Being a strong advocate of small businesses and SMES, I must admit that I am generally a big supporter of them, particularly when it comes to larger corporations. That was until I met Daniel Bram from Flight Centre. His hard work, professionalism and dedication to his job has made the team at Vent2Me revaluate how we perceive big business.
Our story begins in January, my business partner and I were planning an overseas holiday to uncover service marketing issues around the world (read our previous blog post about this planned holiday). The year prior we had booked a vacation to Thailand through a small travel agency in Beaumaris, so we decided to meet with this travel agent again to discuss options.
Essentially, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss feasibility of the trip. The travel agent in the first instance was quite helpful, but soon lost interest in the planned itinerary. This was quite shocking to us, as the year prior we had recommended the agency to a client who booked a $10,000 vacation with them. From our perspective, there was no question regarding our loyalty. We decided to discontinue using their services after we received the following email response from them:
Fast forward a couple of weeks and by fluke we attended a travel expo that was hosted by Flight Centre and its subsidiaries. We decided to visit the Flight Centre stand that was closest to our home, this is where we met Daniel Bram. An expo environment is a tough setting for exhibitors and although evident that the stall holders were getting tired, Daniel Bram put 100% into our meeting. It didn’t once worry him if it turned out we were not going to continue with the itinerary, instead he put together an itinerary that worked for us.
Most importantly, his hard work and dedication didn’t stop there and once the trip was booked, he continued to be diligent in handling any enquiries we had. Customer retention is often more important than the initial sale and it was clearly evident that Daniel Bram of Flight Centre understood this. As a result, we have no regrets in spending $9,716.16 with an employee of such a large company. After all he earned it!
I am now deciding upon possible holiday spots for 2012 and I can assure you that Daniel Bram will be the first agent I contact and recommend to clients, friends and relatives.
So what should smaller independent business learn from this?
Well firstly, smaller businesses need to understand that they can’t compete with larger firms on all levels, particularly in the areas of advertising and promotion. If you are a local based business advertise in channels where your customers come from such as the local paper or localized Google Adword campaigns.
Once you have the client in the door, treat them with respect, as a smaller business you should be able to build one-on-one relationships with customers that larger firms cannot and this is essentially where your competitive edge comes in! Remember, 80% of all profit is generated from 20% of your client base. Determine who this client base is and do everything in your power to retain their loyalty. In our instance, as we had referred clients to the agency, it would have been expected that we would have received different treatment than those who had not done so.
Also, consider the type of employee working for your business. Are they a right fit for the organisation or do they require training? If ever in doubt don’t ignore it, undertake a mystery shopping audit and develop a strategy to improve the employee’s skill set. So many businesses lose clients because of ill fitting employees.
In summary, if you are a small business treat each customer as an individual, don’t use a blanket approach. Smaller businesses do not have large funds available to implement service recovery strategies and public relations tactics, so don’t lose them in the first place! Because gone are the days, where consumers might tell nine people about a bad customer service experience, instead consumers can now share their bad customer service stories with millions of like minded consumers with just the click of a button.
Until next time,
Ps. If you wondering about the flights, we got the flights a lot cheaper than the quoted $6700!
Cents and Sensibility
Julia Taine, Executive Director of Vent2Me, is a marketing problem solver and mentor. A mover and a shaker, Julia sees a niche in an industry, and takes it, by making it her own. Julia started Vent2Me, because people she knew were struggling with their online presence and their digital strategies. Julia knew she could help these people, and so here she is today.