Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Of all of the characters I have had the opportunity to play or for that matter even seen on stage, my favorite remains Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. His personality is simple yet complex and in the scope of a short musical he grapples with intense emotions from the greatest joy to wrenching sadness. The beloved musical itself is in many ways completely different than standard musical fare. It is not the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again and lives happily ever after formula. The genius of the script is that it actually is a sad ending yet because of the strength of the characters the audience is left with positive feelings and an uplifted spirit. While I could write a dissertation on Tevye and the depth of his character, I want to instead draw a parallel to the analogy that he uses and is the title of the show.
He compares his life and everyone in his village to being “Fiddlers on the roof, trying to scratch out a tune while keeping our balance”. That description seems to me to be the definition of travel agents today. No one can question that a good travel agent makes fabulous music! The dreams you help fulfill, the service you provide, the counsel you give, all result in a beautiful tune! But our job is not easy and that is why the analogy is so perfect! It is not just that you are trying to scratch out a tune but that you are up on a roof! Now remember, in Tevye’s village the roofs were not well made, were very uneven and treacherous. Staying alive up there was challenging enough but trying to make music?
Does this sound familiar? You are trying to make beautiful music but with what we have endured over the last two years in our industry, the challenges of the economy and increased competition you have to ask the same question Tevye posed:
“So how do we keep our balance?”
It is the answer to this question that may help us not only keep our balance but make beautiful music (and money):
While I cannot say that word now without raising my arms above my head, it is the meaning not the visual, that we need to learn from. Traditions are in many ways foundations or habits that you carry out on a regular basis that keep you steady. In the retail travel business we have become so enamored with all the new things like social media, product enhancements and such that we risk forgetting our traditions. I am not saying social media or anything else new should not be embraced as it should. However when we chase anything new I challenge you to not forget about your traditions.
Traditions can be very high level concepts like good customer service, strong product knowledge and the power of one to one relationships. But like the traditions that Tevye describes they need to get to the level of specific things you do and say that you do not compromise. Things like
Answering the phone with enthusiasm
Making each email personal and compelling
Having a written list of questions to ask that are about the customer
Scheduling your weekly training program
Having a written follow up plan for all stages of the sales cycle
The list goes on and on but the problem is that most agents don’t have a list at all! Take the time and document your traditions so that no matter what new and exciting things come our way in this business you won’t lose your balance because of your…..