The demands on the corporate travel consultant are many, while the experienced candidates needed to fill these roles are few. Due to retirement and other factors, the long-tenured multi-tasker with decades of accumulated travel knowledge is becoming the proverbial needle in a haystack. Luckily, at Egencia, innovation knows no bounds. The “test and learn” approach that has served Egencia well in technology led the Customer Service Team to create a pilot program to bring younger, non-traditional travel consultants to Egencia. And Egencia technology is playing a key role.
How did this program come about?
From my first day at Egencia, I and others knew that we would need to address our traditional hiring profile. Our typical travel consultant hire has had a long career in the agency world and has spent 90% of their time on a global distribution system (GDS). These candidates are getting harder to find. We wanted to be adaptive in our approach to service delivery and see if we could enable a different type of travel consultant to be successful on our platform. From the beginning, everyone involved really supported the idea that this is something we needed to try.
What was your approach to recruiting these travel consultants?
When we formulated the pilot program, called Boarding Gate, we set out to find “blank slate” candidates, meaning they had experience in hospitality or a related field but no travel consultant experience. We also wanted to target candidates with strong technical capabilities and a high degree of familiarity with Windows-based tools, which are at the heart of the Egencia platform, rather than the green-screen world of the GDS.
Did you train these recruits differently?
Our research told us we would need to train our Boarding Gate recruits in a more immersive way, and, given they came from related fields outside of corporate travel, we would have to provide more real-world instruction that mimicked the job.
We also developed brand new courseware with a lot hands-on learning that challenged our recruits to research information on their own and, often, to team up and solve problems together. We also used a lot of video to promote engagement with the material. Given they were close to college age, they were comfortable in this type of leaning environment.
Finally, we doubled the amount of training we usually provide, and also doubled the in-person component of the program. This was well received, as these recruits enjoyed the camaraderie of going through training together.
So how did they do?
We hired 11 out of 12 recruits from our pilot class and they officially joined the Egencia travel consultant team last year. They not only mastered the basics but showed an ability to learn going forward. These agents want to “do” and they don’t have a fear of failing. When they get feedback and coaching, they just know they have to work a little harder.
Where do these agents distinguish themselves?
Their strongest asset is their skill and dexterity with technology. They have total comfort with the agent tools Egencia uses, which is great, given that Egencia travel consultants use the same single platform as our travelers and play a huge role in assisting with self-service transactions. This group has hit the ground running because the technology they are using mirrors what they know in their personal lives. And they are eager to learn more, particularly when they can find the answer themselves.
What do they have in common with more traditional Egencia travel consultants?
Like any Egencia travel consultant, they concentrate on providing savvy, proactive support for our travelers without exacerbating what could potentially be a frustrating experience due to travel disruption. They also have a natural confidence in being able to talk to anybody, which is important in this line of work.
How do you think this effort supports the Egencia culture and mission?
While these travel consultants come from a different place, like many at Egencia they are given the right tools and then asked to think outside the box. They are able to treat travelers like human beings. And as we are providing business travel for the Expedia generation, I like to think we are training the Expedia generation of service and leadership at Egencia.