Will we ever stop being shocked by COVID-19? If there’s one thing the current situation has taught us, it's that it pays to be prepared for any crisis. For instance, it was preparation that gave supermarkets the ability to manage the supply chains that came under instant, intense strain during the pandemic.
How can businesses come out of COVID-19 in more competitive shape? Success requires adhering to three principles of innovating at speed: laser tight customer focus, adaptable technology infrastructure, and data access and visibility.
- Customer experience is your focus—always
Business leaders who are winning in the current environment are those that have taken customer-centric principles to the nth degree. You can see successful examples of this customer-centric approach in home delivery services and contact-free banking.
Or consider the healthcare sector, which has of course been hit hard by the crisis. They have kept a sharp focus on patient experience and safety. In each case, it is vital for a business to listen and respond to customer feedback, in real time and as part of a rapid product innovation plan.
- Innovate with an adaptable technology infrastructure
An adaptable technology infrastructure is essential for rapid innovation during times of crisis. COVID-19 has given many businesses an impetus to transform digitally, but not all can do it. Many are faced with significant challenges that impede agility, like third-party platforms and off-site solutions.
Businesses able to build and maintain their own technology solutions are at a considerable advantage. For instance, telecom carriers have been able to modify data limits and expand wireless access to accommodate increases in at-home work, as Frontier Economics reported.
This was feasible because the technology stack was relatively easy to change. Or, consider what power utilities have been able to do with adaptable technology. Many were able to set up systems so customers could use self-service interfaces to defer payments or place service requests to avoid disruption. These have proven critical enablers for these businesses as they have sought to innovate at speed.
- Data access and visibility
Rapid innovation doesn’t happen without data visibility. It’s imperative to make data actionable in your organisation as rapidly as possible. Companies are discovering that they face data disparities as various local tech solutions are forced to converge under a global framework. This affects their ability to make data visible and available for use.
A report by McKinsey & Company makes clear how important data visibility will be for COVID-19 recovery. They advise their clients to stay focused on privacy, adhere to GDPR regulations and support government contact tracing, if relevant, to stem the spread of the virus. McKinsey also suggests that companies should be prepared for changes in the transport system, some of which may be permanent.
How has Egencia embodied these principles to help deliver for its customers?
When the crisis first hit, Egencia was quick to deploy product innovations that further added to an already robust set of risk management tools and features. In many cases, locally fostered features that were already gaining traction in some regions were immediately globalised, underlining Egencia’s adaptable platform capabilities.
- A focus on customer experience and safety first
As the outbreak evolved, Egencia focused on customer experience and safety first by accelerating alerts and updates including new features and tips that help business traveller to take more control of their trips.
Pre-trip risk mitigation was implemented globally. This included implementing simple self-serve policy controls like destination risk approvals that specified preferred suppliers and rates, out-of-policy destinations and mandated approval if an employee was travelling to a high-risk destination. More flexible policy controls were also launched, like specifying forbidden airlines and setting a maximum number of employees who can travel on the same flights.
New expectations from travellers have required the hotel industry to adopt new cleanliness standards or adapt existing ones. Hotels can add their updated health and hygiene measures which are globally displayed on their listings across all Expedia Group websites. Anyone booking on Egencia online or in the Egencia app will easily see when a hotel has provided their health and hygiene measures when they are booking hotels.
- Expedia Group technology—a global and adaptable technology infrastructure
Part of the Expedia Group global technology platform, Egencia was able to quickly tap in to innovations that were already being delivered elsewhere across the group's consumer-facing brands including Expedia and Hotels.com.
As employees demand better travel experiences and travel managers expect more data and increased rates of compliance, the use of multiple booking tools and travel management solutions is no longer a viable strategy. This is true even if those separate booking tools are available through a single interface.
What organisations need during COVID-19 and any crisis is a global business travel platform that enables the optimisation of complex travel programmes. A platform like Egencia connects all travel touch points and spans every device used by travellers, travel managers and arrangers and other coporate stakeholders. It collects travel data and enables sophisticated reporting and analysis. The unified platform also enables you to benefit from greater data access and visibility and policy compliance in all your markets.
- Traveller data visibility delivered
Egencia provided customers with business travel data visibility and reporting to help manage travel risk and adapt through this crisis
The Egencia traveller tracker has extended search capabilities to allow global searches by country, city or a custom region drawn on a map. Customers have the ability to look back 30 days to assess travel in COVID-19 hotspots. Another new feature is the ability to display information about traveller bookings on one or several airlines, including code share flights, so organisations can quickly evaluate impacts to travellers as a result of airlines ceasing operations and/or canceling flights. Corporate travel managers can feel confident that they have a clear, instantaneous view of their travellers' bookings.
When the COVID-19 crisis escalated and corporate travellers worldwide were required to return to their home countries, Egencia launched the COVID-19 travel reporting hub in Egencia Analytics Studio. This collection of new reports helps our customers mitigate the financial impact to their business by providing downloadable data for all their air and hotel bookings.
Expecting the unexpected has long been a foundational philosophy in Egencia’s agile, adaptable approach to business travel management solutions. Not every business is set up in this way. What distinguishes Egencia from other travel management companies is our ability to deploy digital innovations at speed.
To learn more about how the Egencia travel management platform can help your business through this journey, visit https://www.egencia.co.uk/en/business-travel-management-technology-covid19.