I've been involved in the selling of travel online for a long time, but I'm relatively (5+ years this time around) new to being a retailer in this industry. But I'm not new to high-end retail - I grew up selling liquor to movie stars, T.V. stars, rock stars*, pop idols, famous cartoon animators, has-been stars and people who have had major streets named after them, and others in Hollywood.
And up until now I've never had a problem with trust. If prospective customers walked in the door on Sunset Boulevard, or called me up on the phone here in San Francisco, they kind of knew who I was. Or knew my dad's reputation in L.A. And that was that.
But with the economy the way it is, and with regular clients putting some travel plans on hold, and with referrals a bit lower than I'd like, I put my business on yelp! And, wouldn't you know, over the last few weeks the number of inquiries has grown significantly -- thanks much to my 5 star reviewers. But I'm finding that creating a certain level of trust is quite difficult. I never really thought anybody would question my honesty, but sure - why not? Ms or Mr Internet/yelp customer doesn't know me. They don't know my track record. They don't know how their money is protected. And they don't have any first hand knowledge that I know what I'm doing. beyond something they read on yelp!
Just yesterday one of my yelp customers called me. I booked her on a one week trip to Egypt and they're leaving today. They've tried to check out all my suppliers carefully online and haven't been successful. And she's let me know that they're nervous - especially her husband. Well the people I work with aren't big brands and they don't deal much with direct consumers so it's no surprise. And that's a call to me that I need to educate these type of new clients better.
I've tried letting her know that the agency I'm affiliated with has been around a long time, that we're a member of the most prestigious luxury travel network in the world, that my suppliers are exclusive and that they fly under the radar -- but what else can I do? Yes, she should buy insurance in case a supplier goes bankrupt - it's possible, especially today. She could call (on the phone) previous clients and get the 411 on us. She could call a hotel or two to make sure that they've been paid but that's a bit insane - or maybe not.
So I don't know. She told me that when she gets back she'll hopefully give me another 5 star rating on yelp! That would be great, but then the next prospective client won't really know her, will they?
*I'll name drop: Jim Morrison