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Flight Center Travel Group transforms its customer experience with K2 Cloud

Flight Center Travel Group transforms its customer experience with K2 Cloud

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Global travel agency Flight Center Travel Group leverages digital process automation software from Nintex to transform and drive operational efficiencies.

Nintex has announced that Flight Center Travel Group, one of the world’s largest travel agencies based in Brisbane, Queensland, has successfully leveraged K2 Cloud to help improve its operational efficiencies and digitally transform its customer experience.

Flight Center Travel Group, with a vast global sales network, received an overwhelming number of cancellation requests in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. The company needed to find a fast and more efficient way to support its customers beyond its 800-number especially when the US and Canada borders were initially closed last year.

The organization turned to K2 Cloud to quickly develop and launch a digital form process that automatically routes changes to one centralized expertise-based Flight Center team armed with all the necessary tools and policies to expedite changes with improved customer experience. To date, the form has been leveraged more than 60,000 times which has helped reduce customer hold times and potential frustrations.

“The travel industry as a whole quickly pivoted how it operates and responds to cancellations and restrictions brought on by the pandemic,” said Josh Waldo, Nintex Chief Customer Officer. “By automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks with easy-to-use and powerful digital process automation software like K2 Cloud, the Flight Center Travel Group immediately went digital and provided its corporate travellers with a better experience.”

To improve its corporate travel customer experience, the Flight Center Travel Group modernized its operations to drive more consistency and transparency across its processes. Previously, like most businesses, information was tracked and shared across spreadsheets, forms and third-party tools, with no single source of truth. This resulted in team members spending time managing repetitive, complex processes that delayed great customer experience.

“We wanted to improve process efficiency across the organization. We needed a consistent, streamlined way of accurately capturing all information in a shareable way in order to create greater standardization and transparency,” said Shaun Clear, Global Head of Operations for FCM Travel Solutions (a Flight Center brand). “K2 Cloud has given us the ability to quickly and swiftly address a number of operational issues helping us focus on the most important piece of our business and the reason we exist: our travel customers.”

The company previously used internal technology called ‘HUB’ to build corporate travel client sites and also securely store individual traveller profiles including frequent flyer information, seat and meal preferences, credit card numbers and identification documents. While this process was great for the traveller, it was challenging for the Flight Center Travel Group team to build and maintain as it required a 100% manual process to build all new sites.

“For instance, we currently have one customer that needs 400 sites, which is an immense undertaking when one build typically takes about 30 to 45 minutes,” said Nick Williams, Head of Digital Workplace at Flight Center Travel Group. “To keep up with demand we needed to add an intelligent automation layer to the process which is why we decided to use K2 Software. With K2 Cloud we can collect customer information and configure it with RPA to automatically build sites with no human oversight. This has been truly transformative for the team and helps us focus on more strategic projects like improving our customer experience and future-proofing our business.”

Intelligent CIO asked Nick Williams, Head of Digital Workplace at Flight Center Travel Group, further questions to find out more.

How has K2 Cloud allowed you to improve the experience of your customers?

Flight Center is a global company with a large team of people that virtually anyone can access to lend a hand via various communication channels. That was until March 2020 when the industry was rocked by the global pandemic and borders were shuttered worldwide. All of a sudden resources became tight as spending had to be reduced. I think that was a turning point for us as we had to shift to a leaner and more efficient business model. Suddenly we could no longer process as many transactions nor could we keep up with the unexpectedly high number of enquiries and cancellations from our customers. 

With K2 Software, acquired by process management and automation software leader Nintex in October 2020, we were able to decrease wait times and improve the turnaround time for many of our clientele. Activities ordinarily accomplished over telephone were captured digitally using intelligent forms and workflow. This also rapidly improved the accuracy of data captured for reporting and financial purposes, which helped to strengthen the delicate decisions that our business leaders were forced to make to maintain the level of service necessary to repatriate many stranded individuals and their families.

For corporate travelers we are able to onboard opportunities a lot faster, skipping weeks of administration, and the usual back and forth over email and spreadsheets. As a result, the transition for lots of multinational corporations with large amounts of travelers can be fast-tracked, reducing friction in the handover and get them transacting with us sooner.

Can you explain how K2 Cloud has automated repetitive and time-consuming tasks?

As part of the onboarding of our larger clients, the implementation teams are required to set up websites for each and every market that they operate in. This is extremely time consuming and often involves multiple players in over 75 countries ‘coming together’ to deliver a single contract that could enable thousands of people to travel. As you can imagine this involves a lot of co-ordination and a multitude of tasks. While the data we require is very similar between each implementation, the way we capture it can be quite different.

By housing that business process within K2 Cloud we have been able to steer the team in to a clear and consistent way of working. The tasks they receive are sent out automatically at certain milestones during the project. Data is then entered in to forms with advanced business rules – in most cases drop-down lists with preconfigured options to remove any indecisiveness. Sometimes this happens to dozens and even hundreds of people at a time, with K2 Cloud acting like a conductor orchestrating a choir, holding everyone accountable and then moving on to the next task when it becomes satisfied. 

Now we have the ability to promote the people who originally managed that manual process, expanding the scope and value of their roles. Yes. We’ve taken something away from them, but they are extremely grateful to be able to reshape what they do with little to no additional effort.

Why was it so important to add an intelligent automation layer to your processes?

As a company that operates in all regions of the world it is important that we are able to collaborate quickly. We can no longer rely on the traditional methods of operation. Companies cannot be competitive if they are still printing documents, signing them by hand, photocopying, scanning and then emailing to also have somebody on the other end repeat the same steps. 

Some of our approval processes pre-K2 Cloud involved emails with attachments being passed around, usually with people copying, commenting and sending their own versions to others, leaving everyone wondering where the source of truth was. This would often result with in-person meetings where some poor soul would have had to combine all the emails in to one, adding a spreadsheet to perform calculations on various amounts that determined who else they needed to drag into the decision making. 

Thanks to K2 Software, now we have a pre-prepared digitized process that routes only to the relevant persons, capturing their feedback and making a decision for everyone.

How has the solution facilitated you to drive more transparency across your processes?

Typically processes were carried out by multiple people in a team and, as is human nature, people tend to do things differently – often the way that they are comfortable with. One person may take two hours whereas another may take two days. So it was very difficult to realize what was the most optimum method and by whom. Did the person taking two hours skip crucial steps or was the other person unsure of how to carry it out quicker due to lack of training?

By taking away the thought process from both of these individuals, we can execute the same instructions the exact same way each time. We can then add forms and reporting so that people outside the process can ‘peer-in’ and know exactly where we are without ever needing to understand the individual parts. 

This level of transparency drives consistency in activity as well as adhering to company policy.

How far has the solution been an upgrade on the performance of your previous legacy solutions?

In some cases we didn’t have a digital solution so the benefits were immediate. Some of the forms are configured to pull list options from various APIs allowing users to quickly select from line-of-business data within multiple places like Dynamics or Salesforce without ever needing to login to those apps and manoeuvre themselves around.

Having electronic workflows gives process owners the ability to see what tasks are outstanding and who is responsible. Before leveraging K2 Software, we would have had to manage all of this on email, passing spreadsheets around, doing our own validation and formulae to figure out current status, who it needs to go to next and what are we missing etc.

Now K2 Cloud manages validation, the tracking, the reminders and even the escalations. All of a sudden, our projects have velocity, moving from weeks or months, to days and hours.
A good example of this was what we were able to do with our multinational brand FCM.

Originally, I thought we just needed to apply a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) layer to that problem, removing fingers on keys and allowing us to rapidly deploy as many web sites as we could to get the customer onboarded.

After looking at the business process it was clear that we were also craving a solution to collect the data that was necessary for these web sites to be configured. So many participants to that process spread geographically all working with different software and no standardization.

If you wanted to see where an implementation was you had to ask a Technical Project Manager who trawled through documents and correspondence giving you rough guesses and estimations. As you can imagine, K2 has removed all of that and neatly packaged everything all together for anyone and everyone to see. 

I’m currently working on a similar process with another brand Corporate Traveler to reduce their customer onboarding window down from four to eight weeks. Again the activities are similar except I have identified 15 different applications that need to be populated with data after winning an opportunity in Salesforce.

Ordinarily this is a full-time job to copy and paste this data around. Now we can integrate all of that together using K2 service brokers and click one button to trigger the entire process.

Why is it important to capture all information in a shareable way?

After I left university, the first job that I took was as an IT Trainer. I was teaching other professional people how to use certain applications, from orienteering themselves around databases to writing macros in Excel. When not teaching I was helping the Lead Developer for our business build out the new intranet.

I was very young, but I always wanted to be seen to be helpful. So I would go out of my way for anyone, something that hasn’t changed to this very day. The way I see it, companies that work together and help each other have less internal politics and tend to be more successful as they can move faster.

Information is either at their fingertips enhancing decisions or the collective pitches in to drive things forward. I hate to quote sci-fi programs but take a look at the bad guys in Star Trek, I think they were called The Borg – one collective mind, sharing all thoughts and strategy, then executing like an army of bees. They were undefeatable.

For those not as geeky as myself, I can clarify with one line: sharing knowledge essentially promotes workplace collaboration, which in turn increases opportunities for the business and reduces individual pressure.

How is K2 Cloud’s integration with RPA software helping you to automatically build sites with no human oversight?

K2 Cloud integrates with RPA software and provided an easy solution for us to integrate the two automation solutions. The business process is beautifully handled by K2 Software’s forms, workflows, smart objects (data) and service brokers (for APIs), while passing on instructions to our RPA bots to execute. K2 Cloud makes this very easy as everything takes place without intervention, except for approvals. That setup has enabled us to accomplish huge amounts of ROI and will continue to be used as the standard for our larger projects going forward.

How far has the solution allowed you to improve efficiency across the whole organization?

The original plan when I was hired was to improve the way we collaborated here in the Americas. We understood that we needed to retire a lot of older legacy applications and we knew that we needed a new intranet, but not everyone understood the benefits of process automation.

After making a convincing argument we decided to invest in K2 Software and began by picking off the low hanging fruit. We started working with our HR teams to assist in the approval and recruitment process. We also helped them with large scale contract roll-outs.

We quickly moved on to our ticketing teams, transforming their enquiry and refund request processes. All of this started to lay the foundation and demonstrate what was possible with the technology.

Once COVID-19 hit, I was inundated with requests to help our cancellation teams who were overwhelmed. Projects that we had planned with large IT consultancies were cancelled overnight. That’s when Shaun Clear, Global Head of Operations at FCM, knocked on my virtual door. His vision was to automate the onboarding of all of our multinational customers, something that was a substantial cost.

With K2 Cloud we are able to train smart people who aren’t software engineers to build apps. An amazing capability to have when money is tight as we all know how much a developer costs.

Not to mention all the boiler plate code that needs to be built if we don’t use a product like this one. What we were able to deliver would have ordinarily taken months, if not years.

The great thing is K2 Cloud has no boundaries as authentication is done through Microsoft Azure, so anyone not within our environment can be granted access through Microsoft’s B2B model.

All of a sudden with K2 Cloud, we went global and have people in Singapore, Australia, the UK and Europe all participating in tasks. This has done wonders to reduce unnecessary email traffic, file attachments, back and forth messaging, phone calls, printing, signing, scanning, the list goes on and on. We can’t ever go back to the old world, it’s onwards and upwards from here on in.

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