Flight Centre supports customers through COVID-19

Flight Centre Travel Group is one of the world’s largest travel agency groups. Headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, Flight Centre’s vast leisure and corporate sales network extends around the world, operating in 90+ countries. From its humble beginnings in double-decker buses to today—with 30 brands and thousands of corporate customers—Flight Centre aims to “open up the world for those who want to see.”

The company uses Nintex K2 Cloud for a number of processes, including HR approvals, credit notes, contracts, and travel approvals. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the travel industry, Flight Centre was able to quickly launch COVID-related apps and forms, including customer cancellations and a workplace safety app.

Moreover, the company is using this time to continually innovate with solutions like the HUB Builds app which allows customers to onboard faster than ever. With K2 Cloud, Flight Centre is transforming customer experience, gaining transparency into its processes, and boosting efficiency.

$175K

Saved in the first year

35,000

Customer refunds processed

~1,200

Hours saved on large onboarding projects

Company
Flight Centre
Website
Industry
Professional Services
Country
Capabilities Used
K2 Software

Who they are

One of the world's largest travel agency groups, it has company-owned operations in 23 countries and a corporate travel management network that spans more than 90 countries.

What they needed

Flight Centre needed an easy-to-use tool for workflow automate to improve productivity across its business groups and operations.

How they did it

The company uses K2 Cloud to streamline and automate HR approvals, credit notes, contracts, travel approvals, and more.

Simplifying a complex customer onboarding process

Challenge: Manual site builds create roadblocks

FCM, the global corporate division of Flight Centre, uses an internal technology called HUB for its corporate customers. HUB sites store a traveler’s profile in a secure environment, including frequent flyer information, seat and meal preferences, credit card number, and identification documents.

While this process is highly efficient for the traveler, it hasn’t always been easy for the Flight Centre team to build. HUB builds were 100% manual and could take up to 16 weeks to build.

During onboarding, teams have to collect information for each legal entity in each of its customers’ regions. This could mean Flight Centre has to manually create dozens, hundreds, or even upwards of a thousand HUB sites for just one customer.

Shaun Clear, Global Head of Operations for FCM Travel Solutions says, “For example, right now we have one customer that needs 400 sites. And that’s an immense undertaking when a HUB build typically takes about 30 – 45 minutes per site.”

Throughout this process, FCM struggled with maintaining transparency and consistency. Information was spread across spreadsheets, forms, and third-party tools, with no single source of truth. In addition, implementation team members were spending too much time managing this complex process rather than focusing on the customer experience.

Solution: An intelligent onboarding process

Clear and the team initially looked into RPA-based solutions for HUB builds but realized more orchestration would be required to fulfill their goals. That’s when he brought the issue to the digital team.

Nick Williams, Head of Digital Workplace at Flight Centre Travel Group, was already using K2 Cloud for various processes throughout the company. “We knew we needed to apply an intelligent automation layer, and that’s how we decided on K2 Cloud. We knew we could use it to collect customer information and configure it with our RPA tool. Then, RPA could use that data to automatically build those sites.”

Today, the HUB Builds app is in its early stages. Flight Centre is unleashing the solution on 1,200 HUB builds across three customers. But after initial testing, it’s clear that the solution will deliver significant ROI for the company.

“For this initial project, 1,200 sites would typically take at least 3,600 hours of work,” Clear says. “Now, we’re able to nearly wipe that clean. Of course, there’s still initiation work needed from the implementation team. But once they’ve taken it past that point, the K2 Cloud and RPA solution kicks in and they can walk away. We can even do these HUB builds on a weekend, overnight, or on a public holiday.”

Williams estimates this initial solution will save $175,000 in the first year. “I think once travel picks back up in the next couple of years, we’ll see that number rise considerably,” he adds. Aside from cost savings, Flight Centre has gained transparency within this process, allowing for better communication between the customer and implementation teams.

Overall, the customer experience is improving. “Because of the scale of some projects,” Clear says, “onboarding clients has typically required three or four teams to work with the customer in a pass-the-baton relay fashion. Now we’re able to match up one team with a customer so they have continuity throughout the process.”

As COVID-19 continues to affect the travel industry, many companies have had to shut down. But Flight Centre’s implementation teams are going strong thanks to the HUB builds solution. In fact, the team spends less time on manual tasks and more time on value-added activities and the customer experience. “We’re doing 77 implementation projects around the world right now,” says Clear, “and we haven’t had to miss a beat. I know a large part of that is thanks to our investment in K2 Cloud.”

Many travel companies have had to shut down. But we’re doing 77 implementation projects around the world right now, and we haven’t had to miss a beat. I know a large part of that is thanks to our investment in K2 Cloud.
Shaun Clear, Global Head of Operations, FCM Travel Solutions
Addressing unprecedented cancellations

Challenge: Pandemic drives spike in cancellations

The COVID-19 pandemic has created business challenges for a number of industries around the world. But few have seen business halt quite like the travel industry.

Like many companies, Flight Centre received an overwhelming amount of cancellation requests resulting from the pandemic. Tara Kimberley, part of the Air Distribution and Technology teams at Flight Centre in the Americas, was tasked with helping to innovate a technology solution to streamline requests and process them in a timely manner.

“Once the U.S. and Canada closed its borders,” says Kimberley, “we knew we had to come up with a better solution to support our customers’ cancellation inquiries, which could be anything from cruise tours to travel insurance to air tickets. We wanted to channel them through to one centralized expertise-based team that would be armed with all of the supplier policies.”

Setting up something like a phone line would only put a strain on the company’s resources and make it difficult to track metrics around cancellations. Flight Centre needed a simpler way to open up communication between travel consultants and the newly created customer retention team.

Solution: A centralized way to manage requests

The team decided on a K2 Cloud-based solution: an internal customer cancellation form. The form allows travel consultants in the U.S. and Canada to fill out a form with details of a customer’s request so a member of the retention team can follow up with options based on the supplier’s policies.

Once the form was launched, the team was able to start calling customers right away. The form feeds information back into an internal ticketing system that divvies up tickets and assigns deadlines based on the submission date. This ensures customers will be contacted no matter how much movement there was amongst teams.

“Without the form,” Kimberley says, “we would have had to rely on a phone line, which would have been a strain on resources resulting in large delays. The form has now been used over 33,000 times. And that’s a number we probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve otherwise.”

Additionally, the team has gained visibility into the volume of cancellations for a quick centralized snapshot. This reporting allowed them to quickly determine where resources were needed, the status of funds and supplier relations, turnaround times, and more.

“K2 Cloud has given us the ability to quickly and swiftly address operational issues,” says Kimberley, “allowing us to focus on the most important piece of our business and the reason we exist: our travelers.”

Safety is always paramount

Challenge: COVID-19 requires a quick turnaround

On top of the specific business challenges the travel industry has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Flight Centre’s main priority at this time is keeping its employees and customers safe.

After government mandates required businesses to shut their doors, Flight Centre started to plan a path forward to reopening.

The company has several large corporate and headquarter locations spread across multiple markets. Its customer-facing retail locations present additional challenges to workplace safety.

Carolyn Exelby, Enterprise Risk Manager for Flight Centre in the Americas, knew the company needed a way to track who was on its premises at any time. Her team also wanted it to be easy to report any incidents and quickly notify anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Solution: A flexible solution for workplace safety

Exelby brought this challenge to Nick Williams, who was able to quickly design a K2 Cloud-based app called the Healthcheck app. “It’s designed to be extremely easy for the front-end user because it’s something we want them to do every single day when they come to work,” says Exelby. “And because we’re in Quebec and Mexico, we designed it to be multilingual, so you could view a French or Spanish version with the touch of a button.”

Because this is an ever-evolving situation, Nick designed the solution to be flexible. “I have an administrative dashboard that gives me complete control over the questions in all three languages,” says Exelby. “This means that as quarantine restrictions change, I can make adjustments without asking Nick for extra work, which I’m sure he appreciates.”

Should someone at one of FCTG’s locations become exposed to COVID-19, the company will be able to monitor the incident and notify people immediately, preventing illness from spreading. That allows Flight Centre to comply with confidence and, more importantly, keep people safe.

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