Innovative technology is swiftly advancing corporate travel management. As a result, travel management companies (TMCs) are integrating state-of-the-art digital enhancements to their platforms.
Reed & Mackay’s own tech stack is being optimised to meet the changing requirements of travel buyers’ needs, building on the products already in its online booking tool.
Yet, as Reed & Mackay Global Director, Product, Fahim Khan points out: “It’s not just about the technology that’s put in front of the travel manager, it’s how their TMC supports them. We offer the capability to book online if you want to do it all yourself, but also always have someone to hand instantly when you need things changed.”
As any travel buyer and traveller know, changes in managed business travel can be both frequent and complex. This is why offering dedicated service to clients, from a team of committed, in-house consultants, remains essential. And the long-term benefits to both the travel buyer and the traveller are manifold.
1) IMMEDIATE RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
Having a dedicated implementation process means the working relationship between the client, its travellers, our consultants and client success managers begins instantly.
“This process means we can ask the right questions from the start, to get to know the travel manager, executive assistant (EA) or traveller directly,” Reed & Mackay Operations Manager Robin Ganatra says.
“We’ll ensure all their traveller preferences are uploaded into our bookings platform, R&M/iQ, then brief our consultants on any client-specific requests to ensure they receive bespoke service.”
2) HIGH-TOUCH SERVICE FROM EXPERT CONSULTANTS
Traveller profiles include important details like seat preference, hotel brand preference, or the need for private workspace on flights. This allows consultants to quickly make selections for their traveller.
Yet dedicated, personalised service goes above and beyond. With Reed & Mackay consultants averaging 15 years’ experience in the industry, knowledge sharing and support between consultants is prevalent.
“Business travel must be seamless for every single client,” Ganatra explains. “While travel needs tend to be similar, dedicated service in a managed travel programme goes far deeper.
“For example, knowing if C-suite travellers require exactly the same seat every time, no matter the airline, whether they want their in-flight meal pre-ordered, or want to be fast-tracked through the airport.
“We can determine if the client needs transportation, early check-in, or restaurant reservations at each stage of their trip. And we can learn their interests and suggest activities for free time on a business trip.
“It’s also about understanding if their organisations are focused on ESG. Will they book a smaller room for sustainability purposes? And it’s not just about doing all of this online, but calling ahead to confirm everything and track every part of the booking.”
3) ADDED VALUE AND COST SAVINGS
Tech advances in airline management have enhanced the level of automation brought into the travel booking process. This new technology, including New Distribution Capability (NDC), saves a consultant time, which can instead be used to interact more closely with clients.
Reed & Mackay Learning Specialist, Global Fares, Jo Shilling explains how crucial this is for cost-saving strategies. “An airline’s website will offer the lowest fare, but that will have restrictions and won’t be able to be changed,” Shilling says. “Conversely, if you ask for the most flexible fare that’s fully changeable and refundable, it will be the most expensive. Your traveller might not need that level of flexibility.
“Our consultants view the history of that traveller’s bookings and know, based on previous travel plans, they’re unlikely to cancel. That means we can find the fares with a few more restrictions but which cut costs for the clients.”
And, as NDC progresses, consultants have been trained on how to interpret the much wider range of flight choices available. A dedicated, bespoke service means fully understanding airline tickets terms and conditions.
“Booking a ticket with hand baggage might look like a cost reduction for the client. But what if the traveller then returns home with a bag, or needs to change their flight while travelling?” Shilling adds. “We fully inform clients about what they’re buying to ensure their requirements are fulfilled.”
4) IN-DEPTH SECTOR KNOWLEDGE
As a leading global travel management provider for the financial services, insurance and law sectors, it’s essential to have full understanding of how these sectors operate.
Consultants working with law firm clients, for example, are specially trained through Reed & Mackay’s in-house Legal Travel Training Programme.
Matter code validation is built into our system to ensure bookings fall under the right policy. Consultants’ knowledge of this innovative technology is matched by their understanding of both the wellbeing and safety needs of travellers, and the pressures on EAs tasked with booking travel.
“Booking travel for law partners may not be a huge part of an EA’s job but can be really time consuming,” Shilling adds. “Having innovative travel technology makes our service team’s jobs easier; then our consultants make the job easier for the booker of travel.”
5) 24/7 EMERGENCY TRAVEL SERVICE
R&M/Protect – our unique travel risk management platform, powered by global risk intelligence provider Crisis24, delivering security alerts and updates to clients – is supported by an expert in-house Emergency Travel Service (ETS). ETS business operations are available 24/7 via a dedicated phone number.
“With an emergency travel service, consistency and out-of-hours support is crucial,” Reed & Mackay ETS Service Delivery Manager Julie Wassell says. “Yet the intuitiveness of our consultants is equally vital. They have access to all traveller profiles so they see specific requests within travel policies, but they also must be quick thinking and understand how to best help the person on the call at that time.” This is an important part of duty of care to the traveller.
Dedicated service also means the ETS team anticipate disruptions and proactively plan where travel arrangements can change. “We’ve also established an ETS VIP department to deliver that personalised service in more depth and continually look at how clients can get through to us even more quickly,” Wassell adds.
6) SUPPORT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Clients can expect personalised service throughout the entire trip beyond the booking process or in cases of emergency, cancellations or delays. Reed & Mackay North America Operations Team Lead Amanda Brophy describes just one example of how consultants provide a bespoke service to clients.
“One client left his laptop charger on a plane,” Brophy says. “Our consultant quickly called the airline, who got hold of one the flight attendants who happened to be staying in a hotel down the road from the client. She then delivered the client’s charger directly to their hotel.”
And, as one legal client in the US shared: “The [Reed & Mackay] consultant was extremely helpful. She was able to get two of our partners onto new flights within the hour. Her expedited service was truly lifesaving as both attorneys needed to leave that day for their business trip.”