Earlier in the year we spoke to CEO Nigel Taylor, about the perfect ‘marriage’ between service and technology when it comes to a TMC’s provision. Since then, we have been asked many times to explain what makes BFP’s approach unique. Surely customer service is just customer service, right? Wrong. To us, the relationship we build with our clients is the cornerstone to success for both parties. We don’t follow scripts, we don’t assign ‘teams’, we listen to our clients and take every opportunity to exceed their expectations, by delivering a service that is entirely bespoke to their business needs. Chloe Taylor-Clark, BFP’s Commercial Director explains in more detail why Customer Service is the key ingredient to a successful relationship with your TMC.
In a very corporate industry, how do you keep Customer Service personal?
Our main focus is building a rapport with clients, whether this be the consultants they work with on a daily basis or myself on the Account Management side. We do not operate with a corporate mentality and being a family business makes everything about us personal. Our clients can speak with whoever they feel most comfortable – there’s no call centre at BFP, so you won’t get filtered to a team or assigned to a person that you don’t know. We handle our clients as we would like to be treated – like an individual with individual requirements and preferences.
How do you become an extension of your clients’ organisation?
We mould our processes and systems entirely around each client’s requirements. For example, it may be that a client has a particular approval process in place, so we will fit ourselves anywhere in their mechanism to ensure the process runs like clockwork. We may need to direct an email to a certain member of their team or cc someone in to all emails, this is never a problem for us and we will simply extend our services wherever they may need it.
How do you manage expectation and set objectives from the outset?
When we initially win a new client, we run through a comprehensive implementation plan and we outline any objectives the client may have. It could be that they are looking to reduce travel costs by a certain percent therefore we would brief the team to ensure they are fully conversant with the company profile and provide monthly or quarterly reports, so they can see we are keeping in line with their travel budgets.
How do you nurture the client relationship throughout?
I will stay in regular contact with our clients to ensure they are given everything they need to make their job easier. We meet as regularly or as little as a client may need, we are very open with this and will always ensure we ask how often they would like me to make contact.
How do you keep your clients regularly up-to-date?
We keep in touch with them throughout the year with new product releases and to arrange demos for clients who are keen to lean more. We also organise workshops for clients to help them understand more about travel, particularly the complexities with fares. We recently arranged this for one of our insurance companies and we provided them with a top tips sheet which they have found so useful.
Do you have multiple contacts/relationships within one organisation?
In general, I personally will have one point of contact who I liaise with and build a working partnership with. That main contact will ensure any elements are signed off by their superiors and they will come back to me with the approval. Certain corporates we work with have a couple of contacts that I would liaise with and this works equally well. Clients will always make it very clear who must sign off the decision before we implement something, and our systems are built in such a way that everything is visible.
How do you regularly share your industry knowledge with customers?
We often send travel alerts to clients with publications and press releases on new products, technology, key routes, and changes within our industry. We also have engagement on LinkedIn and produce blogs to give clients advice on topics that are trending. On a more immediate level, if an airline is offering First Class upgrades on Business Class flights, we will run a report on all travel within that date range and ensure the PAs/travellers are made aware to take advantage of offers and savings.
How often do you ‘see’ (or visit) clients?
This will be dependent on the client as we appreciate each client has a different requirement and works to different schedules. There are some clients that like to meet yearly or twice a year whereas other clients are keen to meet quarterly for review meetings and travel budget discussions. We are very relaxed with this and do not push clients to meet us if they do not need to. If they would prefer updates over email or phone call, then we don’t pressurise them to meet us. We will always make ourselves available to our clients in whichever way works best for them.
You say no request is too big or small, can you share examples?
No request is ever too big or small for Business First Partnership. When discussing implementation with a client, a request that may seem small for us is a big thing for them. Recently a client wanted to receive invoices on the same date as their company credit card statement. To us this was not a big request at all, but it made such a difference to their operational efficiency. Our Finance team are extremely helpful too – a client I met recently was struggling with reconciling their CEO’s credit card, so we offered to reconcile the statement for them and send the relevant invoices which meant they could send it straight to their CFO. Regarding our risk management process, a client who had staff travelling to high risk destinations asked if we could make them aware of any bookings to a risk 4 or 5 country. They had an incident in the past where a traveller booked to a risk 5 country and did not tell their HR department and without realising his company insurance was void. Therefore, we have set up an internal process to ensure the HR department are informed each time and that the traveller is fully versed on the associated risks of their destination.
In your opinion what are the top criteria for a successful relationship between TMC and client?
Trust and visibility
We send screenshots of online fares to our clients along with our fare quotes, so they can see we have given full visibility of flight availability. They trust us because we are treating their money like our own.
First class customer service
Whilst we are in a world where technology constantly evolves, service is key for us. Our clients need to feel that we are acting on their behalf quickly and efficiently. When an email is received, it must be responded to within minutes as someone is waiting for that information.
We ensure everyone within the company communicates well at all times. If it is a particularly busy day or there has been a weather disruption that has meant emails are not being answered within the hour and the team are unusually busy, we will communicate this to our clients with a travel alert.
We are very close to our clients and they are real advocates of BFP as we fully support all the decisions they make and have a strong partnership with them all. We continually work on this and ensure we are in regular contact.
The industry is constantly changing and to keep on top of this you must invest. We read articles and publications on the latest technology in the marketplace and ensure we are ahead of the game. You cannot sit back in this industry, you must evolve and ensure you integrate the latest technology to make the travel booker and travellers booking process a seamless one.