make sense to me.  But the sentiment behind these graphs makes more sense.

Many of my new clients may initially contact me, expecting ne to be an order taker. But the relationship has to evolve past that, and quickly, if I am to “add value” to them, and they are to “add value” to me. Else, we get mired in a price-oriented transaction that has little value to either of us.

I’ve found that very few people can tell me exactly how much money they spent on their last vacation. But almost everyone can tell me exactly what memories they took away.

And the memories really matter!

Of course, I deliver value for money. But I need to get to know what’s important to your family, what your expectations are for this trip, how you hope to spend your time, and what memories you want to take away. If I do my job right, I’m not transacting a sale – I’m getting to know your family and your needs. I want to become your trusted advisor for travel – not just for this one trip in front of you, but for all your vacation planning needs.

A new friend told me her daughter had been crushed because a favourite princess had ignored her daughter at a Disney character meal. I was upset. No three-year-old should have bad memories of Disney because the restaurant was crowded. That new friend was floored when I’d arranged for “Cinderella” to send her daughter a handwritten note of apology (making sure I’d used a Disney return address on the envelope, not my home address). That friend hadn’t even booked her trip through me. She’d booked it online. I’d have to check, but I don’t think the online booking engine had sent her daughter a note…

Another client called me to say her dad was dying. He only had a couple of months left. She wanted to get their entire family together, brothers and sisters and their families from across Canada and the US, and get away together. They wanted to take a holiday while their dad was still able to travel, and enjoy some special time together outside of a hospital. Everyone together for one last special holiday.  She wasn’t looking for an order taker either. 

If you don’t want to put an order taker in charge of your family’s memories, give me a call. I bet we could put our heads together, find out what’s truly important to your family, and work together to craft the vacation of your dreams!


March 2, 2011 - Posted by | Lush Life Partners, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor

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