Case Study: Amex Biz Travel’s Home-Based Work Model

by Maria Lenhart
Case Study: Amex Biz Travel’s Home-Based Work Model
Stuart McReynolds
stuart

More than 80% of U.S.-based travel agents with American Express Global Business Travel are now working from home, a trend that reached critical mass when nearly all of the company’s remaining travel center locations were closed in 2013.

Travel Market Report spoke with Stuart McReynolds, vice president and general manager of service delivery, to get his take on how American Express GBT made the transition—and what it has meant for agents and clients alike.

How dramatic has the shift been to the home-based model?
McReynolds: We’ve had agents working from home for the past decade or so, but the majority made the move in just the past two or three years. We closed about 15 centers in 2013 and all but about 1% chose to make the transition to working at home.

How extensive is this home-based workforce and how is it organized?
McReynolds: Our home-based agents number about 2,000 and are in 48 states. Typically there is a team leader for every 15 or 18 counselors and they are home-based as well. This is very important because the team leaders have a greater degree of empathy and understanding if they are working virtually themselves.

We learned quickly that the most effective model is when the whole team is virtual. The second most is when everyone is working at a center. The least effective is when you have a mix of people working virtually and at a center, which is what many companies do.

Why do you think an all home-based team works better than the other models?
McReynolds: When you have a mix, sometimes those working virtually think they are missing out on something and they wonder what’s going on.

The feedback that we’re getting is that the counselors feel that they now have better access to their leaders and that the coaching they receive is more effective. The leaders are more deliberate about their preparation and more attentive than if they were in an office. There are fewer distractions.

How do you keep your counselors feeling engaged and in the loop?
McReynolds: New technology, especially chat functionality that connects agents with each other and their leaders, is making this easier all the time.

We use a lot of IM [instant messaging] technology for agents to connect with one another and with clients around the globe. We also use a lot of video and web conferencing technology, which is getting better and less expensive all the time.  

We also hold several live events each year which bring agents together and enable them to connect with suppliers.

What has has been the impact on customer service?
McReynolds: One of the biggest advantages is that we can provide a continuity of service to our clients despite weather conditions. If there’s a hurricane or a snowstorm, you don’t have to worry about a power outage at the center or whether or not people can get to work. You can quickly rally the troops and get more people on the phone.

We can also offer extended service to clients—it’s easier to ask people to work outside the usual business hours if they are working from home. And many of our counselors prefer to have flexible hours to give them better work-life balance. So it’s a win-win situation.

How has the home-based model benefited American Express GBT?
McReynolds: We’ve found it to be a far more cost-efficient model. We were able to consolidate our technology and not spread it across different locations. Our investors are very happy with this model.

Another advantage is that we are no longer restricted to hiring agents who are within commuting range of the centers. We can use all of the online hiring tools and really find the best talent. And we can be in more regions around the country.

  12
  5
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

Most Useful Twitter Accounts for Travel Agents

1. AskTSA

2. FlightRadar24

3. Department of State

4. CLIA Global

5. ASTA

Source: TMR

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=461e0cb1-8512-e811-9f33-782bcb66a2f2

Don't Miss the Boat on Potential Expedition Cruise Sales

Sponsored by Silversea Cruises

Expedition cruising is exploding, according to industry experts, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
As Resort Fees Increase, Travel Agents Talk Tactics
As Resort Fees Increase, Travel Agents Talk Tactics

It’s almost springtime, and resort fees are on the rise again in Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Florida. What’s a travel agent to do?

What Happens to Your Business When Your Peers Are 'Masterminds'
What Happens to Your Business When Your Peers Are 'Masterminds'

While some travel agents seek out mentors to guide their business decisions, others join peer groups to learn from and help each other.

What Else to Consider When Launching Your Website
What Else to Consider When Launching Your Website

This final installment in our three-part series follows travel agent and former Hollywood production executive Kelly Greenleaf as she launched her agency’s website – from inspiration, deciding on content, to a full-blown unveiling.

Travel Agents Aim for a Shorter Sales Cycle
Travel Agents Aim for a Shorter Sales Cycle

Combining data with travel sales experience, agency groups are trying to improve agent sales behaviors to be more responsive to digital leads and improve close rates.

Immersive Italy Tour Designer Offers Trip Planning Services
Immersive Italy Tour Designer Offers Trip Planning Services

As more clients asked for it, this tour producer was compelled to add comprehensive trip planning services, just like a travel agent provides.

Liberty Travel Building Host Agent Network
Liberty Travel Building Host Agent Network

The new brand will be called Independent by Liberty Travel.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Regent Seven Seas Cruises