Olga Dolgova, managing director of VIP Corporate Travel, one of the most important assets of Vipservice holding's corporate business, told how the company managed to organise the transfer of all operating activities of travel managers to the single window system and how the holding and its agents benefited from Portbilet.
— Olga, it is a tremendous task to transfer the operating activities of your employees to Portbilet. Can we take it that the transition is 100% complete?
— We completed the transfer of agents to the online platform at the end of October. But to say that the transition to the Portbilet is 100% complete would not be entirely true: a more accurate figure would be 95%, because there are always difficult routes that require work directly in the GDS.
— What helped you to decide on making such a global transition?
— This was our answer to the question: how to offer the client even better services without increasing the cost of the service fee? Historically, business travel agents in Russia were associated with doing many operations of the same type throughout the entire service delivery cycle: from receiving an application to sending information to accounting systems. It was necessary to use the maximum amount of resources to offer the client best quality service. The agent had to switch between the windows of different booking systems and to manually select and compare offers from different suppliers. The work efficiency decreased as a result: the application's processing time increased, and the dependence on the human factor increased when taking travel policies into account to choose the best offer. All this led to an increase in the transaction cost and it was necessary either to raise the service charge or work at a loss.
Neither of this suited us, of course. And we found a solution. This year, we and the team set ourselves the task of conducting an internal audit of our operational processes and changing our approach to doing business. We focused on the automation and efficiency of workflows while maintaining high quality customer service.
— How did it all happen, and when did you decide to use Portbilet?
In March, we conducted a screening of all processes, platforms, and resources used by the employees of the operations department. According to its results, we decided to organise the work based on the single window system. In our situation, when providing the service to the client, the agent uses one entry point to get all the information, without spending time on additional offline interaction with suppliers and departments within the company.
When thinking about which online platform to use for this, we did not reinvent the wheel and took our own Portbilet system as a basis, which has been actively used by our customers as an Online Booking Tool for a long time.
— Did you have to modify something in the Portbilet system for your purposes?
— Nothing significant. The 2018 version of Portbilet after all is an engine that integrated various GDSs, own airlines stocks, and the ability to customise work using the NDC protocol. It already includes the terms of our clients' travel policies, tripartite contract data bases and a part of direct contract ones with hotels. The Business Trip function has also been added, which combines different services in one order, as well as transfers, GDS hotels, and much more. Only minor improvements were left to make the experience of using the product by agents and customers even more logical.
— How did the employees take the transition to the new system?
— The summer of 2018 was entirely devoted to working with agents and 'resetting' their attitude to the changes taking place. Our communication strategy was to explain to the team that automating all the processes will free up time that can be used for consulting in the field of business travel and meeting high customer expectations.
— Are there any results already? How did the holding's corporate business benefit from this new feature on the practical side?
First of all, as we expected, the productivity increased by 10% and the transaction cost reduced. Owing to this, it became possible to manage profitability more accurately and to increase business efficiency. Another positive effect of the Portbilet system is the ability to connect various booking systems and suppliers with the best offers and conditions without the need to retrain the staff.
— And if to look at it from the customer's point of view?
— Our customers have already experienced an increase in the quality of our services owing to the speeding up of the service, accurate compliance with travel policies, and the ability to receive a tariff directly from a supplier. Moreover, process automation helps us to increase the level of service for current customers without increasing fees.
— Will Portbilet further change, adjusting to the features of corporate business?
— A full data base of direct contracts with hotels will be added to Portbilet next two quarters and the accounting systems will be integrated as well. And in the 4th quarter of 2018, we plan to launch a single settlement centre, which will speed up the formation and sending of closing documents for the customer. This request is one of the most frequently encountered ones at the moment, and we are always considerate when responding to our customers' requests.