Creating an innovative solution to multi-market consolidation
Banking and financial services
CWT introduces new technologies at Multinational Service Centre in move to improve client's travel programme while delivering savings and better service
Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) has been working closely with an American multinational banking and financial services corporation on a successful, rolling project of multi-market consolidation.
The project began in 2012 when the bank appointed CWT as its primary travel management company (TMC). Previously the bank worked with more than 50 agencies servicing 100 countries and managing an estimated global travel spend of $350m. The aim of the move was to improve key areas of the global travel programme – such as inability to locate travellers in the event of an incident, inconsistent transaction fees, lack of standardised policy compliance and inadequate data reporting – and to reduce pricing while increasing service levels.
As part of the global consolidation, CWT UK and Ireland initially implemented five countries into the CWT Multinational Service Centre (MSC) in Warrington. Such was the success of this first phase that the CWT/client team considered how they could expand it further and include countries whose programmes were more complex.
The key objective of the past three years was to add 16 more countries to the UK MSC to deliver benefits, including:
Access to dedicated travel consultants
Travel policy compliance
Process optimisation and standardisation
Traveller safety and security
Each country had unique requirements to be considered and overcome, such as changing booking platform to make arranging travel easier, moving from an onsite operation to the MSC, and language barriers in those countries where English is less widely spoken. Communication was the single biggest challenge to ensure those barriers were overcome and to secure internal buy-in.
A dedicated team of 19 CWT employees work exclusively for the bank at the MSC. A further three work onsite at the client’s premises and seven more are based at CWT’s London office for the bank’s specialist requirements such as VIP travel. Helen Meadley, CWT global programme manager EMEA, worked alongside the bank’s EMEA travel manager to ensure each implementation went smoothly.
They were aware that travel bookers in countries where English is less widely spoken – for example Hungary, Spain and Italy – were likely to be less confident about conversing in English to make bookings. To overcome this, CWT travel consultants were trained to be conscious that they were dealing with people for whom English was not their first language, to speak slowly and remain patient. This was supported by the bank’s requirement that all employees should be able to speak English at a business level.
Additionally the MSC is strong on ensuring that it fully supports the bank’s travel policy and agents are required to manage the arrangers/travellers’ expectations on a regular basis.
The team worked collaboratively with Travelport to create an industry-leading global travel solution to deliver highly-personalised service and the best possible deals wherever travellers are based. This innovative solution was introduced in 2013, but the big push to roll it out came in the past 12 months, with a drive to implement it for countries where Travelport was not the primary global distribution system (GDS), such as Spain.
CWT became the first TMC to use Travelport’s latest Smartpoint desktop technology, which enables travellers in multiple countries to be served from a single centre while still benefitting from local fares and pricing.
The new integrated telephone technology allows the traveller’s profile, including information on past and current trips and travel preferences, to automatically appear on a consultant’s screen. Being able to immediately identify a client’s specific needs gives the CWT consultant the right information to instantly select the best options for every individual traveller, saving them time and making the booking process even easier.
The bank’s travel manager said: "Having built that platform it allows us to streamline businesses in other countries to get them on the same platform."
Other innovations include caller voice recognition and scripting, which automatically moves the agent into the relevant platform to match the country the booker is calling from.
Helen said: "It all happens behind the scenes. The end user doesn’t see that and neither does the agent. We are building on it now so that we can link the UK and US MSCs and other centres. We are enhancing the technology we already have to ensure we are all on the same platform, so if a US caller rings to the UK it will automatically put them on the same GDS."
Some of the countries consolidated in the past six months had not been seriously considered before due to challenges with GDS, online booking tool and onsite configurations. However, all challenges were met and implementations were seamless. The result is that today 85 per cent of the bank’s EMEA business has its travel managed through the UK MSC.
Benefits derived from this transition and consolidation include:
Savings – in 2014 savings to the bank from the MSC were an approximate 12 per cent saving of CWT costs
Access to dedicated travel consultants – some of the smaller markets didn’t have a dedicated team before so they are now for the first time experiencing travel consultants with expert knowledge of the bank, making booking quicker
Booking is also simpler thanks to industry-leading technology developed by the team with Travelport
Travel policy compliance and adherence
Process optimisation and standardisation
Advanced communication – single point of contact
Standardised service levels, associated reporting and customer service support
Contingency – business continuity to manage incidents and enhanced TMC network access
Crisis management reporting, which improves traveller safety and security
The travel manager said: "Crisis management is key to us. Before the transition to the MSC we would have struggled to identify and locate travellers in the event of an incident, such as an earthquake, ash cloud or tsunami. We wanted access to reliable information on where our travellers are in a very short space of time. Security is of paramount importance."
Travel policy compliance is also excellent. Currently, the bank is 98.9 per cent airline compliant, compared with an industry average of 85 per cent, and 99.4 per cent hotel compliant, compared with the industry average of 72 per cent.
The past year’s achievement is important because it proves the value of the MSC, leading to CWT being retained as the bank’s TMC for a further three years, and allowing the team to take the programme to the next level. The consolidation project is one of continuous movement, with the team always looking at ways to deliver further service improvement. They are currently assessing three more countries for potential move into the MSC in 2016/2017.
Moving forward, the MSC team are about to undergo more in-house training to provide the bank with a 'Multi Host Solution' covering the UK and US to allow a seamless flow of calls between both locations.