Our Crucial (and Simple) Advice to Covering Your A$$ets
For some, showing off your assets is seen as “good for business” (see J.Lo and Shakira for reference) but for small business owners, it’s imperative that we cross our t’s and dot our i’s. If we were in a perfect world, travel agency owners would never worry about fraud, cyber threats, or angry and confused clients demanding a full refund (did they not read the T&C’s?!). Unfortunately, we’re not in a perfect world. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave your business assets vulnerable to regrettable circumstances. As an entrepreneur, it’s imperative you actively protect you and your business. Remember, it’s best to be proactive than reactive.
Hopefully, you’ve already taken an Errors and Omissions policy – or it’s the first thing on your to-do list. And while that’s a start, below we’re sharing crucial, yet simple tips to cover your assets.
Never book air for clients coming from unsolicited emails or phone calls
Yes, we’re all waiting for that spectacular prospective client to just fall from the sky and onto our laps but be wary; these potential “clients” can be scam artists. According to a Forbes article, phishing scams have cost American businesses half a billion dollars a year. Here are some red flags to note:
- Client is asking for last minute travel to an international location. Typically, a country in South America, Asia, or Africa.
- Client isn’t concerned with price or service fees.
- Email requests have obvious spelling errors in the body, subject line, or even the sender’s email!
If you suspect you’re dealing with a scam artist, don’t be afraid to turn their “business” away. Heck, just delete the email.
Don’t Trust the Internet
According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of small businesses were vulnerable to cyber attacks. Phishing and hacking are the most common attacks while email attachments make 94% of malware entry points. All of this is to say - you can’t blindly trust the Internet.
If you’re not expecting an email from someone asking for sensitive information, reach out to them and confirm it’s really them. Ensure your passwords are strong by including a combination of lowercase and capital letters, numbers and special characters. (If your current password is 123456 or password1, we have some serious work to do.)
Other good cyber security tips you should adopt are:
- Install anti-virus software
- Back up your laptop or computer
- Verify email senders and open attachments with caution
- If you travel a lot, avoid free wifi and use a VPN
Sure, your business may not be as profitable as Target or Facebook (two large corporations that have fallen prey to cyber attacks) but that doesn’t mean you should leave your backdoor open.
Strongly Offer Travel Insurance
If you’re hesitant to offer your clients insurance because it may come off as an up-charge, don’t be. Explain that their best interest is your best interest. Use what you’ve learned about your client and offer a plan that works best with their needs and/or budget. Remind them that you’re not a magical genie (even though you come pretty, darn close) so you can’t guarantee a seamless vacation. And if after all this, your client still denies the insurance, get it in writing!
Now, this brings us to our next point…
Have a Paper Trail
Even if you’ve gone fully digital, keeping reading! A good rule of thumb is to have a “paper trail” for anything that requires your client’s approval or rejection. Trust me, this is one of the most efficient ways of protecting yourself that many advisors overlook.
Whenever a client calls to make payment or put a deposit down, make sure that you have a valid and signed Credit Card Authorization form from them. In case there’s ever a charge back (another reminder that we’re not in a perfect world), physical proof is the only way of protecting yourself. If you don’t already have one, simply search for a template online or ask your host agency.
Another perfect opportunity for adopting a physical paper trail is your cancellation policy. If you truly want to ensure your clients understand the cancellation policy, have them sign a form that clearly and plainly states they acknowledge and understand the terms and conditions of their trip. In the event they want to cancel and freak out when you tell them there’s a penalty, you have the written and signed proof. “He said, she said” rarely ends well.
While the aforementioned tips may seem elementary, they’re easily forgotten and overlooked because they’re simple. They’ll probably remain forgotten until they bite you in the ass(ets). Obviously, there’s plenty of other ways to protect yourself as a travel agency owner. For more tailored advice, we recommend partnering with a host agency that has your back. At TPI, our passion is making your business a thriving success. Our mission is to provide all of the tools, support, and services to ensure you’re the most knowledgeable, efficient, competitive, and profitable travel advisor in the industry! You can read more about us here.
2020 is the year your business reaches unparalleled heights and your a$$ets are fully covered. Now, off to work!