More Than 150,000 American Express Travel Customers Were Impacted by the Volcanic Ash Situation
Company Shares 10 Tips for Effective Travel Program Management in a Crisis NEW YORK,Â April 28, 2010 --Â
American Express Business Travel, a global leader in business travel management, announced today it is offering its automated central command post complimentary for those customers who implement its business continuity suite. Information learned from the volcanic ash cloud situation demonstrated the importance of continuous information exchange between corporate security, travel, finance and other departments and combining that with the creativity and persistence of experienced travel counselors became the formula to successfully manage through this unexpected situation. American Express Business Travel reported its client base had more than 150,000 travelers impacted by the travel cancellations.
American Express Business Travel is introducing a business continuity suite of products anchored by an online central command post that serves as the hub for traveler tracking tools and instant employee messaging necessary during a crisis. The core command post solution, or portal, is being offered complimentary to customers who purchase our business continuity suite. The suite also contains an after-hours solution and a telepresence/teleconference capability to serve as an alternate means for conducting business when the traditional methods (air, car, rail) are unavailable. If you are interested in taking advantage of this offer, contact your American Express Business Travel representative or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The recent travel complications resulting from the volcanic ash cloud highlighted the need for companies to have a central command post to manage information. Travelers needed to be located and re-accommodated, and there was a need to disseminate communications on a broad-scale to stranded travelers, as well as employees that may not have started their trip yet," said Lisa Durocher, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Product Management, American Express Business Travel.
"These business critical functions required sophisticated tools and quick actions from experienced and knowledgeable travel counselors. Around the world, our service delivery network and travel counselors used creativity, flexibility and persistence – and more than 12,000 hours of overtime – to get travelers home or change travel plans for those who had yet to commence their trips," added Julie Bottner, Senior Vice President, Global Service Delivery, American Express Business Travel.
Top Tips for Managing An Unexpected Travel Disruption
Companies with a plan in place clearly were in a better position to support their travelers and their companies through the most recent crisis. Following is a list of tips American Express recommends for companies to consider to ensure preparation and business continuity for any unforeseen travel disruption:
- Be a safety net. Distressed travelers seek solace in their travel managers and expect a personal touch from their service. Collaborating effectively across business units including Travel, Risk/Security, Finance, Communications, Procurement, Technology and Human Resources is crucial to successfully supporting all of the needs of both travelers and the company. So plan ahead and have the right contacts aligned and policies in place before the next big event.
- Take a fresh look. Nothing is more important than knowing the whereabouts of your travelers and verifying their safety. Do you have the appropriate tools to track your travelers in the event of an emergency? Be sure that you can access this information quickly, either through on-demand reporting, a GUI-based tool, or a combination of both. It is important to make sure your travel policy supports these tools by stressing the importance of making reservations (air AND Hotel, rail) as well as all changes through the approved travel channels. This will ensure all data is channeled through the traveler-tracking tools so that employees can be easily located. Also include this information in employee code of conduct training materials and in new employee manuals.
- Evaluate your servicing configuration. Does it include allowances for emergency and after-hours service? Understand the contingency plans of your travel management company to be sure that your travelers will be able to make contact and get the help they need.
- Revisit your traveler communications strategy. It must allow for two-way, real-time communication with employees and travelers both individually and company-wide. The best mobile solutions incorporate a mix of smart phone apps and text messaging for timely alerts and added convenience at an otherwise inconvenient time. Be sure to have an alternative plan of communication through the use of websites, social media channels and landlines in the event mobile networks are not available.
- Revisit your traveler communications strategy, Part II. Consider a traveler portal solution that can target individual travelers based upon their preferences and travel history then post and push timely and relevant information on the fly. An added potential benefit is that travelers learn to rely upon this central location for all travel related information, resulting in productivity gains and improvements to policy compliance and savings.
- Embrace telepresence and teleconferencing. With the proliferation of public telepresence rooms, this option will be more accessible, especially for companies who do not wish to invest in building their own facilities. Teleconferencing has come a long way and is also a viable option. A central booking solution for the whole of these options allows for easy booking and can minimize lost productivity due to travel interruptions.
- Recycle those unused tickets. Utilize an automated ticket tracking application to identify all unused tickets. Refundable tickets are as good as cash in your pocket and non-refundables can frequently be used against a future trip to offset that expense.
- Turn an eye to ROI. Some of these suggestions do require investment so it is important to understand and balance the costs against the potential tangible and intangible benefits of getting employees back to work and keeping them feeling safe and protected.
- Be Social. Create the dialog with your peers through online forums and discussion boards. Share your experiences and pick up a new tip or learning along the way.
- Debrief while the situation is still fresh. Talk to your impacted travelers and let their experience inform your supplier strategy, policy and crisis management plan. Were some suppliers more accommodating than others in making alternate arrangements for your travelers, waiving re-booking or other fees? Keep this in mind as you go through supplier negotiations in the future. A survey or questionnaire sent to all employees can help identify unrealized impacts and gaps in your corporate travel program while demonstrating a commitment to traveler service.
Putting the Volcanic Ash Situation in Context
American Express ramped up support throughout their global service delivery network in response to customer needs to find transport and accommodation, as well as chartering buses and flights from various destinations across the globe to pick up stranded travelers.
- More than 100,000 planes were grounded as a result of the volcanic ash.
- In some instances the American Express service delivery network experienced a 2,300 percent increase in call volume compared to a similar period of time.
- More than 150,000 travelers were impacted, both those that were stranded when the airspace closed and could not continue to their destinations, as well as those with planned trips about to commence.
- Travel counselors collectively made and received more than 1 million calls during the crisis, representing a 60 percent increase globally over what is typical for this time of year.
- Globally, we increased the scale of our service operations to support this extraordinary increase in demand, whereby travel counselors have logged more than 12,000 overtime hours.
- We sent emergency cash to card members and travelers for extended stays due to cancellations and also assisted with prescription replacement.
- More than 100 messages were written for employees and customers to deliver up to the minute information and the company blogged on their social media site, businesstravelconnexion.com, updates around airport closures and service information.
About American Express Business Travel
American Express Business Travel (americanexpress.com/businesstravel), a division of American Express Company, is committed to helping its clients maximize the return on their travel investment through increased cost savings, world-class customer service and greater spending control. With clients ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, American Express Business Travel provides a combination of industry-leading technology, travel management consulting, strategic sourcing and supplier negotiation support, alongside global customer service available online and offline. The Company also provides a dynamic online community (businesstravelconneXion.com) harnessing the collective intelligence of those in the business travel industry offering a variety of perspectives, best practices, current research and industry news.
American Express operates one of the world's largest travel agency networks with locations in over 140 countries worldwide. Total travel sales volume in 2009 was $21.5 billion, including proprietary volume, volume processed through joint ventures, and American Express branded volume processed through its partner network.
About American Express Company
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, twitter.com/americanexpress and youtube.com/americanexpress.