Want to avoid giving your clients a mediocre planning experience? Well, this is what NOT to do.
More specifically, this is why it is so important to be on top of details. As a client, I notice these errors and they cause me frustration. I haven’t been on my trip yet, but I am a bit apprehensive about it due to the interactions that I have already had. So here is a story about what I assume to be a luxury experience that, so far, has started by just being mediocre.
Before we get into the specifics of the mediocre planning experience, I want to get a few thoughts down. No, this isn’t specifically about event planning, but planning in general. But the experience is relevant. My story touches on how websites, automation, and task management can be points of stress for your clients. And how avoiding these mistakes leads to wowing your clients.
Let’s begin the take of the mediocre planning experience.
I have spent the past few weeks trying to plan a vacation. There is a very exclusive resort in Ecuador that had a 65% off sale for citizens and residents. I had been wanting to visit for quite some time, but could not justify the high price tag – until this promotion. So I clicked on their Facebook ad…
Mistake #1 – Humans Assuming Bots Will Take Care Of Everything
The ad took me to Facebook Messenger where I was able to write a message asking for information on their 65% discount for specific dates and a specific number of people (two adults and two children, with the children’s ages included). The reply I got seemed somewhat generic, but informed me of the specific discount (65% off Sunday-Wednesday, 50% off Thursday-Saturday) and also asked for me to send them my email address if I wanted more information.
I sent them my email address and asked them to quote me a final price for my specific dates. Immediately I received an automatic response saying that no human is available. That’s fine. About two hours later I received another response saying that they had received my information and someone would contact me. Also good. So I waited. And waited. And waited.
Four days later I still had not received any information so I resent my message. A human responded saying they would send the information as soon as possible and they finally did that same day.
Lesson: Automation is amazing, it can be used to share repetitive information to a large number of people. But some clients want or need a human response, so be sure to check for that and follow up promptly if need be.
Mistakes #2 & #3 – Not Answering A Specific Request And Providing Conflicting Information
From this point on, all my dealings were with my travel planner. I was not involved with the handoff from the bots over messenger to this specific individual. But he was now my contact.
When I finally received an email from him, it did not provide me with the price quote I had asked for. My request was for a final price for specific dates and number of guests, yet the email once again reiterated the discount available that the automated response had told me. Kind of.
The discounts in the second response were not the same! This time it was still for 65% off Sunday-Wednesday, but now 55% off Thursday-Saturday rather than 50%. Besides that, the price per child was different. It was only a difference of $1/night. But that is still different information.
Lesson: Answer the question that was asked, not the one that you think was asked. And be consistent. When a client sees different prices for the same service they realize that you don’t sweat the small stuff…and that you may not sweat the big stuff either.
Mistake #4 & #5 – Making Multiple Errors And Not Being Prompt
I finally got a final price quoted, which had all the information that I was expecting. Except that it quoted incorrect dates (check-in and check-out was off by one day each). Another email exchange ensued and I got a final price quote with the now correct dates (and the price was the same).
After a few days, I wrote back asking how to confirm my reservation. Then I heard nothing. Three days later I wrote back and got a prompt response, which included an apology for not getting back sooner because they were a bit busy with the promotions (which is understandable). However, this confirmation email managed to get a different aspect of our reservation wrong! The reservation for a family of four was confirmed with a room that has a single king bed. Come on! It was solved and I had made the reservation. Or so I thought.
Lesson: Details are important. Always double check them. And don’t wait so long that your client has to email you again.
Mistake #6 – Missing Documentation
Two weeks after this email exchange, I received “a gentle reminder” to fill out a visitor information form online and that my reservation could not be confirmed without it. What?! I filled that form out already. Then I emailed back asking if I needed to fill it out again and once again received no information for three days. I wrote a second time and the following day got an email back saying that my online form was “found”. And that my reservation was confirmed.
Lesson: Don’t ask your clients for information that they have already given you. It makes you look unorganized. If you don’t already have a good organization system, start by trying Thymebase.
What Went Right
Having half a dozen mistakes before even arriving at the resort can be off-putting. It really diminishes my confidence that my experience will be what I expect. However, the travel planner did do many things right to once again inspire confidence. And thus a mediocre planning experience can be salvaged.
The travel agent always kept a professional tone. He always apologized for errors and corrected them immediately. If he was frustrated at himself for not noticing details or at me for writing back before he had a chance to respond, I never saw it.
Sharing Specific Information To Help Us Make Our Decisions
The resort is not easily accessible and they need to know if we will need transport or not. When we mentioned that we may drive rather than use their transport, our travel planner made it clear that we would need a vehicle with 4×4 capabilities and that the route goes through some areas with minimal mobile reception and very few gas stations. He also told us approximately how long the drive should take and the recommended times for leaving our prior night’s lodgings and arriving at the resort. These are items that we may not have thought to ask about.
Realistic Expectations Regarding Decisions Beyond Our Control
It is a month before our trip and we still have not decided about transport. We may not even know until the week prior because of national and local restrictions on personal vehicles due to COVID. Our travel agent understands the cause of our indecision and has reminded us that for him, the sooner we make the decision the better. However, he has not put any pressure on us to decide right away. He gave us a suggested deadline and explained that it was necessary for their coordination purposes.
These actions by our travel planner have made us feel more confident and we are now looking forward to our vacation.