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Are you authentic?

September 9th, 2013 . by John Frenaye

On the weekends, I tend to let any office calls received go to my voicemail. Last night, I was in the middle of heading out to the grocery and the phone rang and I ended up answering the call.  It was a woman from New York who had heard of our group trips and needed more information—pretty standard phone call.

Based on past (bad) experiences, I do not put everything out front on the website and most people will call for more information. This gives me the opportunity to somewhat size up the client to make sure he or she is a good fit for the group.   So, we had a great conversation and she was pretty excited about the trip and was ready to leave a deposit.  And then she asked, “so, how do I check you out before giving my money to you?” 

This is a question I had not been asked in a long time. I do have an old list of references, but I reasoned to myself that it was almost too old and I feared the clients might not be receptive to a call.  I explained our history, how long we had been in business, the services we offer, how our trips are run, and more; but none really seemed to address my prospect’s question. Honestly, for under $100 I could create a website, toss up a PayPal link and pretend I was anything I wanted—buyer beware.  In the end, I came up with a good solution that works in my situation—call the supplier directly and ask about me. I explained that they shouldn’t book with them (our prices are lower), but they certainly will be able to vouch for our reputation.

I am fortunate that I have a small niche and deal personally with a limited number of suppliers. I am not so sure this would work if they called Royal Caribbean or Apple Vacations. And that, to me poses a problem for many non-storefront agencies.

For less than $100 I could create a website, toss up a PayPal link and begin collecting deposits for trips that never materialize.   From a consumer’s point of view, I can understand the hesitancy—in particular from my demographic of single parents who typically are surviving on a single income.

Have you ever had a client question your authenticity? How do you handle it?

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Join the Discussion - Post your comment  2 Responses to “Are you authentic?”

  1. Jamie Bachrach Says:

    Hi John,

    Yes, I have had that situation, as well. I do also have a smaller niche and am willing to provide references of my recent clients, but I do understand. Perhaps checking the legitimacy of being a part of the BBB will work, something, I am considering doing shortly, now that I will be entering my 7th year in business.

    It is a valid concern, and I do address it, but you are also right, people put their credit information out there on many sites and for other entities. Many of my new leads come from Tripology and since others have posted about my services, I believe this helps. I also let them know that I have a contract and will not accept a payment with a signature as a protection to the client, but also to myself. After I have had a chance to talk with the client and give viable assurances, generally, we are able to proceed. Only once did a new client (actually a referral) not feel comfortable working with me (more for my contract) then me, and stated in no uncertain terms that AAA does not have a contract. In the end, the client paid me my fee for my time and did everything herself.

  2. Maryann Portone Says:

    I can understand a new client wanting to be comfortable before handing over thousands of dollars. I work with groups, so my clients are responsible not only for their own money but also for that of their friends and family members; so I keep a list of satisfied clients. If someone asks me for a reference, I contact the current client and ask if he/she would mind giving a prospective new client some information about us. Most are happy to do so. Sometimes we offer a small incentive to the current client. Incidentally, I usually ask for a refeence when I am working with a supplier new to me.

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