If you’re a travel industry veteran, you know that corporate travel booking policies and systems often work differently in different countries—even within the same company. You understand why it might be challenging for an agent in New York City to handle a booking for a traveler from Zurich. But if you’re the Swiss traveler in the U.S., that makes no sense to you. And if you’re the travel manager for UBS, you want to make your traveler happy.
That, in a nutshell, is what started the Swiss banking giant and its travel management company, BCD Travel, on a journey of innovation and consolidation. The result is that UBS travelers in Switzerland, the U.S. or Britain get dedicated agents who can handle their bookings—with no handoffs—throughout the working day and beyond.
It may, at first glance, seem like the same “follow the sun” strategy that has been prevalent in the business travel industry for a few years. But it’s much more. Here’s how it works:
- Dedicated agent teams in Zurich, London and New York City—where 90% of UBS travel takes place—handle the company’s traveler calls.
- All agents use the same technology, meaning a booking can be managed by any agent in these three UBS centers.
- The dedicated agents are available to travelers 17 hours a day, five days a week. (After those hours, agents who are trained on UBS policy but don’t exclusively handle UBS bookings take over.)
- Travelers—and agents—follow a near-universal corporate policy. With the exception of differences required by local laws or employee agreements, all travelers follow the same rules.
The newly implemented service, which UBS calls “NextGen Open Booking,” benefits the bank today because travelers immediately connect with experienced agents who understand their needs, their company culture and the high-touch service they expect.
But it holds even greater promise for the future, said James Celani-Smith, the BCD global account manager overseeing service to UBS. “This always-on service model greatly increases the speed with which we can deploy new technology and processes for UBS. BCD has accelerated UBS’ ability to innovate.”
UBS Global Travel Lead Mark Cuschieri said the company constantly seeks ways to do business better—on behalf of its clients and its employees. “We are in a traditionally cautious industry, but we know that change and evolution are essential to growth for any company. UBS embraces ideas that lead to improvements, and our new service model with BCD is a great example of that,” Cuschieri said.
Mark Orsmond, vice president of BCD’s Global Operations, said the model works best for companies that, like UBS, have a high concentration of travel across a few hub markets. It’s also ideal for companies that focus on traveler experience. “It’s not for everyone,” he said, “but for the right companies, this model is a turning point for travel program improvement and traveler satisfaction.”
The big challenge was creating the always-on model, Orsmond said. “Expanding and improving upon it is much simpler.”
Learn more about how BCD Travel is building for innovation, and talk to your account manager about whether an always-on service model would work for your global travel program.