Disruption is frustrating and costly. Industry researchers estimate a $60 billion annual impact to the travel industry and to corporate productivity from irregular operations. While airlines and travel management companies (TMCs) work hard to deliver a superior level of service, they struggle during disruption events.
Many parties in the industry are impacted:
- Travelers standing in long lines at the airport or waiting on hold for hours
- Beleaguered agents on the other side of the counter or on the phone
- Airline customer service centers working overtime to answer calls
- Travel managers trying to understand why travel costs were higher than anticipated
What the industry is doing creates a challenge
To try to mitigate the effects of an impending disruption, airlines will offer policy exception waivers. These are separate from a corporation’s “bank of waivers and favors” and allow travelers to change itineraries without penalty, and in some cases, get a full ticket refund.
However, waivers are exceptions to fare rules and thus–similar to airline pricing rules–are complex. The details of a waiver can vary greatly depending on the type of irregular operation and airline. Additionally, there is no industry standard for formatting or communicating waivers. In most cases, airlines don’t have any process around managing the distribution of waivers. Some post waivers on web pages and others email to a generic TMC email account.
To find waiver-related savings and gain back control of the traveler experience, TMCs must depend on imperfect processes. If an agent remembers a waiver may apply when a traveler calls, they must manually search for the waiver or call the airline.
Once the waiver is found, the agent takes on the additional obstacle of reading, interpreting and acting on the waiver. Plus, waiver rules can change or even be cancelled, requiring the rules of the waiver to be continuously re-checked. Without consistency and structure, there is a likelihood that an agent won’t find the right waiver or the right version of the waiver, and risk receiving a debit memo.
Addressing this challenge benefits everyone
By equipping travelers and support staff with information they need to proactively manage irregular operations, we uncovered multi-faceted savings in the following areas:
We conservatively estimate travelers spend a minimum of 10 minutes on the phone with an agent–not including the time they spend on hold.
TMC call center cost savings can be realized by providing agents with the relevant waiver information at their fingertips when a traveler calls. Doing so has helped TMCs reduce the time an agent spends on an average call during an irregular operation by as much as 20%.
2. Reduction of TMC-to-airline call time
Fewer calls means lower operational costs. Airlines are already overwhelmed during disruption events. However, call time for airline customer support increases if agents call for a clarification of a waiver. After receiving consistent and structured waiver information, agents did not go back to the airline as frequently, and when they did, the time with them was reduced by 22%, on average.
3. Increase in traveler satisfaction
Stress experienced by a high-value corporate road warrior is one of the most significant hidden costs of a corporate travel program. Corporations are increasingly pressured to ensure happy and safe employee travel experiences. Quickly providing alternative travel options to business travelers impacts corporate travel program success and the traveler experience.
A JD Power Traveler Survey cited disruption as the most important factor of travel requiring improvement, according to 42% of the travelers surveyed. With better waiver management, we’ve found that hold-time for travelers during peak irregular operational times decreased by 54% on average.
4. Meeting more service level agreements (SLA)
Travelers often take matters into their own hands and look to anyone to help them during disruption events. If a TMC isn’t available immediately with the right service, they may try the airline or walk to another airline’s ticket counter to purchase a ticket. TMCs then lose sight of travelers, adding SLA risk to the travel program and increasing costs for corporations.
Proactively working with travelers, TMCs are able to provide traveler support before high-impact disruptions occur. One customer hasn’t experienced a missed SLA since implementing automated waiver alerts for their agents.
5. Delivering corporate travel program savings
Improving waiver management opens up the opportunity for more insightful data analysis after a disruption. Take unused tickets, for example. A closer look at a travelers’ itinerary data alongside airline waivers that may have made those itineraries eligible for exchange or refund can reveal transactions where a corporation spent money and shouldn’t have.
In studying unused tickets from one customer, we’ve found 6-10% of their unused tickets were covered by a waiver which allowed a full refund or waived change fees.
At Cirium, our streamlined APIs provide flexible access to timely trip information while avoiding complex data cleansing and development costs.
As a result, frontline corporate travel agents, customer care operators and mobile technology providers are proactively re-accommodating travelers without investing in expensive data management costs. Business travelers don’t feel the effects of major disruptions because they are the first to get re-accommodated with their trip records intact. Finally, corporations gain a more complete view of their program costs.
We have a team of experts available to help you achieve these results. If you want to learn more about how we help companies achieve cost savings with innovative solutions and analytics, please contact us.