Flexibility when travel bans come in – Stories from the travel front line

April 17, 2020 Amanda Greenwood

A large healthcare company decided to ban all but essential travel for its employees, amid the growing number of coronavirus cases across the world. They informed travelers on March 9th, banning most travel up to April 30th.

The customer’s dedicated travel team knew that when the travel manager hits ‘send’ on the email to its travelers, the questions would start to flood in. More than 1,100 reservations were in place for the following week, and in total the ban was going to affect 5,539 travelers.

“We had to come up with a plan very fast to try and eliminate the call volume,” said Jennifer Upchurch, Director, Operations at Travel and Transport. “With the account being a heavy online adoption and large in volume, the sheer amount of phone calls for cancellations were going to cripple the team and be an interruption to our customers' day-to-day lives sitting on hold to cancel.”


Managing call volumes

To help minimize service level issues, within 30 minutes the team was able to cross-utilize advisors, supervisors and managers from two other teams to take on additional calls. “I think this shows the flexibility of our operation to adapt to where the need is,” says Michael Smith, Operations Manager.

Meanwhile, Christine Bushon, Telecommunications Specialist, worked quickly to change the messaging on our voicemail system that the travelers would hear when they called in. This included instructions directing travelers to the customer’s travel homepage, and how to cancel bookings in Concur or by email. Any voicemails were emailed to the advisors, so they could quickly pick up the inquiries when they called back.

By automating cancellations, call volume was reduced and the team could work through airline waivers offline.

Jennifer added, “We know these doctors and EAs have more important health concerns happening in their industry that they needed to focus on their work, so we quickly put an action plan together to assist the travelers in a more automated fashion."

The advisors took 621 calls from the customer’s travellers in one day, more than twice the average the daily call volume, with a 1.5 minute average speed of answer.


Messaging to specific travelers

The customer had sent a company-wide notification informing employees of the travel ban. In addition to this, Peggy Regan, Account Manager, used Swift Data to find out who was due to travel in the travel ban period, and sent automated messages to the individual travelers about the ban and how to cancel.


Amendments to the online booking tool

Sandra Rice, Director, Implementations made changes in Concur that allowed cancellations to be made online.

Concur was programmed to allow cancellation/changes for reservations outside 24 hours, with the exception of Southwest reservations that still required a call or email.

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