Thurs August 6, at 1:00 PM ETSponsored by: Cvent
Thurs, July 23 at 11am ET / 8am PTSponsored By: American Express Global Business Travel
Thurs, July 16 at 1:00 PM ET / 10 AM PTSponsored by: TripActions
Virtual Event - September 9-10, 2020
Convene: 225 Liberty Street - October 22-23, 2020
ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
Filter in or out as many as 200 cities, as well as hotel and car rental class and meals of the day and watch as the per-diem calculator automatically adjusts per diems to your program. Drill down into cost breakdowns and export the results.
Cisco Systems has built its multinational travel program with a heavy emphasis on consolidation in both contractual relationships with travel vendors and use of technology for travel reservations. While global travel operations manager Debbie Winston of Cisco Systems UK said the company has determined that ubiquitous consolidation in all areas is unachievable for various reasons, it's still worth the effort.
Speaking at the National Business Travel Association convention here last month, Winston cited "certain anomalies" in local markets that have prevented the company from universally applying regional call centers, technology and processes.
"I have lived the pain of consolidation for three years," said Winston. "It is achievable, but you absolutely have to know what you're doing, and so do your suppliers. If they are not in a state of readiness to work with you, you may have to work around it. If you can't find the solution with one supplier, look for another."
While pursuing its goal of globally implementing a single global distribution system from Sabre Travel Network, and a single corporate online-self booking tool, GetThere, Cisco has had to make exceptions.
After spending more than two years attempting to implement its online booking tool in Germany, said Winston, "We have finally given up," at least temporarily. In Germany, companies "need to produce an invoice to reclaim value-added tax, and it has to show VAT as a separate line item," she said. "We were trying to implement on a Sabre platform in an Amadeus market, but it's the first market out of 35 where we've had to say 'We can't do it on Sabre. It simply doesn't work.' So we're going live [in August] with the online booking tool on Amadeus." According to Winston's presentation, the traditional "non-Sabre" market offered "no local interactive support."
Implementing online booking has produced challenges in other markets, as well. "We implemented in Hong Kong, but took it out three months later because fares weren't loaded in and every counselor had to rework the transaction," said Winston.
While some of the issues are external, Winston also noted internal lessons learned that helped correct failed initiatives.
"As we went to Australia three years ago, we misjudged the attitude of employees," she said. "They didn't like the idea of using interactive [systems]. They had traditional, personal relationships, working with Amex on-site counselors, and they rebelled against it. So we took it away and a year later, we came back, did our analysis, worked with local people, understood the challenges and how they felt about it, and relaunched it in a very different way. Everyone had a very personal implementation, we did a lot of local training and within weeks, we had adoption of 70 percent."
While she outlined the challenges, Winston reminded her audience that the rewards of consolidation are significant. Across 24 nations, Cisco is showing average self-booking adoption of 80 percent--in sharp contrast to most of the corporate world. According to new PhoCusWright estimates, less than 5 percent of corporate travel in 2006 will be booked online in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Growth rates by 2008 are expected to increase to 22 percent in Europe and 10 percent in Asia-Pacific, the research firm said.
Cisco's high self-booking adoption resulted in a "marked reduction in costs, increase in service and good feedback from travelers," leading to the company's "follow the sun" call center strategy. "We agreed that if we were getting such high adoption numbers, we didn't need local market relationships, so we decided to consolidate the service platform to regional call centers," said Winston. Noting that Cisco works with American Express in 41 markets (and has identified another 45 emerging markets for the pair to tackle over the next two years), Winston said Cisco now uses 10 call centers. However, a set of just three centers can handle global travelers at any given time as agents in London, North Carolina and Sydney take turns covering the clock.
Having identified its call center strategy, Cisco then had to "sell it" to local markets. The company's experience in France highlighted how local employees don't necessarily warm to headquarters-driven initiatives. "We're implementing an online booking tool and will be supporting you out of a British call center, and, by the way, you work for an American company and we speak English," Winston joked, needing no further explanation as to how that was received. "We learned that lesson very fast, and within six weeks employed two French-speaking counselors, and feedback drastically improved." External issues, including regulations, also plagued the call center consolidation. For example, tickets for bookings made in a German call center could not be printed in Switzerland.
Lack of "readiness" among suppliers also played a role in terms of access to fares and inventory. "We negotiate all contracts so all fares are available from the point of sale," said Winston. "If we want to buy ticket in a U.K. or German call center, but the point of origin is another European city, to me that was quite straightforward. But to the world's airlines, it is not. We have excellent relationships with the three airlines that really understand what we're doing--United, Lufthansa and American--but the [other] European airlines simply couldn't get it. So, we need regular audits on whether fares are loaded and being applied to the point of sale."
Making clear that she was not saying multinationals should avoid a consolidated call-center strategy, Winston nevertheless warned professionals to prepare their vision well, focus on their key goals (such as cost savings, standardized service or optimized service platforms) and run their plans by vendors before taking them to senior management.
Winston's key advice was to take advantage of the expertise of local managers: "They don't like 'Hi, I'm here from headquarters, and I'm here to help.' They need to see local advantage in service and cost savings, and you need to respect their local knowledge. They know the complexities of their region better than you do."
Travel managers worldwide must take immediate action to ensure their European travelers’ personal data...
Aeromexico is increasing operations by 20 percent, representing about 1,200 additional flights, in...
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has lifted a ban on New York residents joining and renewing...