These days, having a signed agreement or waiver between travel consultant and client has become imperative. Travel insurance declinations, travel planning agreements, credit card authorizations – it’s a fact of business and the CYA principle that the signature of a client is needed more than before. With the help of email and social media, it’s quite common for a travel consultant’s book of clients to include people all across the country, rather than just their immediate geographical region.
So, how does one get the signature of a client who lives far, far away? The traditional methods are faxing, emailing, and mailing. Each has their downsides that make it less than ideal to transact business.
Faxing – It’s easier today to fax material, especially with online fax services like eFax.com. Yet, it’s uncommon for the average Joe to have access to a fax service like this, or even a fax machine, without having to do it at the office or pay for it at a hotel or business services center like FedEx Office.
Emailing – Currently the favored child, this is a tad bit cumbersome. The document is emailed to the client, usually as a PDF or Word document, which then needs to be printed out. Then, it can be scanned back into the computer and emailed back, or it must be faxed or mailed back.
Mailing – The slowest of the bunch, sending documentation through the mail is surprisingly common. This one involves a bit more time and expense on the agency’s part and relies heavily on the client doing their part in a timely fashion. One has to consider the costs of envelopes, stamps, and time to prepare documents for mailing as well as delivery time which can take up to five business days each way. Most of the time, this works without a hitch, but the time delay is a major negative factor in today’s fast-paced business world.
But, did you know there is another option available to you? Electronic document signing!
Companies like Docusign (www.docusign.com) and Echosign (www.echosign.com) provide electronic signature services that you can use to enhance your client’s experience with your agency. Since these services aren’t completely widespread, they will require you to educate your clients on their use, but they’re fairly simple and they will save you headaches associated with the above methods and achieve the same results!
Here’s how they work: You upload the document you want signed to the company website, which formats them in a PDF-style format. You indicate where on the document signatures and/or initials are required, and the site software places input boxes in those areas. Add some basic information about the person who will be signing them (often their name and email address). The clients is then sent an email by the company inviting them to view the documents and sign them electronically. They are able to create a physical-looking signature that will be added to the documents in the indicated areas just as if they had signed them in person. The documents are then made available to you for downloading for your files.
The service is not free, however, especially if you intend to do a healthy number of documents. You can expect around $15 per month and up depending on how many documents you need signed and what extra features you wish to use. I recommend taking a peek at these two companies and considering if they will make a good fit for your business operations!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea (http://www.exclusiveeventsatsea.com) and Journeys By Steve (http://www.journeysbysteve.com) with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. He can be reached at email@example.com.