And the president of Carefree World Travel ensures that his customers keep coming back by building relationships with them.
“Stay in touch with your customer,” Dusing says. “Talk with them a lot to find out how things are going, and always look for opportunities in your industry to provide a service you’re not providing right now.”
Dusing says you must provide value-added services to your customers to maintain a competitive advantage, something he does at his $14.7 million company by educating his corporate clients about managing their trips and by studying their travel expenditures to uncover cost savings.
Smart Business spoke with Dusing about how he establishes partnerships with clients and how he keeps the lines of communication open.
Q. How do you build partnerships with clients?
We try to establish a relationship at each level of the customer’s company. Personally, I try to establish a relationship with the executive team, the owner, the president and the (chief financial officer) within the company.
Our salesperson is very good at getting in and meeting the travel coordinators and the people that deal with the management of the company’s travel program on a day-to-day basis. And then the agents work on a daily basis with the people actually doing the traveling.
If something goes wrong, we have that relationship and are able to identify the problem and get it fixed fairly quickly. There’s an open level of communication at each one of those levels so that if something does happen, we know about it.
Q. How do you keep the lines of communication open?
We meet and talk with them. It’s not through e-mail; it’s a personal relationship that we try to develop. If we have a new company that comes on board, we identify the people that we need to get to know, and then if there’s an opportunity, we’ll take our agents out and get them to meet the people on the other end of the phone.
Don’t depend on one relationship because when that person leaves, you have none.
Q. What one thing can prevent a company from growing?
Not talking with your customers and not knowing what their goals are. When you’re working with a customer, take the time to learn what their goals are.
You have to work together to make sure you’re delivering what they’re looking for at a fair price. If you don’t know your customers’ goals, you’re just not on same page.
Q. How can executives ensure that their employees hear their message?
There’s an old saying, ‘Somebody needs to hear something six to 10 times before it actually sinks in.’ I do see that, and it’s a frustration of management. If we have a meeting, we’ll put the meeting minutes out in writing, and at the next meeting, we’ll bring it up again because we realize it’s not going to sink in the first time that somebody hears it.
The other thing that I really dislike from a management standpoint is e-mail. I’ve told my managers, ‘We don’t manage through e-mail.’ It’s so easy for a manager to send a quick e-mail out to the staff, but do the employees read it fully? So many employees in the work force today receive so many e-mails, it almost becomes a background for them.
And it’s the same thing in dealing with your customers: If you don’t have all the answers, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t play pingpong back and forth with somebody for a week to try to settle one small issue.
Q. What advice would you share with other leaders who are trying to grow their company?
Sign all checks to keep control over what is being spent in the company. If you’re signing the checks, you can see the money that’s going out and what’s being spent for different items, the office supplies or the travel or the utilities.
If your employees know that you’re signing every check and that you’re seeing everything, it curtails what they spend.
When interviewing someone for a position with your company, I would recommend having them take a personality test, and there are a lot of good personality tests out there. Get a focus on the employee, know what’s important to them and know what values they have before you hire them.
If you take the time to really look at the employee before you hire them, you’re not wasting your time. They’re going to work out, and they’re going to be a long-term employee. They’re easier to work with, and they get along with the other employees.
You want to hire someone that is looking for a career, not a job. I’m always looking for somebody that’s able to grow within the company. Everybody that is in management here has come up through the company, rather than being an outside hire.
HOW TO REACH: Carefree World Travel, (317) 899-4477 or www.carefreetravel.net