How Do Travel Management Companies Differentiate Their Service?
The Business Travel space is an increasingly crowded market, and it’s hardly surprising, with researchers predicting it will be a £1.3trn industry by 2022*(GBTA), there’s going to be plenty of businesses looking for their slice of the pie.
That’s resulted in something of an arms race on the technology front. Businesses are differentiating themselves by the added security of their blockchain payments, the simplicity of their self-serve apps or the authenticity of their artificial intelligence platform.
That’s great in the short to medium term, but ultimately all these USPs are temporary: in the same way that online booking and mobile apps were once brave-new-world differentiators and have now become minimum requirements for any travel booker or traveller, so these tech innovations will do the same, (or they may go the way of the QR code…) either way, technology in and of its own rarely provides a sustainable market advantage.
The true place for technology in the value chain
Technological innovation has a place of course. There are many parts of a traveller’s journey where they just want to get things done, quickly. Booking a simple flight, accessing booking confirmations, filing expenses, etc. are all areas where, frankly, talking to another person isn’t wanted or required, and in these instances, repeat but we all know that the high-value customer interactions, the ones where there’s an opportunity to make a difference, and where client relationships are won or lost, depend on real, people-to-people contact.
So maybe we should all give up trying to be different?
Far from it. The beauty of travel – the reason many of us so enjoy our jobs – is the diversity of our travellers and of the situations they find themselves in. And guess what? that same human element – personal experiences, nuggets of knowledge that can’t just be learnt from a staff handbook – are what true differentiation is built on. and it’s not something that can easily be replaced or copied.
“as competition and buyer empowerment compounds, customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage.”
– Importance of Customer Experience Is on the Rise; Marketing Is on the Hook (Gartner, 2014)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Take a look at almost any of the major TMC’s websites and you’re sure to find a statement along the lines of “our business is our people” But how many are really walking the talk, and giving their live agents the flexibility, the tools and the autonomy to do what they’re best at? What they were employed for?
We’d wager that’s a far lower number, but it’s rarely through lack of trying: the sad fact is that many great agents are restricted from delivering the service they’re capable of because of poor systems. Either they spend too much time solving the wrong kinds of challenges, thanks to poor call routing or unmanageable demand, or their available hours are restricted because of a lack of flexible working.
Technology isn’t your USP, but the enabler of it
And this is where, technology really can be leveraged to create competitive advantage: not by turning your TMC into a SaaS platform, but by attracting and retaining the best live agents and allowing them to work at their very best:
Working when and where they need to
Many workers want more flexible hours whatever line of business they’re in. in travel, perhaps more than most, this can actually work well for the business when good 24×7 cover is a necessity. The right technology allows agents to work remotely when covering night shifts, or when working around family commitments while keeping all the customer information they need at their fingertips.
Fielding the calls they can help with best
When you’re able to send the right calls to the right agents every time, you’re winning on multiple levels: Customers are happy that they get the advice and support they need immediately, staff are happy, because they’re able to put their skills to use appropriately, and the business wins because as first contact resolution increases and efficiency improves.
At Sesui, we work with travel management companies, as well as other sectors where the personal connection is critical, to deliver cloud communications that focus on enabling a more effective human touch. We place great pride in our technology because we’ve built it to enhance human-to-human contact, not replace it. Find out more about how we do it