Comment: Be courteous and kind to inspire customer loyalty

Don’t ignore the saying ‘people will never forget how you made them feel’, says Aito Agents chair Gemma Antrobus

I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”

This quote from Maya Angelou is one of my all-time favourites and one that has helped me through some pretty challenging times over the past few years. It helped me to stay calm when clients were unable to do so; it helped me to be courteous when non-clients called for advice on travel restrictions at my busiest times; and it’s been the foundation for rebuilding my 35‑year‑old business.

It’s a huge shame that the bosses of P&O Ferries hadn’t taken heed of this quote when they made the horrendous decision to sack 800 staff with immediate effect, via a video message. It was awful to watch, and difficult to imagine how the P&O Ferries team must have felt, seeing their careers end without notice, without consultation and knowing that their jobs would be taken over by people paid considerably less.

Not only did P&O Ferries do irreparable damage to a team that had been loyal during the pandemic, but they also horrifically damaged their brand image, both to the trade and to the general public – seemingly with no forethought at all, bar saving money.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Whether you work for, or run, a large travel brand or a small independent business, the way you treat people, both within your business and externally, is key to your success and survival.

Respect your team

We all know that positive words about our businesses are incredibly valuable.

It costs up to five times more to attract new clients (or agents) than it does to retain existing clients. In turn, the conversations that they have with friends, family and colleagues are incredibly powerful in terms of gaining referral business. The way I was treated, both positively and negatively, during the pandemic has shaped – and shortened – the list of suppliers that I now work with.

How are you making your team feel, with business starting to flourish again? As we embark on this recovery journey, are they fully committed to the growth and success of your company? Do they understand both your vision for the business and how it will affect them, positively, in the future? Have they had a voice in how you move forward? It’s all about respect and positive communication, from – and for – everyone invested in the business.

Engender loyalty

It sounds simple, but when we are stretched to our limits, we tend to forget one of the most basic factors that delivers success: treating people with courtesy, politeness and kindness. Done properly, they will be hugely loyal to you – they will never forget how you make them feel!

Try to learn more about the opinions and ideas of your clients and teams. Not all will be appropriate, but you’ll be amazed at what comes from listening to those with a different perspective on the business. Using clients’ or team members’ ideas will engender true loyalty; it will also show that you are comfortable with new concepts and change.

Take your team and your clients on the journey with you. You don’t need to share every detail of your business plan, but sharing your vision will help them to see either how they can progress in the business, aiding staff retention or, for clients, show them how invested you are in them/their future travel plans, perhaps via a new brand, extended products or services.

When was the last time you said ‘thank you’? They’re such easy words to say and write, but they’re often overlooked. Gratitude and humility go a long way in today’s fast-paced and complicated world. Sometimes, we just need to remember the simple things.

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