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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Marketing your loyalty program: Lesson learned

“Looking back over your experiences as a bank travel leader, is there a time when you would have done something differently? Putting aside all those events that were out of your control — and we all know that events occur that are out of your control — what could you have done to achieve a better outcome?” That is the scenario we posed to three bank directors, who didn’t have to think long to remember a time or a general situation where they wish they could rewind the hands of time. Although their responses were different, what was especially impressive is that all three women could easily have passed off the responsibility for these mishaps. But they were eager to share their stories and the lessons they learned in the hope that they could help others. They all agreed that the weight of the bank travel program is ultimately on their shoulders. In the words of Marty Marra, director of Platinum Adventures Club at Northbrook Bank & Trust in Northfield, Illinois, “The buck stops here.” Don’t ever sweat it out Marra recounted a story from her early years as a bank director when she and a motorcoach full of Platinum Adventures Club members were headed to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. “It was a 90-degree day, and so we weren’t on the bus for very long before we realized the air conditioning was not working,” she said with a sigh. “Well, what was a bad situation almost turned into a catastrophe. We had a traveler who had asthma, and the situation became so unbearable, she had to call her husband to come meet her and take her home. While I called the bus company and made sure we had a new bus waiting for our return trip after the game, I felt horrible. “My lesson was that I should have checked to make sure everything was in working order on that bus. Despite the routine we fall into and assume that everything is good — because 99 percent of the time it is — you never know.” Although Marra never used that motorcoach company again, her bank has recently taken steps to ensure the best possible service from motorcoach vendors. “I’m just one of 10 sister banks, and we came to the conclusion that as we all take so many trips, we had strength in numbers. We got together and had motorcoach companies come in and talk to us about their service and give us a bid. In the end, we picked a company who was also a customer of the bank but not necessarily the cheapest. We have given them a six-month trial period, and I feel certain, considering the amount of business they have gained, that they will do an excellent job,” Marra said. “Regardless,” she added, “I’ll never leave the parking lot again without checking that all is well. Part of the service we give members is to ensure the best trip possible.” Never skip the homework Linda James, director of Landmark Club at Landmark Bank in Houston, Missouri, was also in her formative years as bank director when she agreed to a trip with a tour operator. “The trip had something called a ‘guaranteed departure,’ and unbeknownst to me, because I was naïve, I didn’t realize that I did not have guaranteed seats on this motorcoach that included other bank groups,” James recalled. “By the time I advertised the trip, and keeping in mind that on this occasion my customers were slow to sign up, the trip was almost full. I also didn’t realize that I could have taken advantage of a pre- and post-trip stay in the destination of origin, something I would have liked, but I don’t think I even knew to ask about such a thing. “As a result, I ended up turning customers down because there wasn’t enough room, and I didn’t get my comps. I have really learned to place the earliest possible sign-up date whenever possible, especially when we’re partnering with other groups and/or vying for the best cabins on a cruise ship. “There are bank directors out there who are so experienced that they would have known. But we’re always learning, and surely, something else will come along to stump me. But, hopefully, next time it won’t be because I didn’t research the situation.”