Tom Rigby, Head of Commercial and Product Development at Reed & Mackay, on how corporate clients want tailored travel programmes to drive savings.
Corporate travel spend is rebounding from the depths of the recession, but clients are getting smarter about business travel, and want providers to tailor a corporate travel programme to drive savings. They want an ‘intelligent’ programme. And cost control is king.
This means many internal travel departments are no longer autonomous, but now come under the control of a company’s procurement department. This requires a more consultative, collaborative relationship between travel providers and procurement. Transparency has always been an important aspect of our service offering and never more so than today.
Give us the raw data
For a start, corporate clients want to see the same travel data as us. They need access to raw data- travel spend, fares, destination options- so they can manipulate it themselves. Both parties need to look at this data in great detail- the dual aspect is important. Why? Because we can share best practise with our clients. And our clients in turn will be aware of company strategy and business objectives and so will need to reflect this in their travel spend policy.
This drives a need for business intelligence products that provide dynamic and transparent data, so that both travel managers and external consultants can both manipulate and analyse the same data. It’s the main reason why we use IBM Cognos business intelligence and performance management software. With the ability to take raw data and model it to our reporting and analysis requirements, we can have ‘one version of the truth’ to report travel data both internally and to our clients. By utilising the analysis capability of Cognos we can identify trends, exceptions and behavioural patterns in our client’s data, allowing us to make recommendations to our clients to manage their travel programme effectively, as well as delivering real monetary savings. By partnering with an external business intelligence company we can be sure that we fully utilise the benefits of IBM Cognos whilst ensuring internal staff are equipped with ‘best-in-industry’ knowledge of Cognos products.
Some of our legal clients, for example, operate in a partnership environment, which makes it difficult to mandate rules on corporate travel. Instead, we use our information management software to show data that can assist in making business decisions in a collaborative way; by giving, say, a law firm client a snapshot of a firm’s travel spend, partners can then identify opportunities for savings or agree changes to their corporate travel guidelines.
It’s more than just raw data
But it is not just information management technology that gives us an edge over our competitors, and helps us to make savings for our clients. Our proprietary IT generates more fare searches faster than your average search, drawing data from the internet, corporate fares, market fares and agency fares. Reed & Mackay’s systems produce 150% more fare searches than your average search, in less time, meaning more savings and better deals for clients. For example, when booking inter-Africa travel, other bookings systems would not be able to pull internal airlines that may have a questionable track record. Our technology – highlights reliability and will source alternative options. But our employee know-how is still crucial. Our technology is both a support for and an enabler of the skilled consultants we employ, who, on average, have 19 years’ experience in booking corporate travel
Here’s what your peers are doing..
Increasingly, clients also want to know what their competitors and peers are doing, they want to benchmark their business practises and policies against their own. So the fact that we can communicate travel data in this way, added to the fact that we work for – many clients within the same industry, means we can – inform our customers:
‘ Your industry peers are currently booking X% in business class, to X destinations, with an average advance purchase of X days resulting in an average transaction value of X.’ This highlights a number of key cost driving factors impacting your travel trends whilst also providing clear saving opportunities…’…all the while ensuring that we respect our clients’ confidentiality and do not divulge sensitive data.
New cost structure
Sharing data and adopting a collaborative approach to working with corporate travel clients is also transforming the costing structure within the industry.
At Reed & Mackay we are leading that change in terms of how we charge clients, and reward our employees. We bill clients an upfront fee for our services. We incentivise our travel consultants by rewarding them for the savings they deliver to our clients, over a sustained period of time: this is unique to our company, and it ensures our clients’ interests are aligned with our own.
One of the most effective ways the corporate travel industry can deliver those savings to clients is by so-called ‘intelligent purchasing’. By identifying travel trends- such as a particular route or destination frequented by a certain executive type, say lawyers or private equity directors- travel providers can leverage their customer base, and purchasing power, for the benefit of their clients.
The depth and breadth of our own client list means we can take a look at the amount of travel spend we invest in a particular route. This is particularly effective for common routes such as NYC where several airlines fly. For more unusual route such as West Africa, airlines often have a monopoly on these routes so our role is to lobby on our clients behalf to deliver schedule options most convenient for clients, or use our commanding position representing a critical mass of firms in a particular industry group, to negotiate special rates. We will look at our consolidated travel spend for that region, go to an airline and negotiate lower fares for those clients on those routes.
Sharing best practise
Helping corporate clients achieve an efficient, sustainable and cost-effective travel programme is all about collaboration and sharing information. Above all, it is about sharing best practise. A client’s business objective may include a 5% across the board reduction in company costs. That can mean procurement urging us to book the cheapest fare. It is up to us to explain that travel spend must be strategic in order to deliver the greatest leverage, convenience and savings to the client. A client may have a tendency to book fully flexible fares for fear of penalties yet analysis of the company’s behaviour patterns may render fully flexible fares more costly even if the client does make changes. There was a trend driven by the recession to change the cabin class rules in travel policies ultimately downgrading from business to premium/economy. The cost to the business due to the productivity limitations this places on travellers is shifting the thinking back to business. Ultimately it’s about delivering the best value on a travel programme that saves clients’ money but most importantly enables them to do their job.
Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key
By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK
As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.
Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).
Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.
With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?
Keep people at the heart of change
It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.
Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.
Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.
Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.
Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)
Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.
Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.
Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.
Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.
Staggered return-to-office planning
Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.
An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.
Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.
Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy
Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.
Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.
UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine.
1. Canvas for Business
Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.
With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.
Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.
2. Engage for Business
Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses.
3. Freedom for Business
With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs.
Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services.
Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more.
Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.
“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.”
Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver
Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours
A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.
The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:
- If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
- If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
- If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider
The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:
- For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
- For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
- In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours
The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.
“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.
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