It would be an understatement to say travel agencies must work harder, faster, and more efficiently in today’s global travel industry to remain competitive among the variety of methods travelers have to complete bookings. Today’s travelers demand agile, transparent, and highly visible value chains that cut through the complexity of an industry with a wide variety of suppliers, tour operators, travel management companies, and other key players. As a result, travel agencies must leverage efficient, productive workflows and operational platforms to meet customer demands, especially in the back-office even though many customers might not be aware of these non-customer facing tasks.
But the question is: How can travel agencies improve their workflows and streamline their back-office processes to remain competitive on a global stage? The answer lies in workflows and back-office automation solutions that allow travel agencies to eliminate manual, time-consuming processes that once divided an agent’s attention from interacting with and positioning the right products to the right customer.
Though somewhat hidden from the average traveler, the back-office is where a majority of a travel company’s operational activities such as invoicing, procurement, and payroll are housed. And even though these tasks may be invisible to customers, travel agencies cannot afford to gloss over the benefits back office automation can provide in terms of decreasing costs, increasing revenue, and promoting growth and productivity - especially when, as back office and front office tasks become more entwined, the distinction between operational and customer-facing activities bleed together.
With this in mind, here are a few examples in which workflow automation can help travel agents improve their back-office processes in order to offer a higher degree of service to today’s traveler.
Perhaps the most evident value proposition of back-office automation is a significant reduction in operational costs by removing a number of manual processes from the hands of employees and merging them into intelligent, optimized planning systems with massive computing and data storage capabilities. For example, let’s look at vendor performance reports, which can take 2 to 3 employees several days to review and analyze via multiple spreadsheets or other manual data management systems. While this task is often so entrenched in the routine of the back- office, such tasks can cost companies thousands of dollars per year in sunk time and resources. Automation solutions can achieve the same analytic and storage goals in a fraction of the time, allowing employees to focus on less menial tasks.
Fewer instances of human error
As we just discussed, so many back office tasks in today’s travel industry are managed by teams of human employees, which can be a liability in terms of time and resources. But it can also be a potential problem when it comes to human error, an element which automation can virtually erase. Deploying an automation solution significantly reduces the likelihood of data processing or storage errors across a wide spectrum of areas - everything from payroll to invoicing to human resources paperwork - which means increases in accuracy, productivity, and profitability. Simply put, travel agencies can allocate time, resources, and materials to other areas when they’re not preoccupied with double-checking manual processes or correcting errors which may implicate several touch points of the value chain.
Let’s say errors in the back office do occur - an invoice is mismanaged, payroll is delayed due to bottlenecks in the workflow, or contracts and agreements between suppliers and distributors are not processed with the necessary efficiency to ensure the movement of products or services to customers. Implementing an automation solution gives travel agencies the capacity to quickly identify the nature of the problem and utilize actionable data to take the right corrective measures without diverting employee attention or resources from current projects. In addition, the computing power of back-office automation provides travel companies with real-time insight into this process, creating enhanced visibility and transparency across the value chain. The ability to take a more holistic view of a travel agency’s chain of products and services makes for a more responsive operational platform and allows travel companies to effectively manage bottlenecks or disruptions with creating a domino effect throughout the value chain.
It’s an industry-wide truth: Travel agencies are facing more pressure than ever before to function at higher levels in order to meet the demands of today’s traveler - speed, accuracy, and transparency. Without an a back-office automation solution, travel agencies can quickly find themselves bogged down in duties and tasks that draw time, resources, and attention away from the customer. In an age when travelers have more power than ever to influence the travel industry, it’s pretty clear travel agents can ill afford to ignore the value proposition of automating the back-office in leveraging greater overall efficiency.