Let’s talk about cooking for a moment, particularly the cooking of a stew. A typical stew is made up of many core ingredients essential for a healthy diet: meat, starch, carbs, vegetables, and others. These ingredients are then combined in one-pot for a well-rounded eating experience that is efficient for the diner and often easy for the cook to prepare. The end result, if done properly, is a well-integrated dish of complex flavors that is often simple to execute and easy to repeat in the future.
The same is true when it comes to ERP solutions for travel agents. In today’s complex, interconnected travel industry, travel agents are called to execute any number of disparate tasks at any given moment - everything from travel operations to financial duties to operational or back-office functions. The result of these demands is a complex business atmosphere that can require much in the way of time and resources, which can hamper an agent’s productivity and efficiency in serving customers.
But, much like our stew, ERP solutions are a healthy combination of functionalities in one pot - or suite - that allow agents to link like-minded tasks and streamline business processes for maximum efficiency. The heart of ERP software is designed to optimize the flow of transaction, product and operational data between various workflows, locations and geographies. ERP software functions as an integrated suite of applications which replaces silos of isolated data and business activities with a common data model and standardized, automated processes. In addition, by providing a travel business with an integrated suite of applications for business processes, a travel ERP solution has the ability to create common data and standard processes in which operational data can be timely, reliable and consistent.
With all this mind, the important question is: Why? Why should travel agents leverage an ERP system as part of their core operational platform? Here are 4 reasons why travel agents need an ERP solution to remain competitive in today’s global travel industry.
1). Optimizing workflows. In an age when travelers prize speed, convenience, and availability in their interactions with travel management companies, ERP solutions provide agents with the capacity to optimize workflows and streamline mid-back office processes to provide customers with the expediency they seek. As an example, take simple back office or operational processes like payment and invoicing: travel ERP systems automatically manage these actions, eliminating the need for manual reconciliation activities. These workflows are also highly scalable, and a common data model means management not only has more accurate operational information, it also has more visibility into, and control over, activities taking place in the business.
2). Enhanced data mining and reporting. Perhaps in greater quantities than other industries, the travel industry contains a certain amount of uncertainty based simply on the premise that cancellations or disruptions are inevitable. Flights get delayed. Inclement weather cancels activities. Regional unrest can alter lodging or hotel accommodations. To help mitigate and manage the complexities created by this uncertainty, travel ERP solutions provides agents powerful data and reporting tools to help managers plan for these disruptions and create failsafe strategies to deal with them when they occur. These reporting and data analysis capabilities also help agents estimate and forecast; organize, plan and control; make highly informed decisions to improve operations; and increase revenues and elevate profitability.
3). Better client-supplier relations. Managing the relationship and transactions between client and suppliers is a key driver for transportation management companies to foster a lean and efficient value chain - not to mention one of transparency and visibility whereby agents have optimal maneuverability with their products and services in terms of pricing availability, and other factors. Via web-enabled, intelligent technology, travel ERP systems can integrate with third-party systems to manage requests, quotes, and sales across channels; automatically generate associated travel and fiscal documents; leverage reporting tools to provide reliable management information; and import or export data between reporting or accounting systems. This makes it easy for agents to obtain, review, analyze, and share product and service data with clients and suppliers, which creates enhanced visibility across all points of the value chain.
4). Complete software integration. Because a travel ERP is contained within a single suite, multiple software applications can be fed into that suite whereby agents and other key players in the value chain can access, share, and coordination valuable information such as pricing, product availability, and more. This not only helps break down communication silos between those at various touch points in the value chain, it also increases visibility into a travel agent’s entire supply situation - which suppliers can provide which products and services at which price point at which time. This enhanced visibility then allows agents to better position the right offer at the right time to the right customer to drive sales and promote robust growth. The capability to align multiple software applications in one ERP suite is thus a core driver in helping agents remain competitive and agile, both of which are key requirements for today’s traveler when working with a travel agent.
Whether a travel agent is searching for more cost-effective ways of managing client and supplier relationships or leveraging large amounts of data into a more robust platform for positioning a product or service to a certain market or customer, travel ERP solutions are core drivers in helping them remain a strong, relevant part of today’s travel industry. Understanding how a travel ERP solution can function as a competitive advantage can and should be a top priority for agents as they search for and discover new methods of streamlining processes and increasing productivity in a complex, global environment.