No matter how well planned, even the best-laid business travel plans can hit a snag. From natural events to airline strikes, plans can be thrown off course. As a travel manager, you need to know that when the unexpected occurs, your travellers can call for help and be supported by people who are knowledgeable, efficient, and empathetic.
First-class customer support is vital for traveller — and therefore, employee — satisfaction. As Lisa Murphy at James Fisher Marine Services Ltd. explained, “it’s really helpful to have customer service there on the phone to help sort [everything] out."
A recent study from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in association with Egencia, reports that more than a third of business leaders in organisations with a strong travel culture have seen significant improvements in employee satisfaction. When it comes to travelling for business, what makes for a satisfied employee? It can range from a comprehensive range of flight options, accommodations, and ground transport to easy-to-use policy and booking technology. But none of these elements work without support. At Egencia, our customer service team, supports employees travelling for business, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. What’s more, the team is made up of skilled travel consultants who pride themselves on offering expert support they’ve honed over years working in the travel industry and in ongoing, comprehensive training.
We spoke to a handful of our travel consultants from around the globe to share firsthand accounts of complex travel problems they’ve solved. And to hear more about what makes Egencia a different kind of travel management company (TMC).
What’s it like to call a human?
Most people prefer to manage travel on their own devices without calling another person for help, which is reflected in our 85 percent global, online adoption rate globally. Sometimes though, last-minute changes and human-made or natural events can occur, and these situations often require a human touch. Calling one of our travel consultants doesn’t mean you’re losing the benefits of our technology — it’s quite the opposite.
“It’s all about the technology and looking to the future,” Singapore-based senior travel consultant Wani Baba said. And with over 20 years of experience in travel, Baba has seen a lot of travel technology in action. She said, “it’s different from other TMCs — our system is upgraded all the time, making the process easier for both parties.”
As with any system, the tech is only as good as the people using it. “We underwent intensive training and practiced solving issues in the classroom before handling them on the floor.”
What else is different about calling our experienced team of travel consultants? You’ll always get ahold of someone fast — 80 percent of our calls are answered in 20 seconds.
“I always pick up by the second or third ring,” Alexia Rose, a senior corporate travel consultant in France, said. "Teamwork is crucial to making sure we always have phone coverage — travellers can call any hour of any day, year-round, no exceptions," Netherlands-based travel consultant, Harry Meijer explained.
Where everybody knows your name
Time is important to your travellers. It’s essential to have someone pick up the phone quickly, and it’s just as important for that person to have information about your travellers’ plans instantly available.
“We understand the needs of our clients — and their policies. We know which ones have approval processes, and the different demands of each one,” Meijer explained.
Sofia Apostolidou, a business travel consultant in the UK, explained how access to customers’ profiles helps her save travellers time.
“Once, I had to help a customer with an urgent hotel payment. When he arrived at his hotel, there was an issue with the recorded payment,” she said. “I was able to see the transaction history at my end, take over speaking with the hotel directly, and resend the payment on the spot.”
Holly Davis, a senior executive travel consultant in the US with more than 20 years of experience in the industry, said the creation of the executive desk has provided consultants with even more transparency when helping VIP, executive customers.
“We’re here for our travellers, and their arrangers, from the moment they book until they’re safely home,” she said. “There’s a dedicated phone number they can call at any time, and we can add specialised amenities such as limos right from the platform.”
Our consultants have seen it all
With years — and often decades — of corporate travel industry experience under their belts, it’s nearly impossible to rattle our travel consultants. Volcano in Iceland? Snowstorm in spring? Typhoon in Hong Kong? They’ve helped travellers navigate all of these real-life scenarios quickly and safely.
“One of our travellers had to get to Philadelphia from Phoenix urgently, but there was a serious snowstorm, and it was almost at the point of airport closure,” Davis recounted. “I was thinking, where can we get you to? So, I started looking further out. I ended up flying them to Washington DC and booking a train from there to Philadelphia. It worked well, we got them there on time, and they were thrilled.”
Veronica Lemmer, a Human Resources professional at Infosys, told us about a time an employee was hospitalised while on the road.
“I was in Zurich on business, and it was 1:20 a.m. when I got the call. After making a phone call to customer service, they pulled out all stops to get my sick traveller back to Melbourne. [The short notice travel] took an extra day, but I couldn’t have managed it without the help and support of the customer service representative.”
Less serious, yet frustrating, situations can be quickly solved with a call to a travel consultant. For example, when Melanie Beikirch, a travel consultant in Germany with over 16 years in the industry, had to help an intern on her first trip, she recalled. “I received a call from a young intern who was travelling for business for the first time. It was her first flight ever, in fact. She was crying because her flight was cancelled, and she was lost. I listened to her, calmed her down, and quickly found another flight for her. I turned the situation around and made her happy. We even ended the call with a laugh.”
The foundation for a robust travel culture
By providing travellers and arrangers with a robust platform, and the help of experienced and highly trained consultants, we’re able to provide both the best technology and support to our clients. Businesses that work with one TMC can save their travellers from making multiple calls to manage flights, hotels, and transportation when plans go awry. Seventy-seven percent of business leaders who said their organisation has a strong travel culture have a single TMC solution in place.
Great travel technology can empower travellers to manage their own business travel. However, it doesn’t cancel out the need for efficient and consistent customer service. We’re different from other TMCs because our standard level of service includes customer-friendly software and expert corporate travel service. Our clients are confident that their people will reach travel consultants who have access to their full itinerary and can help them find creative solutions to their problems. Day or night, and with travel consultants that speak more than 30 languages, we can get your travellers where they need to go.
Find out how James Fisher manages urgent travel with the help of our expert travel consultants