Travel Tech Blog

How a Swiss TMC made everyone happy

Talking about win-win: Travellers and travel assistants maintain their own profile data

Kuoni Business Travel, with Business Travel Centres in Zurich, Geneva and Lugano, implemented Umbrella Faces in the middle of 2015.  Their management decided early in the project to hand over responsibility for maintaining profile data to travel arrangers and travellers.

Our interview with Stéphanie Gmür and Jürg Bühler:

You started to send out user credentials for Umbrella Faces to your customers in early January. What is the project status eight weeks later?
Umbrella Faces is fully implemented and operational. With only one minor exception, all our customers maintain their profile data themselves. New customers create their profiles in Umbrella Faces without much support from our side. This is a substantial relief for our Operations Team.

How many profiles are there in your Umbrella Faces database?
We’ve got about 4,600 traveller profiles and 250 company profiles.

How was the project set up?
We had a task force that took care of four essential areas: profile standards, data clean up, authorisations and communication.

Could you please give us a high-level idea of your project plan?
We started with “profile standards” to define the rules and criteria for standardised company and traveller profiles. That included such trivial things as a uniform format for phone numbers.

Then we had to clean the profile data. That was – obviously – a laborious but absolute necessary and very useful job. We cleaned the data directly within our mid-office system

After a thorough investigation into the matter, we decided to implement a four-tier authorisation concept. This included the roles of TMC-Administrator, “Admin-Light”, Travel Assistant and Traveller. It helped a lot that Umbrella Faces is highly flexible in terms of the definition of roles and authorisations.

How did you communicate the implementation of Umbrella Faces – internally and externally?

  • All customers and all of our own employees were informed about upcoming changes right at the start of the project.
  • We have used every personal customer meeting to address the topic.  All employees – agents and others – have been briefed about our new profile standards.
  • Then we created a short but concise manual for each authorisation level.
  • The communication to customers about the details and timeline for the implementation was sent out only after we had all profiles clean and uploaded to Umbrella Faces.
  • User credentials were sent out to our customers in several smaller waves. The whole process took about eight weeks to complete.

Who maintains which data?
Travellers or Travel Assistants update data such as cost centres or passport data themselves. Other data, in particular company data, are updated by our travel consultants. Umbrella Faces allows us to define the authorization to update certain data per corporate customer.

How difficult was it to convince your customers to create and maintain their traveller profiles?
It was easy – actually much easier than we had expected. Travel arrangers in particular were immediately convinced. Before Faces, they had to fill out a form for profile changes that they had to send to us.

Now they update the data themselves. It is less work and the result is immediate – all data is synchronised in all databases. It guarantees that all bookings have the correct profile data.

We have also noticed that almost every traveller now has their seat or meal preferences recorded. This is a big change compared to the situation before we implemented Profile Management.

Altogether, our customers are very happy with the new processes.

Which data interfaces to or from Umbrella Faces do you have in place?
Umbrella Faces is our profile master. From there, the data is synchronised in real time to Galileo and our mid-office

Are you able to quantify the impact of Umbrella Faces on your operations?
Every day, about 20 out of the 4,600 profiles are changed. The majority of changes concern passport data, credit card data or mobile phone numbers. Before the implementation of Umbrella Faces, we had to spend about five minutes per change. That added up to roughly 33 working hours every month.

In addition, we do not need to chase data during the booking process where there is missing, incomplete or outdated information. In total, we estimate savings from Umbrella Faces are in the range of 50 to 60 hours per month.

What are your suggestions and ideas to further improve Umbrella Faces?
The search-interface could be more modern. It is actually easy to use but it seems a bit overloaded here and there.  I need to press the «search» button again after I have found the correct entry in a drop down menu. This is redundant and could be simplified.

Which advice would you give to other Umbrella Faces users?

  • After our surprisingly positive experiences with handing over responsibility to our customers, we’d advise everyone to try that as well. It’s probably a good idea to try it on a small scale in the beginning, but it’s certainly worth trying.
  • Inform your customers about the process change only AFTER all data is clean and available in Umbrella Faces. There is no need to rush.
  • Write user manuals for each authorisation level.
  • Start with a pilot, preferably a small customer.

What do you like most about Umbrella Faces?
We love the flexibility and freedom to define the profile data fields according to our needs. Whenever we need to change something – enhancements, renaming, field properties (like “mandatory” or “optional”) – our admins can easily and quickly do that themselves.

Umbrella Faces is very easy and intuitive to use. This is the reason why it is so easily accepted by our customers.

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