Kelly Kuhn, executive vice president & Chief Customer Officer with Carlson Wagonlit Travel tells Karen Yue that a new strategy – which includes smart use of data – is allowing her company to place customers at the forefront more than ever
Tell me about the restructure Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) underwent last year.
We had a new CEO and made the decision to reorganise the company. The new structure was launched July 1, 2016, and for the first time, we have all of our customer-facing leaders as one organisation globally (under the Customer Organization).
I’ve learnt that all our customers want to do business globally, whether they are a small company in Singapore or an MNC in the UK.
Before, we were very geographically structured. We had general managers in each country, each market who had overarching responsibilities. Now, we are very functionally driven with collaboration across the teams. My colleague, Andrew Jordan, who is our chief technology officer responsible for all products and services, and I are attached at the hip. He’s building what I am selling. I leave products and technology to him, which is his area of expertise.
The same is true for our Operations team, our Traveller Services team and our Meetings and Events team around the world. I want Matt Beatty (executive vice president, Traveller Services) and his team to focus on the point-of-sales delivery so that my team can focus on the overarching customer experience (and) work on retention strategies.
The new structure puts the right people in the right jobs at the right time.
Along with the new structure, we launched our CWT 3.0 strategy in September 2016.
Tell me more about this CWT 3.0 strategy.
It all started with our focus on a consumer-grade customer experience. I was in Hong Kong (recently) talking to some customers about their (corporate travel) programme having leakage. It is hard for them to mandate their travellers to use their preferred travel companies.
(The solution to this problem) is simple: if you give them a consumer grade experience that they would use in their personal life, they’d want to participate. They want personalised experience, aggregated content in any vehicle, all in one place.
The other key, especially in Asia-Pacific, is content. So much content here is fragmented in multiple places, particularly hotel content. Our customer base in this region books both hotel and flight together 30 per cent of the time when an overnight trip is required. That means 70 per cent of the time they are booking elsewhere. In the event of a disaster, duty of care becomes a challenge. (Tracking is difficult) if travellers have not booked in the mandated programme.
This leads me to CWT AnalytIQs, which is the other part of our strategy. It uses data and analytics to drive informed decisions, informed negotiations and personalisation at the point of sale.
How does CWT AnalytIQs work?
Imagine a user experience with real-time maps and a social environment of all the other travellers in your corporation. You will know at any time where all your colleagues are, which hotels your corporation has negotiated rates with, and hotel reviews your colleagues have written.
Beyond that, CWT AnalytIQs pushes real-time travel data to the business unit owner or travel manager’s desktop so that they can make decisions about what their unit is doing in terms of travel. They can see in real time tickets as they are being generated and what their online booking percentage is, and when there are exceptions to policy, steps can be taken immediately.
We are also using the same data to help travel counsellors better understand traveller behaviour and to drive information onto the online booking channel, and into CWT-To-Go to help travellers make informed decisions.
Before CWT AnalytIQs, our programme manager assigned to the client will sit with them once a month or once a quarter to go through all the data, study the trends and look at benchmarking against others. It was always post.
Is CWT AnalytIQs customisable?
AnalytIQs dashboard is completely customisable.
XYZ Corporation might decide to only show their travellers preferred suppliers in certain destinations, which enables adherence to travel programme.
Another corporation has a programme with several airline partners but is meeting the hurdles with only one. With data fed to them, the corporation can decide in real time how to direct (air bookings) so that they can meet the hurdles of all their preferred programmes.
Before CWT AnalytIQs, corporations only have such data at the end of the reporting period which by then is too late. Not every company wants that (such detailed analysis of travel transactions) of course, for example very matured companies that have been managing travel for a very long time and the opportunity to drive further savings are very little.
If not all clients want this, wouldn’t CWT AnalytIQs find challenges in gaining adoption?
Globally, we have close to 10,000 clients worldwide using CWT AnalytIQs. It is available free of charge to CWT clients.
In Asia, much of this (corporate travel management) is new for many companies, so there is an opportunity to manage travel in a different way (through CWT AnalytIQs).
I had the head of group supply with one of our biggest customers in Singapore say to me: I’ve never had our business unit heads so excited about travel data. It is like a few of them are junkies. He said he had to get them off looking at our dashboard and back to running his business.