Corporate Travel Contact Centre – Location

Travel Contact Centre - Mano Chandra Dhas

The Contact Centre is the heart of the Corporate Travel service to clients. It is the engine; everything else will revolve around it.  Without it, there can be no service. Where then, would be the ideal location for your all important Corporate Travel Contact Centre? Many a diehard traditionalist would tell you that it should be located where the head office is. In other words, the Managing Director or CEO, would like it where he is located.  Such a notion, I presume, would come from a desire to show off one’s empire to every visitor.  Some others would argue for it to be located in their own building, wherever that may be. Their main argument would be that with such an arrangement, they will have no rental costs.  My own views on the subject are very different.

There was a time, when it was necessary to locate the Operations Centre, close to the client. Those were the days of paper tickets. When fancy brick and mortar structures were important. There was often the need to rush a ticket to a client. Sometimes, for the client to come storming into your office to inform you of dire mishandling. One of your staff had messed up his itinerary. Fortunately those days are long gone. 

The best location for the Corporate Travel Contact Centre

Ideally, the Corporate Travel Contact Centre should be located where your rental costs are the least expensive. You do not need prime real estate to house your Contact Centre. Today, it is not an area clients visit: everything has gone electronic. Even if you own extensive office space in the centre of town, that really is not the site for your Contact Centre. Rent it out: make some extra cash. Set up your Contact centre in an area where the rent is cheap. Of course rent is not the only factor that you need to take into consideration. It would be pointless to set it up in the middle of the desert because rents are cheap. You need to consider the following points before you decide where to set up the Contact Centre:

  1. Is the area easily accessible?
  2. Are there good, regular and reliable public transportation systems available to/from the area?
  3. Does the area have good Internet and tele-communication facilities?
  4. Are there any power related issues in the area?
  5. Are there any problems with water supply?
  6. Where do the majority of your staff live?
  7. If you are in an area that has heavy seasonal rains, will that affect your operation?
  8. Is the area secure and suitably protected?

Today many a successful Corporate Travel Contact Centre is located far away from the frenzied activities of downtown areas. I know of some that are located in warehouses near Airports. What matters really, is the service; not the location.

I should also add that if your current Contact Centre is costing you too much to run, you should seriously consider moving it out to a suitable location where you can save on rental costs.

Business Process Outsourcing

Any discussion on the location of the Corporate Travel Contact Centre, will bring up the question of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).  Of course, the volume of your business should be considerable, before BPO will become an item of serious discussion. To outsource, or not to outsource, is the question.  One can argue the point till the cows come home, and still have no clearcut answers.  In my personal opinion, several aspects of the Travel industry, as against Corporate Travel services, can be outsourced. Especially, when it comes to routine airline reservations. However, when it comes to Corporate Travel, one should proceed with Outsourcing cautiously. Conducting a detailed study of the service, costs, benefits and savings is important. The business culture, of the city you conduct your business in, will also be a critical factor to consider. For instance, we all know that in the Arabian Gulf, personal relationships are important.  Arabs traditionally like a conversation with their suppliers. That Kahwah (arabic coffee) or Sulaimani (arabic tea) over which you discuss business, is important. One may argue that those discussions can take place at higher levels, or with Key Account Managers. Those of us who know the Gulf well, would probably disagree.  It is often very important for a senior decision maker in the Arab world, to have a chat with the actual person who is making his booking. You take that person out of the equation, you can easily lose the whole client account.

Should you decide to go the route of the BPO, a lot of care should be taken during the negotiation and implementation processes.  It should be handled by a senior manager who knows his travel well. He should also be aware of all operational processes. Please do not think he can delegate the responsibilities and successfully deliver. One cannot sign what one considers a fantastic contract and forget all about what we term as Travel Operations. I think every ‘what if’ situation should be considered, reviewed and signed off with the knowledge and confidence that there will be no negative impact. I also think, one should review staffing very seriously. It should be a very important part of the contract. Above average staff in Country A, may not be good enough for clients in Country B. In Corporate Travel when things go wrong, the situation can become quite explosive. You could lose a major client over a single badly handled telephone call. You may never be given a second chance. Implementation of BPO processes are critical to it’s success. It is important that you have an excellent Operational co-ordinator on your side to handle the processes between your organisation and the BPO vendor. The person should be empowered completely, to handle any situation that may arise.

When it comes to BPO, you may perhaps wish not to outsource the travel arrangements of your VIPs and, some ‘Prima Donnas’ that every corporate seems to always have.  It can however, be done: set up a VIP handling unit with your BPO vendor.  We need always to take special care of decision makers and influencers.

Conclusion

When you have a Corporate Travel Contact Centre of over 150 staff, you need to consider carefully, where you set it up.  Whether you handle it on your own, or go for the BPO idea, setting it up the right way could save you money, and significantly increase your profits.

Note – I would love to hear your comments on the subject. If you have any points on which you would like further clarification, please use the Comment Box here below to highlight them.  Please also feel free to share this blog using any of the buttons provided for the purpose.

© Mano Chandra Dhas

Author: Mano Chandra Dhas

Principal Consultant and Managing Partner, of Coromandel SAS, Mano Chandra Dhas, has over 40 years of experience in front-line Travel. It includes experience in India, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates, Middle East and West Asia. Fourteen of those years were spent with Airlines (Singapore Airlines and Alitalia); the remainder, with travel Agencies: Kanoo Travel, Thomas Cook, Dnata - HRG (Emirates Airlines Group) and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, UAE. He spent 35 years of his working life in the Arabian Gulf, where set up BTI Middle East and West Asia (known today as HRG Middle East and West Asia) in 14 countries, for Dnata, the Regional Managing Partner. He managed the Corporate Travel Division of Dnata for over 10 years. As Country Manager of CWT United Arab Emirates, he managed a throughput of over 100 million US Dollars per annum. During his involvement in Travel Management in the Gulf, he personally interacted with several major multinational companies in the Region; he has been involved with international Travel consolidations. Mano also managed the Dnata Contact Centre with over 150 staff reporting to him. Known for his stolid integrity, his major strengths are Account Management, Relationship Management and Service Delivery. Mano now lives in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia.

4 thoughts on “Corporate Travel Contact Centre – Location”

  1. I was in Trinidad & Tobago recently, where Delta has a reservation center. Sabre operates out of Uruguay. I just read your post while writing a report for a non-travel industry company that requested I do some preliminary research for them regarding diversifying their Philippines-based call center operations to Colombia.
    JetBlue keeps a lot of their contact center operations in house, but not in their Long Island headquarters, but out of a company owned operations center in Utah.
    In some cases, outsourced centers can perform the task better than the client company, especially when the client company is focused on other disciplines. This becomes more true as passengers nowadays expect to rebook flights via Twitter (I have done it) or through an app.
    Still, you make a very good point. Companies need to be culturally competent. I like your example of serving gulf customers. It sounds like their expectations are far different, and expect a certain level of intimacy in their customer service.
    Last year I was at an event where Copa Airlines gave a talk. They spoke about how they use contact center analytics to measure customer expectations–and their ability to meet them. One interesting finding was that while Brasilieros were very picky about their onboard meals, their North American passengers were thrilled to be offered any food at all!
    Surely this diversity of expectations carries over into the contact center, as well.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Loren. You make some very valid points. The Gulf is a totally different animal. Don’t forget that in an Emirate like Dubai, there are about 120 different nationalities living and working in the Emirate. In fact the majority of the population of the Emirate, is the expatriate segment. They bring with them every individuality of their own particular nationality. The one-size-fits all principle, can never work in the Gulf. Throw in the local Arab preferences, and you have a challenge like none other! While BPO can save many companies in many different fields a lot of Dollars, in my view, one would have to always handle it with care and careful project studies, before launching out into one.

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