Expert advice not always so expert

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I’ve just returned from a travel conference. All in all it was a good trip. I learned about popular destinations, discovered new marketing tips and gained valuable insight on business management. You know what else I learned? Experts sometimes speak in circles.

Take my class on client relationships. Our knowledgeable speaker gained my attention when he praised the merits of travel agents. We give personal service, expert knowledge and are a trusted partner when things go wrong. Online travel booking Web sites just can’t compare. He lost me, though, when he stated we should be available 24/7 by having online booking capabilities built into our Web sites. Isn’t this the opposite of personal service?

A marketing expert suggested we do whatever it takes to stand out. Go above and beyond, she urged; treat every customer as if he were your only one. Her stance changed the next day during the business-marketing seminar. Here I learned I should focus on my customers with the largest bookings. I don’t need those other clients; I can redirect them to the Internet. So much for every customer counting!

Another speaker talked about the importance of having a unique Web site. It is, he insists, our brand. My Web site is my resume to the world and should give the reader a glimpse of who I am (and a reason to call me over the competition). Later in his talk, the speaker revealed I can take advantage of his Web site hosting services. Here I can get a distinctive Web site with the same up-to-date travel information as about a 1,000 other agents. Doesn’t sound very unique to me ….

While I learned many things, this conference gave me one real takeaway. I need to work hard, educate myself and treat each client with the respect they deserve. No expert can argue with that.

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