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Egencia COO Mark Hollyhead talks:
Following the announcement that Egencia has restructured
its management from a regional focus into two global organizations, BTN contributing editor Amon Cohen talked
to Mark Hollyhead, whose role has shifted from head of Americas to leading the
operations and supplier side as COO.
BTN: What's the thinking behind the restructuring?
Hollyhead: One of the bedrocks of what we have been doing for the past 15
years is that our strategy hasn't changed. We want to bring the best of the
consumer world into the corporate world. We are now moving a lot of our
functions along that journey globally. Since 2010/11 we have shifted to a more
global approach for our products and then our back-office functions. Now, we
are making the organization simpler as we continue to grow either organically
or by buying more companies.
Our new chief commercial officer, Christophe Peymirat
[formerly head of Egencia's European and Nordic businesses], manages all of our
sales and customer relationships worldwide. As chief operating officer, I will
be looking at customer services and how we progress the maturation of a company
that's grown up in regions. Part of it is that more and more of our suppliers
are operating globally.
BTN: You mentioned a readiness to buy more companies. Are you looking to
buy any multinational travel management companies?
Hollyhead: Since 2010, we have made a number of acquisitions,
including Via Travel in the Nordic region and Orbitz for Business, but there is
nothing immediately planned. However, we do nearly $6 billion of sales today
and we want to be double that by 2020.
BTN: Are you intending to achieve that in part by making more of a play
for the largest multinational clients?
Hollyhead: We want to be a provider that is attractive to small, medium or
large companies. Our mix isn't changing dramatically, but we hope that, as we
get simpler as an organization, that gets more attractive to larger corporate
BTN: What do you mean when you say that being simpler is more
Hollyhead: We want to offer a life cycle of travel management products that is
attractive to all our clients without their having to customize, including
mobile and our new Apple Watch product.
BTN: Are your clients interested in using wearables for business travel?
Hollyhead: It's early days, but there is demand. Our mobile-user base is
growing, and we see the watch as part of that solution, especially for
notification of what is happening next on a trip. It's not a huge investment
for us to extend from mobile into wearables.
The days of one release a year are truly gone. We're now on a continuous cycle of development. It means that when we put new initiatives into the market, some are going to win and some are going to fail."
BTN: Are you changing the way you release new technology?
Hollyhead: Yes. The days of one release a year are truly gone. We're now on a
continuous cycle of development. It means that when we put new initiatives into
the market, some are going to win and some are going to fail, but the faster we
can do it, the more winners we have. For example, we couldn't consult our
customers on all the different ways in which we can improve compliance with the
booking tool. Travelers don't always read all the information, so we have been
testing the size shape and color of all the icons and things like whether to
flash their loyalty points on and off and whether that should go ahead of the
information about whether breakfast is included. We put three or four tests
into the marketplace and then we were able to see which one was the winner.
BTN: Some people feel managed travel programs are under great threat
than ever as travelers are increasingly tempted to book via consumer channels.
Do you agree?
Hollyhead: We're not feeling it today but we are seeing a new line of inquiry.
Once upon a time, a request for proposal was all about savings. Now, it is
still about that, but it is also about: "How can you help me drive
compliance with the program?" That's why putting the consumer experience
at the heart of business travel has to be our guiding light. We need to do a
great job for the company but also for the traveler. We almost have to do a
better job than [parent company] Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. Travelers
are saying: "You have my data, so why can't you use it to make my life
easier? Please make my journey as painless as possible."
BTN: Does that mean you need to introduce even greater personalization?
Hollyhead: We are already doing a lot of personalization on mobile. We collect
data as you look and search so that if you have a preference and it is in
policy, that starts to pre-populate your new searches.
BTN: What's your forecast for business travel for next year?
Hollyhead: The outlook is one of cautious optimism. There
are good weeks and bad weeks at the moment when I look across our 28 points of
sale. There is a definite nervousness around Brexit, however. There has been a
20 percent fall in [the pound] sterling, and that is going to have an impact.
Yet when I look at the U.K. business, it's very strong for customer
acquisition. Things are incredibly volatile for numerous reasons. Historically,
we have done very well at these times.
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