By Karri Alexion-Tiernan, senior director, product marketing
Travel can be exhilarating. Jetting off to far-flung places, seeing new faces — whether it’s for business or pleasure, it’s always an adventure.
But the air goes out of that balloon quite quickly when you’re faced with a medical emergency during a business trip, your flight is cancelled after a long meeting or you’re re-routed because of a storm. These scenarios never come at an opportune time. It seems it’s always when you need to be home for your kids, you’ve got plans to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in years or you have a long overdue date night planned. We’ve all had that feeling of just wanting to be home.
And while Egencia can’t control why these things happen, we can make the journey a little more bearable when travel plans get knocked off track to make for a smoother experience before, during and after your trip.
Egencia is unique in the way we combine the power of your people, our global partners and proven travel technology to deliver a modern, world-class business travel management solution. On top of that, our best-in-class customer service and account management teams are here to help with any situation at any time.
The best part for business travellers? All of this is fully owned, developed and managed by Egencia, which means everything you need is accessible everywhere — online or through our mobile app — in a way that’s intuitive, familiar and easy to use.
Before I go
When I say Egencia is always working for you, I mean it. When I’m booking my business trips, I get the benefits of our Smart Mix search results. Smart Mix is a business travel technology innovation built at Egencia and is based on machine learning algorithms.
For instance, Smart Mix uses my preferred hotel, my loyalty to specific properties, my historical booking and hotels I have searched for as a few examples of the variables it considers when making a recommendation. Based on my preferences for these variables, Smart Mix presents the best options for me. This means I’ll see hotel results that I prefer and are in policy. The more I travel, regardless of where I am travelling, the more Smart Mix learns and the better my search results become. This saves me tons of time because I don’t have to scroll through screen after screen of options and I know that when I arrive at my hotel, I won’t be surprised.
Another innovative capability that benefits my team’s budget is our Savings Finder technology. From the time I book a trip, Savings Finder monitors to see if there are better airfares for my itinerary. If there are, I automatically get rebooked at the lower fare with no effort on my part — same seat, class, route and times. It’s amazing because while I’m working for Egencia, our travel management technology is working for me in the background to save us money — and there’s no additional effort required on my part.
Our customers can take part in the savings too. To date, Savings Finder for Air has saved our customers millions of pounds and we’re expecting that to double in 2020. Our team will ship Savings Finder for Hotel in the first quarter of 2020, which means we’ll be able to save on my hotel bookings as well. With all these savings, I can send my team to a conference, on a customer visit or to an office in another location to brainstorm even more new innovations.
Another way Egencia is watching out for you before you even step out the door is with our crisis communications team. This team constantly monitors global weather and events so that travellers and travel managers can stay on top of any emerging situation through alerts in the Egencia Travel News and Traveller Centre.
When an event is imminent, this team pulls together Global Customer Impact reports to send personal communications to travel managers and travellers who may be affected. This robust network of monitoring and messaging means that Egencia helps you proactively reroute or alter plans before chaos ensues.
Here’s an example of it all in action: A group of people from Egencia were at a conference in France with colleagues from another company who use a competing travel management company (TMC). When our team mentioned that they’d just changed their travel plans in response to a travel alert they’d received through the Egencia app regarding an impending workers’ strike, their colleagues replied with, “What strike?” and sheepishly admitted that their TMC did not have real-time travel alerts.
As I’m travelling
What happens when chaos strikes in the middle of a trip?
Egencia is there for you then too, with alerts in the app and via text messages to let travel managers and business travellers know what’s going on, what we’re doing about it and what to do next.
In addition to travel alerts, Egencia has over 3,000 travel consultants — who are empowered, skilled problem-solvers — ready to assist you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, in more than 60 countries and speak over 32 languages. Plus, from the moment a travel consultant picks up the phone, they know who you are, where you are and where you’re heading.
When I hit traffic that could cause me to miss my flight or a gate change on the other side of the airport that will make me miss my connection and I’m on the run, I love using AssistMe. I just hit the AssistMe button in the Egencia app and a travel consultant calls me back within a couple of minutes (often even less) to help me with whatever I need. I don’t have to dial, I don’t have to cut and paste, I just hit a button and they call me back saying, “Hi Karri, how can we help?” I can’t tell you how much that calm, confident greeting does to ease my worries and keep me moving.
Plus, there’s no complicated corporate interface to figure out or multiple apps to juggle when you’re in the middle of a frustrating situation. One of the things that I find to be easier is that with our unified business travel solutions, we’ve taken many things we’ve learned about creating a stellar consumer experience with Expedia (which I use to book personal travel for my family) and applied it to the Egencia app for business travellers. So, there’s the familiarity of how I do things in my personal life that carries over to my professional life, which makes things faster and more intuitive for me.
Another important way Egencia keeps you safe when you’re on the road during a disruption is with our Traveller Tracker. With the Traveller Tracker, travel managers can drill down into specific areas on any map and see who is — or will be — in the area within a particular date range. They can then contact their travellers directly.
The fact that Egencia is monitoring events that might affect me, even though I may not be aware of them, makes me feel more secure. It allows me to focus on my work while trusting that my Egencia travel team are trained to expect the unexpected and will keep me informed and safe.
Once I arrive
In an emergency, Egencia is working hard behind the scenes long before I arrive. If there are any complications along my route, Egencia travel experts are alerted and make sure that I have a late check-in or get me rebooked if necessary.
Once I’m on the ground, the Egencia app helps me make smart decisions when I arrive in the midst of mayhem. Let’s say I land in Munich and traffic is gridlocked because of an event. The app shows me how long it will take to get from one point to another on several different modes of transport — train, bus, walking or Uber — so I have the flexibility to make the best choice.
The future of great travel experiences
The exciting news is, as good as it is right now, in the future I predict that it will get even better. Take our Smart Mix, for instance. While machine learning is already able to show you the best results based on your preferences, travel policy and pricing, it’s getting even smarter.
Egencia can already sync with your work calendar. However, if I’m looking to the future, it may be possible to understand where you need to be across various days during your trip and suggest a hotel that would work best for visiting multiple locations while still fitting in with your policy and preferences.
The more suppliers and TMCs work closely together, the better we can create a tailored booking experience for our shared customers. For instance, I prefer not to have breakfast at the hotels I stay in because I like to start my mornings with a short walk and grab a coffee and pastry at a local café (especially in Europe!). In the future, search and sort technology may be able to understand and learn more about the amenities I prefer so my preferences can be further adapted. When this occurs, my search results won’t prioritise hotels with breakfast included. But my colleague, who likes to sleep in and order room service, will get different results based on her previous choices.
But let’s take it a step further. What if it were 10 degrees colder than you expected when you landed and you didn’t pack any gloves? Not to worry. Because Egencia is always monitoring the weather and is able to recognise this unexpected change, that information could be used in the future to identify items you may need at your destination and could send you a notification asking if you’d like gloves delivered to your hotel. You’d respond “yes”, the transaction would be billed to your credit card on file and the gloves would be at the hotel by the time you arrive. How great would that be?
Or let’s say you’re going to new to a city where you have a car hire booked. Egencia already uses machine learning to analyse multiple bookings and traveller reviews. In the future, it may be possible to use that learning to suggest alternate — and better — modes of transport for particular cities. So, you may receive a recommendation suggesting a transit pass in lieu of your hired car and it could allow you to buy it on the spot.
And as the Siri’s and Alexa’s of the world become more integrated into our lives, you can expect voice commands to become a common method of interaction that will eventually surpass touch. We already see wireless earbuds and headphones that are integrated with these technologies. Why not say, “Egencia, tell me what flights are available on Monday at 7:00 am from Seattle to London?” Once you hear the options, you’d be able to respond, “Book option one using the credit card in my profile”. Imagine that — no hands, no manual searching — just a booking that’s completed in minutes (and possibly even seconds). The future of business travel has never seemed simpler.
As technology continues to evolve, one day we’ll be able to book an entire trip — anywhere in the world and with any level of complexity, including in any language — completely hands-free using only our voice. That could be your phone, your watch or some other device that’s currently in R&D that we haven’t even seen yet.
All of these advances will give business travellers even more power and flexibility while making every step of the journey easier so that we can focus on delivering value for travellers while they’re on the road.
I’ll admit, I’m not a planner. I know roughly how much time I need to clear security to make a flight and I generally hit the ground running and figure it all out when I get there. But if the wheels come off, I want to know someone is going to be there to put them back on. Why? Because, at the end of the day, I have two young boys and a husband to get home to. So, while I love the excitement, adventure and occasional turbulent detour of travel, I also love knowing that Egencia has my back from planning through safe return.