This weekend, I was working on some travel projects and getting documents together for clients leaving in a few weeks. I took a breather and decided to go into a forum I frequent, Travel Agency Best Practices. There was an interesting thread about a client who insisted on doing their own air arrangements while the agent handled the land arrangements. Throughout the process, the agent had confirmed and re-confirmed the dates and the client was adamant that the dates were indeed correct. Well, you guessed it. The client did not realize the departing flight arrived the following day and they lost a day of travel. And, I will give you one guess who the client wanted to blame! I chimed in and said that in those instances, I insist that the client provide us a copy of the airline or agency issued itinerary for verification. Others replied and the chatter went back and forth for a while.
I also mentioned that I have a contract that I have each and every client, existing and new, sign before I begin planning a trip. In this contract, I state that I charge a travel-planning fee. This seems to eliminate the shoppers so I can focus on the people who truly want to have my expertise in planning their travel adventures. The banter continued on fees for a while and we went from why we should to why we shouldn’t—and everywhere in between. I was surprised that 15 or 20 on the forum wanted a copy of my contract. I believe in helping others so I forwarded each of them a copy. Some I believe already had contracts, and wanted to see mine, but I believe the majority didn’t—and that is concerning. Errors and Omissions Insurance can help in certain circumstances, but when the client makes the mistake, I am pretty sure you are out of luck. Now if it were to go that far, I am sure a court would side with the agent, but that can be costly in terms of dollars, time, and potentially reputation.
In this day and age, we need to make sure we protect ourselves. Every other profession does. We need to make sure the terms are spelled out clearly so the agency and the client knows what to expect. The critical part is to get signatures acknowledging that the client read an understood the terms. The idea of a blanket statement at the end of an invoice without any acknowledgement by way of a signature does not prove that the statement was read. And often more importantly, it does not include the terms of the vendor with whom the travel is booked. I feel signatures are a must!
I wonder how many travel professionals utilize contracts or agreements? Over the years, I have only had one client refuse to sign the contract; but she ended up not booking, but paying for my time so it was not a total loss. Do you use a contract? Are you religious on getting signatures?
And what about fees? Do you use a straight planning fee? A percentage? Or a menu?
I am very customer centric and will go out of my way to make things right—even if I am not at fault. But, with the litigious world in which we live, I need to be careful. As we all know, the profit margin is very small and even a relatively small hit could mean the difference between profit and loss. We all have small bottom lines and we need to protect ourselves!
Jamison has traveled to over 35 countries, including most of Europe. Wandering Puffin LLC. Is located in Minneapolis, MN. Jamison can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 763-244-0669.www.wanderingpuffin.com.