Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, wants you to be a Q in a world of O's.

The majority of travel professionals are O's, she told agents during Travel Leaders Network's EDGE conference last month at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They're well-rounded, educated, have plenty of knowledge and practice great customer service.

But how does an agent set themselves apart in a world of O's? That, Freed said, is where the Q comes in. The letters are similar, but there's a key difference: the hook in the letter Q. It makes it stand out. So what makes you stand out?

"I don't have the answer for you, but I can help — because there is no silver bullet, there is no one answer," she said. 

Providing great customer service isn't enough to become a Q. Everyone, Freed said, is doing that. Instead, agents should look for something special.

It should be something simple that can be done frequently, Freed said, but it should also be unexpected, something that wows the client, something they didn't expect. In short, something memorable. A signature mark, she said.

"It begins with listening," she said, "because when you listen to your clients, you pick up some great tips."

A Q would use those tips, like likes and dislikes, to later follow up with and wow the client.

Being a Q will help enhance an agent's connection with clients, Freed said, citing a statistic that three out of five travelers polled would book their vacation from another travel partner. When asked why, she said, they responded, "I just didn't feel connected. It's not that you've provided them bad service."

Freed also offered some real-life Q's as inspiration.

For instance, a barista at Starbucks. Instead of a standard greeting, Freed said, she asks, "How do I pour you a cup of happiness today?"

Or, a favorite waiter of Freed's at her local Capital Grille restaurant. After her first time dining there, he asked for her group's business cards, and wrote them thank-you notes. It was a practice he kept up with over the years, earning Freed's repeat business. She even followed him to another restaurant when he left, until he decided to return to Capital Grille — and so did Freed.

She also shared the story of a maid at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., that an associate shared with her. A woman was staying there for a weekend getaway with her two small children. Her 5-year-old was very into the movie "Toy Story" and brought a number of toys with him. The maid noticed and the next morning brought in her "Toy Story" DVD, leaving it with a note that she wanted the family to enjoy it during their stay.

They are all Q's, Freed said, going above and beyond in the realm of customer service and making themselves totally memorable.

"It goes back to listening and then doing something with the knowledge you have," Freed said.

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