From WeTravel’s industry outlook survey on the impact of COVID-19, we know the knock-on effect that vendors’ response to cancellations and refunds can have on travel businesses. Any resistance or slow response makes it all the more difficult to meet client expectations and can result in disputes.
Understandably, everyone is facing challenges due to the pandemic and responding to the situation in different ways when things don’t go according to plan. Travel companies should be prepared for this and uncover strategies for resolving disputes so they can communicate effectively with clients and vendors. Now is not the time to miss the mark.
The Cancellation Conundrum
As a payment and booking platform for travel companies, we’re seeing a high number of trip cancellations in 2020 due to coronavirus uncertainties.
The affected travel companies are responding to client requests for refunds, or if the travelers agree, they are also postponing or passing credits for future use.
Where companies have already paid over money to vendors, they have to negotiate a refund themselves to pass onto their clients.
In some cases, this overlap has left the travel companies with the shorter end of the stick. For example, at the time of the survey, nearly half of tour operators had processed refunds for their clients, even though some were waiting on the same from their vendors.
On the other hand, only 39% of vendors had allowed refunds, with 11% unwilling to refund or reschedule at all.
This leaves travel businesses with fewer options for negotiating solutions with their clients.
Regardless of the circumstances, resisting or ignoring the situation won’t do anyone any favors. Instead, travel companies should work on communicating efficiently with vendors and clients to reach a suitable agreement on cancellations and refunds.
In particular, any lapse in communication with customers can lead to them getting frustrated and filing disputes with their payment card company. Without the agreement of both parties, these can go on to become chargebacks, which have potentially negative consequences for a business.
What Are Disputes Exactly, and Why Do They Matter?
Our blog post on credit card disputes goes into detail on what disputes are and when they become chargebacks.
As a quick recap, disputes can occur if your client disagrees with the accuracy of an amount you have charged them.
If you are unable to resolve the matter together, they will likely file a claim with the payment card processor. This can lead to a chargeback being issued in favor of the client, which you will automatically be liable for.
Through everything, there’s the matter of maintaining your reputation as well. Negative dealings with clients and vendors now, can damage ties and affect your ability to resume business in the future.
Communication Strategies For Resolving Disputes
If you haven’t been able to prevent disputes from happening in the first place, then you’ll need to focus on strategies for dispute resolution.
Pre-empt disputes and provide assurance that you’ll be in touch shortly. You can post a message on your website that everyone can see, or set up an autoresponder for incoming communication. Let clients and vendors know that you are working through queries systematically and will get back to them within a specific timeframe.
Respond to queries as soon as possible. Leaving communication unanswered for too long can lead to unhappy customers who escalate the matter to the bank.
Really Listen To What’s Been Said
Start conversations with an open mind. Explain your situation to the other person, and make a point of really listening to what they have to say in response. A misunderstanding may have arisen as a result of miscommunication or lack of information, so clarify your standpoint and be open to hearing theirs in return.
Allow Flexibility Given The Situation
Be flexible and empathetic given the times and stress that everyone is under. Allowing some flexibility in your usual approach to cancellations will go a long way for resolving disputes. Your clients were ready to go on a trip of a lifetime and have had to cancel due to uncertainties concerning their livelihood. Be aware of this and acknowledge it when negotiating.
Speak Honestly With Vendors
Similarly, in dealing with uncooperative suppliers, explain your position and expectations for resolution. With a clear understanding of your situation and the commitments you need to fulfill to clients, they may relax their cancellation policies, especially if they want the opportunity to engage in business in the future.
Work Towards A Resolution
Communicate constructively. Make it known that you want to find a resolution and the person on the other end will usually reciprocate. Taking a respectful approach from the beginning should lay the path for a productive conversation.
Focus On Solutions and Outcomes
Keep your focus on solutions. Losing patience during the conversation may make it harder to reach an agreement with the other person. Stay focused on the outcomes you want to achieve and maintain your sense of calm.
Keep The Future In Mind
Think for the long term. While we are living through trying times at the moment, it won’t always be the case. When engaging in any communication, frame your interactions with thoughts for the long term. Once this is over, you’ll have to start winning over clients with life-changing trips supported by your valued vendors again. For this, you’ll need to keep your stellar reputation and bridges intact.
Effective and clear communication strategies for dispute resolution during a crisis can make all the difference to your business. It can prevent clients from filing damaging chargebacks, as well as ensure that your relationships remain on good terms for working together in the future.