Few industries felt the impact of COVID-19 like travel. Restrictions on domestic and international flights brought business and leisure travel to a screeching halt. With no passengers to look after, Travel Management Companies (TMCs) were forced to cut costs.
The industry has begun to recover in recent months and business travellers are starting to spread their wings. But the combination of staff shortages, limited resources, and more complex travel requirements in the wake of Brexit and COVID-19 have left TMCs struggling to meet this demand. And this has caused a noticeable decline in service levels – particularly in the booking process.
New rules, regulations, and restrictions have increased the average number of calls per booking from 4-20. In this new environment, TMCs are more reliant than ever on their travel management software to streamline the booking process and take pressure off their agents.
COVID-19 has forced TMCs to reduce staff numbers – by anywhere between 15-70%, according to recent statistics. Some took advantage of the UK government’s furlough scheme, while others made more permanent changes to their company structure. Either way, the result is the same: fewer agents to handle the booking process and longer wait times for customers.
You can take the strain off your beleaguered staff by encouraging customers to use the self-service features of your online booking platform. This allows business travellers to organise basic aspects of their trip independently, so your agents have more time to work on complex issues that require a human touch.
Some customers are hesitant to use online booking tools in the current climate – especially for international travel. It’s important to allay their fears by providing up-to-date information on the latest restrictions and requirements so they can book with confidence. To make the experience truly touchless, you could also implement robotic ticketing solutions that perform all relevant quality control measures before issuing a ticket.
The average overseas business trip involves many moving parts. TMCs must manage data from a wide range of segments, including flight and hotel reservations, business itineraries, and car hire. Doing this simultaneously for multiple customers is difficult at the best of times. But with fewer available agents, maintaining service levels with a standard global distribution system (GDS) has become even more challenging.
The best travel management software improves agent efficiency by unifying data from across your GDS to give your agents full visibility into every aspect of the booking process. It cuts through the technical jargon that plagues many out-of-the-box solutions to deliver booking data in a consistent, easily digestible format. At the same time, advancements in automation have made it easier for agents to locate passenger information. This reduces the amount of time they spend searching for data, so they can provide a more personalised service to their customers.
One of the main reasons business travellers avoid online booking platforms is that they’re worried about exceeding the terms of their corporate travel policy. But with the right travel management software, you can create a detailed record of travel policies and approvals for every customer:
With everything in one place, customers can organise their trip safe in the knowledge that they won’t accidentally go off policy. This reduces reliance on your agents and, by extension, the number of queries they receive per booking. And, on the odd occasion a customer does require human input, your agents have instant access to the information they need.
It can be challenging, not to mention time-consuming, to manage and monitor flight availability. Desirable seats can appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, so if you’re operating at reduced capacity, you need a fast and efficient way to reserve seats as soon as they become available.
The best travel management software automatically monitors class and seat availability. For example, our CheckMate solution sends an email directly to the agent when a preferred seat becomes available. Aside from improving agent productivity, this ensures your customers get the best seats, at the best price.
Unticketed bookings are a common concern for business travellers and TMCs alike. And, as staff numbers have plummeted over the past 18 months, agents are increasingly hard-pressed to identify and address ticketing issues.
To address this challenge, TMCs have once again turned to technology. With the right GDS add-on, you can automatically check passenger bookings to ensure they’re ticketed correctly and resolve issues before they escalate. Not only does this improve agent productivity, it enables you to deliver a smoother experience for your customers.
TMCs have shown tremendous resilience throughout the pandemic. But as new challenges appear on the horizon, they’ll need even greater strength and flexibility to stay afloat in the months to come.
Travel management software will be key. With the right end-to-end solution, you can maintain service levels and productivity across your TMC even in the most difficult circumstances.
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