World Travel and World Class Service

Egencia

As one of the top five corporate travel companies in the world, Egencia has just undertaken some serious changes and is continually improving to better prepare itself for what lies ahead.

With the recent addition to the team of Managing Director Kyle Davis, the company celebrated its tenth year in operation this November. We spoke with Kyle, who was enthusiastic to share some history and the experiences he brings to the Egencia platform. “Close to eighteen months ago, we acquired Travelforce, which was a fantastic and very successful business travel agency focussed on the smaller and medium-sized enterprise sector,” he explains. “We have integrated Egencia with Travelforce so we now have the best of both worlds from a technology standpoint, a customer mindset standpoint, and a talent standpoint.”

Egencia was originally based in the United States. Newly appointed Head of Product Platform Strategy, Ken Pfaffmann explains the acquisition: “If you look back to where this company was in and around 2004, we were Expedia Corporate Travel in the U.S. and then purchased a company called Egencia in France. At that point in time, we had a presence in the United States, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. As we were building our long term strategy, one of the things that became clear was that growth and global expansion are very important in this industry. We wanted to have fundamentally good-sized businesses in a variety of countries around the world. So we have grown from four countries in 2004 to over eighteen young businesses around the world in different countries and over thirty-five partnerships with leading agencies in these countries. Australia was obviously a very important part of that strategy, so when you look at Asia Pacific, Australia is leading the pack.”

Egencia maintains the balance between service and technology and uses the Amadeus system as a gateway to suppliers, car rental companies, hotels, and airlines, but all the processing technology is the company’s very own. Kyle explains, “Technology is incredibly important in driving efficient transactions and savings for the customer and giving them the content that they want. The balancing act that we go through is making the tools for the customers as simple and as intuitive as possible. I think one of the great things about the Expedia online booking tool is that we own it and it’s not a third party booking tool.”

Egencia uses what is called a Full Integrated Self-Service Travel Management Programme, more affectionately known as a Single Holistic System, as it was created as a cohesive system and not a bunch of integrated workings grouped together.

“If you look at how the competition provides service to customers from an integrated solutions point of view, those other companies might typically have a third-party online booking tool, or they may have another reporting tool that they have had to integrate among a few other services, and the syncing of these things doesn’t necessarily happen well,” explains Ken. “Of all the booking tools in the marketplace, the one we have is the most consumer-friendly in look and feel as consumers can get on any time and it is so incredibly intuitive and simple to use.

“It’s important to understand that this is the consumerisation of corporate enterprise tools and solutions,” Ken continues. “It’s not just about technology, it’s about service. You have to have both good service and technology or you lose customers. The third element to that would be how important content is, and the advantage that Egencia has in the corporate marketplace; it is our access to Expedia hotel rates, Hotels.com rates, and the purchasing group that we have for hotels. It’s going out and negotiating special Egencia rates that look very much like Expedia rates, sometimes lower but with conditions that are more amenable to the business traveller.” Some amenities the Egencia rates include are 6pm cancellations, parking, free breakfast and wi-fi, and other perks well-suited to the business traveller.

“Travellers are using and seeing the same things that our travel consultants are seeing,” says Ken, “and a bonus would be that if the traveller saves their profile online, the second they hit save, our consultants can see that profile change. So there is no delay or lag between a change and the implementation of that change. And as far as I am aware, I believe we are one of the few companies in the business that can actually say that. We are here to provide full support to the client. From a transactional standpoint, it’s a much better customer experience, as there is just one phone call to make to the consultant, and either they do the booking for you and give you navigational support, or they can see what you have done with your profile already and complete or change your profile for you. Whatever your needs are, there is no transfer of calls or passing off to other departments.” Kyle reinforces this idea: “It’s a much smoother customer experience, and we know that First Contact Resolution is one of the key drivers to customer satisfaction.”

Some of the main agencies Egencia is up against include the big name firms like American Express and Carlson Wagonlit. In Australia, Egencia focuses on SMEs (small and medium enterprises), which is where the company believes it can offer a strong competitive advantage. Explains Kyle, “We have real people giving personalised service and not recorded automated systems. We don’t operate two- and three-hundred person call centres or have cookie-cutter approaches to implementing large accounts. So it is very much a bespoke solution based on technology and great customer service.”

He explains how Egencia keeps employees in the loop and on the same page: “We have a robust training and development programme, and there are a number of facets to that. We have a great e-learning curriculum for certain courses that are very much supported by Expedia and Egencia. We also have classroom training on various topics at each of our sites. Every facet is explored, including supplier training to inform consultants on the destinations. Certainly at a consulting level, Egencia’s relationship is truly educational, as our employees are encouraged to, for example, go to Dubai and experience the airport and shops in order to be able to recommend different aspects of all destinations. So we approach training and development from numerous angles with a large emphasis on coaching.”

Ken adds, “We also have events across regions to basically bring together sales, product teams, account management, operations and leadership so that we can hear what is happening in the various regions. I think a key thing for us as a business is 80 per cent of what we do is quite similar, so leveraging the best practises is very important. Egencia is very cautious to keep everything at a local level and at the same time acknowledge things globally.”

Regarding advertising and how Egencia gets the word out, Kyle says, “Although word of mouth is important, the tendering process is important: we need companies that are reviewing their travel agency relationship or deal and that decide to put it out to tender to come to us with that proposal.” Marketing Manager Sian Summers adds, “In terms of advertising, it is one part of our marketing mix. In addition, we have a really strong sales team that is able to build relationships and provide networking in the market to present our value propositions.”

Egencia Hotels represents another facet of the company’s growth plan. Currently available in Europe and APAC, Egencia’s Hotel programme offers over 190,000 hotels globally. Last year Egencia launched the iPhone, Android and mobile web applications, and the company plans to roll out additional mobile technologies in anticipation of the business traveller’s needs. It is also important to the managers that they continue to streamline the global experience, to ensure that no matter where travellers are in the world, Egencia can come to them and make their experience the best it can be.

“Get Ahead,” the company’s slogan, refers to Egencia’s systems and continual product updates as well as to assist customers as they get ahead in their own businesses. Says Sian, “With the release of our travel forecast for 2013, it is a key focus for us to get ahead in terms of our technology, customer service, and the competition.”

The executives of Egencia wish to warmly welcome our international readers to come visit Australia and its many regions, as there truly is something here for everyone. “From a business perspective, listen to the people and your market,” they implore. “Every business around the world has its idiosyncrasies; think outside that box and let some local flavour in.”

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October 21, 2018, 11:47 AM AEDT