Word-of-mouth referrals are more valuable than ever in our internet and social media-driven society. In fact, over a third of participants in a recent survey said they decided to use a travel agent because of a friend’s recommendation. But how do travel agents go about gaining these valuable referrals without isolating their current clients? Here are four tips for travel agents looking to increase their client base by leveraging their existing client relationships:

Don’t wait too long, but don’t ask too soon

When is the best time to ask your client for a referral? Immediately after a trip? A week later? A month after? Too early makes a callous impression, but too late and the client no longer has their trip or experience with you top of mind. Knowing the right timing will somewhat depend on the individual client and the type of travel you planned for them. However, it’s good rule of thumb to never ask for a referral or review when presenting a bill or asking for payment from a client.

Thank clients who refer you to their friends

Let clients know you appreciate their business and the time and consideration they put into referring your travel agency to one of their friends. While a verbal or written thank you will be appreciated, consider including a type of incentive or gift as well. Gift cards to their favorite restaurants or discounts on future travel booked through your agency can be sent as a thank you or offered before as an incentive. Don’t just say thank you when your client’s referral lands you a new client. Show appreciation when you ask, when you follow up and if you connect with a new client from that referral.

Engage with them on social media

Social media has paved the way for people to share the experiences with their friends and even strangers with a few clicks on their keyboard. Often times after a vacation, clients will post pictures of their travels on Facebook or Instagram. If you’ve established a relationship with that client and follow their social media accounts, this is a great time to comment or respond to their vacation post. Keep it short and simple, maybe saying something like “Looks like you guys had an amazing time! So glad I could help you plan your dream vacation.” This is a subtler way to get your travel agency in front of your clients’ friends and followers.

Stop being afraid to ask

Travel agents spend a lot of time and energy ensuring our clients’ vacations are enjoyable and stress-free. So why are we afraid of asking those happy, loyal clients to refer our services to their friends? Many people, especially happy customers, like the opportunity to help others, and asking for reviews and referrals is common practice in almost all industries. So, don’t be afraid to make it a routine to ask each of your clients to refer your services to a friend after their trip.