This is not legal advice, just friendly information :)

The Tour Operators' Coronavirus Toolkit

This is a painful time for all of us. Many tour operators are dealing with new problems. Here's what we're learning.
"If you can keep your head when all about you  
are losing theirs and blaming it on you..."

Contact Your Elected Officials

Thank you to the Student & Youth Travel Association for spearheading this content. We believe one of the most important things you can do today to help our industry is to contact your elected officials. STYA put together a great resource on how to do it.

Communication with Customers

In times of stress like this, here are some tips to survive the storm.
Re-Read Your Emails

It's so easy to fire off a quick email and move on. However, we'd highly suggest re-reading emails. It's so important that your mind is clear and your thoughts are precise when you're communicating a situation with clients.

It's Okay to Go for a Walk

Although you're working hard and getting your tasks completed on time, it's important to also prioritize mental health and team morale. Check in with your coworkers and staff. Take small breaks if necessary between big projects or tough calls to get your focus back on track.

How to Deal with Angry Customers

You and your team have probably fielded hundred of calls from concerned participants and parents. Some tips to remember moving forward with your work week are:

  • Remain calm and take a breath.
  • Explain that this is an unprecedented event and it's out of your control.
  • Be sincere, even if you're burned out.
  • Don't take it personally. They're under stress as well.
  • The only thing you can control is your response.
Other Helpful Links

Metro Statuses

Links to metro cities and their DMO, CVB, and TDC status pages.
Washington, D.C.

Washington.org

Orlando, Florida

Orlando.org

New York City

NYCGO.com

San Diego, Ca.

SanDiego.org

Philadelphia

discoverphl.com

Chicago, Il.

ChooseChicago.com

Dallas, Tx.

VisitDallas.com

Seattle, Wa.

VisitSeattle.org

San Francisco

SFTravel.com

Fort Worth, Tx.

FortWorth.com

Michigan

Michigan.gov

Nashville, Tn.

VisitMusicCity.com

Virginia

Virginia.gov

Colorado

Colorado.com

Louisiana

Louisiana.com

St. Louis, Mo.

ExploreStLouis.com

Boston, Ma.

BostonUSA.com

Atlanta, Ga.

Atlanta.net

San Antonio, Tx.

VisitSanAntonio.com

Credit Card Disputes

Painful credit card disputes and dealing with the process
How long is the dispute process?

There is a limited period of time during which you can respond to disputes (usually 7–21 days); the amount of time available is provided in the dispute information. After that time has passed, no further responses or evidence can be submitted. Once you have submitted a response, it generally takes the card issuer 60–75 days to reach a final decision.

Responding to disputes

If you receive a dispute, you may want to first get in touch with the customer and discuss it before you respond. It’s possible that they simply did not recognize or remember the transaction. If an email address was provided to Stripe when creating the payment, click “Email customer” to create a new email that contains information about the dispute.

Submitting evidence

The evidence you submit should be related to the reason for the dispute. Web-logs, email communications, proof of prior refunds or replacement shipments, etc., can all be helpful.

Keep your evidence relevant

Provide only the facts surrounding the original purchase, using a neutral and professional tone. For example:
“Jenny Rosen purchased X from our company on [date] using their Visa credit card. The customer agreed to our terms of service and authorized this transaction. We shipped the product on [date] to the address provided by the customer, and it was delivered on [date].”

Include proof of customer authorization

Fraudulent disputes account for over half of all disputes. Proving that the legitimate cardholder was aware of and authorized the transaction being disputed is vitally important in such cases. Any data that shows proof of this is a standard part of a compelling response, such as:

  • Signed receipts or contracts
  • IP address that matches the cardholder's verified billing address
Misunderstandings

For disputes that are the result of a misunderstanding, your customer can tell their card issuer that they no longer dispute the transaction. It’s still important that you submit evidence to show that the payment was valid to make sure the card issuer knows you are not accepting the dispute. In cases where you agree that the customer should keep the disputed funds, you should accept the dispute rather than ask the cardholder to withdraw the dispute for a regular refund. Remember, the card networks don't consider how many disputes you win or lose, only how many you receive.

Effective Customer Communication

Clear and frequent contact with your customers can help prevent many of the reasons for disputes. By responding to issues and processing refunds, your customers are far less likely to take the time to dispute a payment. Make your customer service contact information prominent. Keep customers updated throughout their order process and provide updates to delivery information. Include a clear description of your refund and cancellation policies in your terms of service. You can require your users to agree to your terms of service in order to increase the likelihood that card issuers respect your policies, in the event of a dispute.

  • In general, you should make your terms of service and policies easy to find on your website, and require customers to agree to them.
  • Card issuers can be very specific about how policies are presented to your customers. If you have a checkbox that your customer must accept which only contains a link, this can often be rejected by the card issuer as unsatisfactory evidence that your customer had been aware of your policies. There must be reasonable evidence that your customer was presented with a full copy of your policies prior to their purchase.
  • Admins: Use a recognizable name for your statement descriptor. This can be set or updated in your account settings. We recommend using your website domain or business name. This helps avoid customer confusion when they look at their statement. Statement descriptors are limited to between 5 and 22 characters. They must contain at least five letters and can't use special characters. Avoid using the same Stripe account for separate businesses. Each Stripe account should represent a single business, to allow for separate statement descriptors and contact information. If you need to process payments for multiple businesses, you can create additional accounts for each.
What are some ways I can prevent subscription canceled chargebacks?
  • Offer a quick and easy way to cancel. 
  • Clearly communicate billing terms up front before accepting cardholder information.
  • Require the cardholder to click an 'opt-in' button stating they've agreed to the billing terms.
  • Implement a flexible refund/return policy. For example, if a user cancels the day after being billed, offer a full or prorated refund. Extended Trip Cancellation Protection might be effective at retaining a customer.
  • Send billing reminders, especially for autopay customers, two to three days before a monthly renewal (in our case, payment reminders).


Downloadable Responses

Again, this is NOT legal advice, it's just information. Thank you Jeff Ment for putting these documents together for Tour Operator distribution.
Written Response to Refunds

As a Tour Operator navigating through the COVID-19 waters, you might find yourself in the predicament of refunding customers payments regardless if they purchased Trip Cancellation Protection. If you do, it's recommended you get your customers to sign a letter acknowledging their refund.

Download "Sample Refund Letter"
Written Response to Chargebacks

We have highlighted detailed chargeback information, tips and some "what to expects" from this process. If a letter to your customer in a more pressing fashion needs to be sent, take a look at our sample letter.

Download "Sample Chargeback Letter"
Acknowledgement & Waiver Letter

If a trip can still occur outside of your company yet using the same itinerary, it's recommended to get a letter signed for your records.

Download "Acknowledgement & Waiver Letter"
Suggest more

We are always looking for more resources. Email camille@groupcollect.com with any suggestions.

Cancellations, postponed trips, and lay-off. Here are a few financial resources.
U.S. SBA Loans & Grants

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program offers small businesses working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to help overcome temporary loss of revenue.

Credit Card Payments

BankRate.com has an informative article on dealing with credit card companies and payment during this crisis.

Suggest more

We are always looking for more resources. Email camille@groupcollect.com with any suggestions.

Tips for Working Remotely

Many tour operators are switching their offices to remote operations. Here are some tips:
Set Hours

Stick to regular office hours. Without a clear transition, it’s easy for work and home life to bleed into one another. Maintaining structure will help.

Focus on the Work

Don’t let housework distract you. Have a quiet, comfortable space for working. Let the house stay dirty until your workday is over, or do a little cleaning during your breaks.

Communication with Coworkers

Honor communication boundaries. Don’t answer work calls after you've hung your hat up for the day. Keep these boundaries firm so you can give your brain a rest. This helps you perform better while you're working remotely.

Your Shutdown Routine

You'll need a set of practices to help you transition from the end of your workday to the beginning of your evening. Commuting allows this to happen naturally, but working from home doesn’t. Structure your work, and then unwind in a healthy way.

Get Setup

Keep your office workspace at home set up. The more time you spend setting up and breaking down is less time you can spend working on your normal work tasks.

Be Kind To Yourself

Reward yourself with breaks. Every 60-90 minutes, take a lap around your block or home, which helps reset your focus after finishing a large task. Breaking up your day allows you stay on task.

Less Distractions

Stack your questions and needs for others on your team. When working at home, you’ll need clarification and questions answered just like during a normal workday. Keep a list of questions and space out calls so as not to distract others working at home, Get them answered all at once when you meet with a coworker or boss.

Set Expectations

Set expectations about your availability with the people you share a space with. Cohabitation and working from home also needs to have a structure. Talk through timelines with your partner / family members to outline free times and work times.

Tools for Working Remotely

Making the switch to a remote office means you'll need new office tools.
Office Chatroom

Inter-office communication is a tough transition. Shifting from sitting right next to a coworker to being miles apart takes time. We suggest a simple online chatroom for your office. Below are some of our favorite chatrooms:

Virtual Phone System

A virtual phone system will allow you to route calls to specific departments without installing in-office hardware. Many of these apps have recording features that might be helpful during legal disputes. Below are some of our favorite phone systems:

Productivity

Working at home is tough at first, with so many distractions: Facebook, news, twitter, YouTube all begging for your attention. Here are some apps we love that help with productivity:

Video Chat & Screenshare

Previously in your office you could say, "Hey Sally, let me show you this on my screen." Well, if you're remote, that's impossible, unless you set up screen sharing and a video chat software product. Below are some of our favorite apps:

Payroll Apps

If you're not processing your payroll online, then you're really missing out. Here are some of our favorite web-based payroll products:

Suggest more

We're always looking for more resources. Email camille@groupcollect.com with any suggestions.

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Schedule a 15 minute demo and see all the cool features for yourself. Camille and Kiran will walk you through all the workflows and answer your questions in their 15 minute screen-sharing session with you.
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