Managing Cancellations: Best Practices for Your Business and Your Customers
Cancellations are unfortunately a part of every operator’s life. Do you know the best strategies for managing your cancellations to help you provide a better customer experience? Rosie Boosey, Account Manager at Viator gives you all the tips and tricks you need to know about cancellations!
Cancellations have been a much talked about topic over the last year. Managing your cancellations effectively—whether proactively through flexible cancellation policies, or after the booking is confirmed, to ensure minimal disruption for your customers—can make your experiences more attractive for travelers looking to book, help you better retain your confirmed bookings, and provide a better customer experience.
The flexibility that the majority of you offer with our standard cancellation terms has given travelers the confidence that they’ve needed to take the step and book experiences this year.
However, many of you have also been faced with the more uncommon situation in which you as operators have had to cancel on your booked customers due to changing restrictions. This article will give you some helpful tips to use and key things to remember when it comes to managing your availability, bookings, and cancellations.
Maintaining up-to-date availability
Whether you apply blockouts in the ‘Availability’ tab of the Management Center or in your own reservation system, if connected on the Viator API, keep your product’s availability up-to-date so that when you’re taking bookings, you know these will most likely be fulfilled. Remember that once a booking is confirmed, customers will be excited and looking forward to your experience.
If a product is no longer operating, or has sold out, you should add blockouts, update the pricing schedule on your product, or disable the product if it is not operating in the long term by changing the product’s status to “Inactive”. Remember that an ‘Inactive’ product can always be easily re-activated within the management centre, so don’t worry if you are not certain about the future of your product, this can always be reversed.
- With our ‘Bulk’ update tool, you can block out multiple dates in one go within the ‘Availability’ tab, making it quick and simple for you to keep your product’s availability up to date.
- When blocking out a future date, be sure to select the correct reason from the dropdown list. If you select ‘not operating’ the system will subsequently cancel any existing bookings for that date. If you select ‘sold out’, any existing bookings will remain confirmed.
Continuing operations with less travelers
Travel has looked very different over the past year and we know you’re finding new ways to meet new traveler needs. With more travelers seeking out private or small-group tours, and fewer travelers this year due to restrictions at home and abroad, here are some helpful tips to help you to continue operating with fewer travelers.
- Consider amending before canceling: If your bookings are spread thinly across multiple days, see if you can join up customers to increase the group size to a level at which it’s viable for you to run your tour or activity. Contacting customers through the ‘Message Traveler’ button within the Bookings tab is quick and easy, and customers will appreciate the offer of another day or time before being canceled on. If your customers are happy to change the date or time of their booking, you can simply amend the booking by contacting our customer care team. Alternatively, when initiating a cancellation in the management center, depending on the cancellation reason you select, the system may prompt you to offer an alternative date or time for the traveler.
- Pricing your experience for smaller group numbers: Consider increasing your prices slightly to enable you to operate with fewer customers. Always compare your prices with similar products in the marketplace to judge how much you can increase them while still remaining competitive and attractive to travelers. You could also look at adding small-group or private options for your product, if you don’t already do so.
- Focus on reviews: Consider operating your tour with a smaller group than usual to deliver your best service possible. With a lower customer to guide ratio, there is a higher chance of building rapport and a long-lasting impression so the traveler leaves a great review of your product. Viator automatically sends review requests on your behalf after an experience but it’s always a good practice to remind travelers to leave a review when you’re wrapping up. High-quality reviews are the key to a successful product after all.
When there is no option but to cancel
In situations where you absolutely have to cancel your bookings, keep in mind that a traveler’s leisure time is extremely valuable and they will likely need to re-plan their day or even find a new experience to book, so try to give as much warning as possible. You should give 24 hours’ notice at the very least, prior to the start time of their experience. When canceling bookings in the Management Center, make sure you give the most accurate reason, as this determines the information the traveller receives in their cancellation email.
Keeping track of your cancellation rate
In order to give you more visibility into your cancellations, we’ve built a tool to help you track within the Management Center. This gives you insight into your 90-day rolling cancellation rate, in addition to the reason these bookings were canceled and the financial impact these cancellations have had on your business. The tool indicates whether there is some room for improvement in this area and helps you to identify any common themes in the reason for cancellation over this period. Once any common themes are pinpointed, you can focus on the relevant tips mentioned above to try and reduce this rate.
To ensure a great customer experience, we strongly believe in keeping cancellations to a minimum. Travelers expect to receive the experience they’ve booked. That’s why we’ve included your cancellation rate in our Product Quality Standards. Within these standards, your cancellation rate must stay below 15% in order to achieve our ‘Good’ product quality level, and below 5% in order to be considered ‘Excellent’. This rate includes bookings either you’ve canceled or asked customers to cancel across a rolling 90-day period.
We understand that there will be cases in which you have to cancel for reasons out of your control. This rate doesn’t include cancellations that are made due to adverse weather, a significant global event, or where the customers asks you to cancel for them. Canceled bookings will only affect your cancellation rate for 90 days from the booking date, after which point they will no longer count.
Quick tips to keep your cancellation rate low
- Keep your availability up to date to prevent bookings you can’t fulfill.
- Select the most accurate reason when blocking out availability in the Management Center so that cancellation of existing bookings is initiated if the product is no longer operating and bookings remain confirmed if the experience is simply sold out.
- Consider contacting the customer to try and amend the date or time of their booking in order to consolidate bookings if minimum numbers are not met. This gives the customer options and may enable you to keep the booking.
- Compare your prices against other products and make adjustments, if needed, to make it viable for you to operate with fewer customers.
- Use small group sizes and fewer travelers as an opportunity to grow your rapport with your customers and deliver the best experience possible. This may in turn result in more great reviews.
- Avoid canceling bookings on behalf of travelers, however if you do cancel for them in the Management Center, select ‘Yes’ when asked if the cancellation was requested by the traveler so it doesn’t count towards your cancellation rate.
- Use the most accurate reason when cancelling bookings in the management centre, as if the reason is out of your control it won’t affect your cancellation rate. The information provided to the customer in their cancellation email is also based on the reason you select.
- TOP TIP: If your experience is prone to weather disruption, within the set up of your product you can select ‘Bad weather’ under the ‘Other post-booking policies’ section of the ‘Booking details’ tab. By selecting this, a clause will display on your listing which pre-warns customers that you may reserve the right to cancel due to bad weather.
- Remember your cancellation rate is calculated over a 90-day rolling period, so even if your cancellation rate is currently high and affecting your product quality level, with some additional focus on keeping cancellations to a minimum, you can bring your rate down to a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ level in a fairly short period of time.