In Uncertain Times, Travel Management is Far From a LuxuryBy Mike Baker
In the face of Coronavirus, TMCs are much more than software — they're portals to clarity, support and expert travel advice
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When people consider getting a travel management company (TMC) to help them manage their corporate travel, they’re usually looking for something that will help them save time and money — a tool that simplifies the booking and reporting process and gives them access to a special inventory of discounted travel options. However, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 reveals that these benefits tell only half the story. In uncertain times, the guidance, clarity and expert advice become an even more pressing need for companies.
Here are 3 ways that TMCs like Lola.com can help companies weather turbulent times.
A valuable ally
If you thought airline and hotel policies were hard to navigate normally, you’ve probably been shocked by how complex it has gotten since the rise of COVID-19. Each airline is dealing with the issue differently, creating a complex matrix of fee-free waivers, “book with confidence” windows, and location-specific cancellation policies.
All of this makes it particularly hard for companies and business travelers to get straight answers about refunds, postponements and fee-free changes. In times like these, access to a team of travel industry veterans is invaluable, especially for smaller companies.
And while many airlines and hotels have become more generous with their waiver policies, companies that rely on travel agents for booking (and cancelling) may still end up spending a lot of money to change their existing travel plans. TMCs, like Lola, that don't charge booking or cancellation fees become even more valuable in times of travel uncertainty.
The last few weeks have made this extremely clear to us. We’re getting more questions than ever (and, understandably, more questions tinged with anxiety) but we’re also getting incredibly grateful responses for our help. Customers who have been saved from hours spent on hold with an airline, customers who were stunned to learn they were getting a full refund on their hotel rooms, and customers simply grateful for an experienced ear to turn to as they work through the important decisions they need to make about their company’s travel.
When times are good, a streamlined travel booking app is often enough; in uncertain times a team of tireless experts can feel like a godsend.
A trusted source of information
Not all of the customer inquiries we’re getting are about specific travel changes — some are more general questions about health tips, booking guidance, and important resources.
Here’s a chart our support team has been using to track the types of questions they’re hearing from customers.
As you can see, nearly ¾ of the questions are about cancelling existing travel plans, but a quarter of the inquiries have been about more general questions. These are times when our customers aren’t looking for an ally, they’re looking for an advisor.
As such, our service team has been cataloguing important resources — both travel industry and health-based — to help our customers have the best information at their fingertips.
As our CEO Mike Volpe told Business Insider, “Because all providers have different, and constantly evolving, policies about reimbursements and waivers due to COVID-19, Lola helps catalog this information and makes it accessible to customers as well as working directly with the providers when customers have specific questions.”
Without a TMC, companies are on their own for collecting and curating this information, which can add anxiety to an already stressful situation. The best TMCs are able to not only help customers get help for specific problems, but also provide general guidance to ensure companies have the information they need to understand the situation themselves.
Here are some resources that we have pulled together in the last couple of weeks:
- Coronavirus and Business Travel: Everything You Need to Know
- Impact on Airline Cancellation and Refund Policies
- Does Travel Insurance Cover Coronavirus?
Time to focus on what's important
More than anything, having a TMC in uncertain times helps free companies up for the important, company-specific decisions only they can make. The more time a company needs to focus on the logistics of corporate travel — Can we get a refund? Where exactly are my traveling employees? What happens to our unused tickets? — the less time they can devote to the bigger questions about their own policies and processes.
We’ve heard from customers that are grateful Lola is handling the logistics so they can dive into their own business impact, create plans for the future, and everything else that goes into managing a business when uncertainty strikes.
This is true not only at the corporate level but also at the individual traveler level. Entrusting your company’s travel program to a TMC like Lola means that every employee is freed from having to worry about the minute details of their travel, so they can instead use that time to communicate more easily, mitigate risks and focus on the rest of their jobs.
The bottom line
When times are relatively normal, companies want a TMC to help them save time and money — a tool that makes it easy to book and mange travel and gives them access to a special inventory of discounted travel options. But in uncertain times, companies need much more from their TMCs: guidance, clarity and expert advice become an even more pressing need for companies.
It’s impossible to know when the anxiety surrounding COVID-19 will end, but there’s no doubt that having a TMC to help make it through these uncertain times is a massive help.