Travel Counsellors understand the Power of Storytelling
Fred van Eijk, Managing Director of Travel Counsellors, comments that many parents will have experienced the rush home to do bedtime duty – getting the children’s PJs on and settled for a bedtime story. Or have the guilt of not doing as often as you would have liked or perhaps should have. Fortunately, flexible working now enables more people to be good parents and have a career too.
But it’s not just the kids that love a good story – they are what make us tick, whether it’s a plot in a soapie, a good book, a play or snappy headline that captures our attention, such as the recent ‘Australian Travel Counsellor helps his customer to pack her suitcase’. Indeed, every sales person in travel will have a story of how they have done something for a customer that has made that customer feel special.
In an ever-evolving industry where businesses are focused on data, profit and margin, we must remember what makes us different. The ability to create and share these stories is that differentiator, and it is more important and relevant than ever before.
According to a recent study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of current jobs are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years. You can google ‘will a robot take my job’ and see how future proof your profession is, or indeed the professions our children may be considering. Out of interest, travel agents score a relatively low chance of being automated (that’s a relief!). However, I also think this could be a little misleading.
If a ‘travel agent’ just does the booking for the customer, the risk of automation is high and indeed already with us. We have already seen the development of travel websites, supported by on-line virtual travel agents. However, whilst robots may be able to recount a story, they can’t create one. The travel advisers that stand out are the ones with the stories of how they have helped people. Most studies show that people buy based on emotion rather than logic, and stories and anecdotes will stir the emotion more than anything else. As cognitive scientist Roger C. Schank said; “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”
So, great travel advisers are also great storytellers and ‘social sharers’. Social media gives us the ability to collate our stories and share them across a global network of current and potential customers. We see daily occurrences of this with our Travel Counsellors. Here’s just one example…
Earlier this year two of our customers missed their flight for their Caribbean Cruise; their Travel Counsellor Nikki went above and beyond to get them re-booked so the holiday was unaffected; the customers were so grateful Nikki received a huge bunch of flowers that afternoon; Nikki shared her story on Facebook with a picture of the flowers. The result? Her most engaging post to date and several new enquiries from people who like the sound of her service.
These stories are free PR, the clearest sign of what you are about and they create the narrative and personality for the business and your personal brand. And don’t let the doom-mongers or defeatists convince you of anything to the contrary. In Daniel Pink’s bestseller ‘A Whole New Mind’, he states that “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathisers. The people, artists, investors, story tellers, caregivers, consolers, will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
That is why those jobs that are least likely to be automated are those that require the highest amount of human qualities such as empathy, including nursing, care workers and psychologists. The message for us in the industry, and those we want to encourage to join it, is simple – ramp up the care and empathy with a customer; focus on how you make them feel more than the price of what you offer; and ‘bring it to life’ by sharing the stories of the things you do naturally for customers because you care and you operate in a culture that fosters doing what is right for the customer.
So, when you’re telling those bedtime stories tonight remember that it’s all good practice for the office too!