The Contact Centre is the heart of the Corporate Travel service to clients. It is the engine; everything else will revolve around it. Without it, there can be no service. Where then, would be the ideal location for your all important Corporate Travel Contact Centre? Many a diehard traditionalist would tell you that it should be located where the head office is. In other words, the Managing Director or CEO, would like it where he is located. Such a notion, I presume, would come from a desire to show off one’s empire to every visitor. Some others would argue for it to be located in their own building, wherever that may be. Their main argument would be that with such an arrangement, they will have no rental costs. My own views on the subject are very different.
There was a time, when it was necessary to locate the Operations Centre, close to the client. Those were the days of paper tickets. When fancy brick and mortar structures were important. There was often the need to rush a ticket to a client. Sometimes, for the client to come storming into your office to inform you of dire mishandling. One of your staff had messed up his itinerary. Fortunately those days are long gone.
The best location for the Corporate Travel Contact Centre
Ideally, the Corporate Travel Contact Centre should be located where your rental costs are the least expensive. You do not need prime real estate to house your Contact Centre. Today, it is not an area clients visit: everything has gone electronic. Even if you own extensive office space in the centre of town, that really is not the site for your Contact Centre. Rent it out: make some extra cash. Set up your Contact centre in an area where the rent is cheap. Of course rent is not the only factor that you need to take into consideration. It would be pointless to set it up in the middle of the desert because rents are cheap. You need to consider the following points before you decide where to set up the Contact Centre:
- Is the area easily accessible?
- Are there good, regular and reliable public transportation systems available to/from the area?
- Does the area have good Internet and tele-communication facilities?
- Are there any power related issues in the area?
- Are there any problems with water supply?
- Where do the majority of your staff live?
- If you are in an area that has heavy seasonal rains, will that affect your operation?
- Is the area secure and suitably protected?
Today many a successful Corporate Travel Contact Centre is located far away from the frenzied activities of downtown areas. I know of some that are located in warehouses near Airports. What matters really, is the service; not the location.
I should also add that if your current Contact Centre is costing you too much to run, you should seriously consider moving it out to a suitable location where you can save on rental costs.
Business Process Outsourcing
Any discussion on the location of the Corporate Travel Contact Centre, will bring up the question of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Of course, the volume of your business should be considerable, before BPO will become an item of serious discussion. To outsource, or not to outsource, is the question. One can argue the point till the cows come home, and still have no clearcut answers. In my personal opinion, several aspects of the Travel industry, as against Corporate Travel services, can be outsourced. Especially, when it comes to routine airline reservations. However, when it comes to Corporate Travel, one should proceed with Outsourcing cautiously. Conducting a detailed study of the service, costs, benefits and savings is important. The business culture, of the city you conduct your business in, will also be a critical factor to consider. For instance, we all know that in the Arabian Gulf, personal relationships are important. Arabs traditionally like a conversation with their suppliers. That Kahwah (arabic coffee) or Sulaimani (arabic tea) over which you discuss business, is important. One may argue that those discussions can take place at higher levels, or with Key Account Managers. Those of us who know the Gulf well, would probably disagree. It is often very important for a senior decision maker in the Arab world, to have a chat with the actual person who is making his booking. You take that person out of the equation, you can easily lose the whole client account.
Should you decide to go the route of the BPO, a lot of care should be taken during the negotiation and implementation processes. It should be handled by a senior manager who knows his travel well. He should also be aware of all operational processes. Please do not think he can delegate the responsibilities and successfully deliver. One cannot sign what one considers a fantastic contract and forget all about what we term as Travel Operations. I think every ‘what if’ situation should be considered, reviewed and signed off with the knowledge and confidence that there will be no negative impact. I also think, one should review staffing very seriously. It should be a very important part of the contract. Above average staff in Country A, may not be good enough for clients in Country B. In Corporate Travel when things go wrong, the situation can become quite explosive. You could lose a major client over a single badly handled telephone call. You may never be given a second chance. Implementation of BPO processes are critical to it’s success. It is important that you have an excellent Operational co-ordinator on your side to handle the processes between your organisation and the BPO vendor. The person should be empowered completely, to handle any situation that may arise.
When it comes to BPO, you may perhaps wish not to outsource the travel arrangements of your VIPs and, some ‘Prima Donnas’ that every corporate seems to always have. It can however, be done: set up a VIP handling unit with your BPO vendor. We need always to take special care of decision makers and influencers.
When you have a Corporate Travel Contact Centre of over 150 staff, you need to consider carefully, where you set it up. Whether you handle it on your own, or go for the BPO idea, setting it up the right way could save you money, and significantly increase your profits.
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© Mano Chandra Dhas