Time is money, they say, and Gant Travel is betting that the introduction of call center technology designed in part to slash the length of an average call between an agent and a traveler will justify the largest investment in the travel agency’s history.
Bloomington, Ind.-based Gant, No. 45 on the 2019 Power List, is a travel management company that serves almost entirely business travel and specializes in serving customers of SAP’s Concur online booking, expense reporting and other travel technology tools. As Concur broadens its reach into small and midmarket companies, said Gant president and CEO Patrick Linnihan, its corporate clientele has evolved to encompass that space. Its average client annually books about $500,000 in ARC sales, he said.
Gant’s in-house agents use a voice-over-IP system that now ties into a Salesforce.com-based customer relationship management system that houses profiles for Gant client business travelers. But as Concur’s tools mature and travel managers’ technology options multiply, Gant, too, needed to progress to ensure consistent speedy service, Linnihan said.
“The macro drivers for what we did revolve around the complexity of serving accounts right now,” Linnihan said, noting that Concur’s TripLink tool now provides Gant visibility into reservations made by travelers outside its channels as well as burgeoning virtual-payment options that some clients have embraced.
“The phone system is tied to the traveler and the account profile,” Linnihan said. “The traveler profile and the account profile are key, obviously, to serving the account, and we wanted our agents to get to the point to be able to serve the traveler’s specific needs and the account’s needs without having to do cartwheels. In order to do that, we needed to upgrade our old phone system so that the agent would just have that information popped in front of them.”
With the new system, a traveler’s call to Gant automatically connects via the Salesforce platform to his or her profile, and that information automatically pops up on the Gant agent’s screen when the call is answered. That process is followed for all calls, day or night, Linnihan said, after ensuring that agents working off-hours during Gant’s in-house 24-hour service used the same platform as do agents working during the day.
It also served to enable agents to dispense with the need to obtain information from the calling traveler. “When you call, the agent says, ‘Thank you for calling. I see you’re on a trip to Milwaukee,’” Linnihan said. “I just sped the whole call up over a minute and a half, probably.”
And saving that time by streamlining that process translates directly into revenue and improved service, Linnihan said. “We’re really passionate about [measuring] our agents’ time, and we know down to the minute what it costs for an agent to work. We can quantify that. So it was very simple for us to quantify the return on investment we would get by speeding up the agent."
Linnihan said he believes travelers will judge Gant’s service not against other travel management companies but against “the last best one you had,” like a nontravel retailer. To that end, Gant uses the Net Promoter Score loyalty-measurement tool to poll travelers as to whether they would recommend the agency based on their interactions with agents, and Linnihan claimed Gant’s average score is in the 70s, considered very strong.
Gant additionally will monitor service calls to assess and measure agent performance, with subsequent sit-down coaching sessions with supervisors. Initial training is extensive — new agents train on average for four to six weeks before taking live calls — and includes specific preparation for the phone system.
“Our phone system is very sophisticated, and in order to function, we had to create a very elaborate training team, which can help the average agent,” Linnihan said. “The way we did that was by using a learning management platform based around short video training that we used that perfectly coincides with the length of a phone call."
The result of what Linnihan called the largest investment in Gant history is a complex system not only with shorter calls and more automated aspects but also ready to handle other communications like chat and potential AI-powered solutions, which he called Gant’s next steps.
“We can start putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” he said.