In the travel industry, various professionals work together to ensure that the travellers on holiday are having the best possible time. People tend to reward ourselves with holidays as a break from their busy lives of work and bills and responsibilities and recognise the importance of taking time to indulge, relax and do something for themselves. Expectations are high, and with such weight attached to these emotions, there is a risk of experiencing disappointment. One of the very best ways to avoid situations like this is to carefully manage expectations.
A pleasantly surprised guest will leave glowing reviews, an underwhelmed one won’t recommend you, a disappointed one will tell everyone they know.
What is essential and a total non-negotiable is clear communication and authenticity. Listen closely to your clients, what do they want from the holiday? Why did they choose it? Try and gauge what their perceptions and preconceived notions might be – did they see images on Instagram or were perhaps influenced by a popular film? By listening and communicating you can gently steer your clients away from certain misconceptions and easily manage their expectations.
Some questions that you can ask your client ahead of time to ensure that you are both on the same page:
Why this location(s)?
Compared to other similar locations, why this one? Where did you hear about this place? Did someone recommend it? Is it on a hot travel list? Is it a lifelong dream? Did your family choose it? How much do you know about it?
From these questions you will learn valuable insights about your client. You might discover they’re a foodie “I heard the seafood is amazing”, or that they’re looking for a budget friendly holiday “It’s supposed to be very cheap”, or that they are family focused and care about the world “We wanted our kids to experience different cultures and learn about conservation”. You can already start suggesting activities and destinations based on this.
Why are you going on holiday?
Is it to relax after a challenging year? Is it a reward for personal or professional goals achieved? Are you looking for a transformation? Do you want to bond with your partner or family? Are you hoping to tick off an item from your bucket list? If you understand the significance of this holiday then you will be able to evaluate the meaning attached to certain activities or locations.
What are your goals?
Remember not all goals are achievable, and goals are not expectations. By carefully going through goals of the trip you can advise your client on what is realistic, what could be achievable and what will be a long shot (but perhaps not impossible).
How would you feel if ____ happened? How would you feel if ____ didn’t happen?
This is where you can start preparing for your clients reactions to certain parts of their holiday. If a change in accommodation midway is a big deal for them or not, if bad weather will ruin their holiday, or missing out on seeing a (rare and endangered) rhino or the incredibly elusive leopard will mean that their trip to see the Big Five was a massive disappointment.
When having this conversation, listen carefully for “shoulds” if a client is saying things like “my friend said we should do a hot air balloon trip over the Serengeti” or “we should try this amazing restaurant in Cape Town”. Find out if those “shoulds” are what the clients want themselves, or what they think they should want.
As the experts, clients are placing their trust in you. So don’t count on them to do a lot of research or even know exactly what they want. Your knowledge and expertise is your value add, they see you as the travel guru. Use that knowledge wisely, if you know that a lodge is located outside the park and there can be long waiting times to enter – explain it to your clients so they are prepared but soften the blow by talking up the benefits of that location – even if it is just that it is significantly cheaper, however usually you can find another reason such as the opportunity for evening game drives on a private concession. It’s not just knowing all the facts, but knowing how to package those facts.
It is also necessary to note that expectations are not the same as standards. A lodge that advertises as 5 Star but is much closer to 1 or 2 deserves the bad reviews and disappointed guests. Standards are based on agreed upon quality measurements and are rooted in fact, expectations are more personal and subjective, which is why they can be managed.
At JENMAN African Safaris our safari specialists care deeply about ensuring that each guests has an unforgettable holiday in Africa, unforgettable for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. They have years of expertise and will work closely with agents to ensure that clients are satisfied, don’t hesitate to contact them – together you both have a shared goal, let’s work together.