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BUYER’S GUIDE


ByCATHERINE CHETWYND


Delegating to the bots


Travel buyers can benefit from automation in more ways than you might think


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AREN HUTCHINGS HAS BEEN LEADING GLOBAL TRAVEL, MEET- INGS AND EVENTS for EY for the past five years, having previously had a variety of roles in travel-related positions with airlines, TMCs and banks. She took on the role of ITM chair in May last year.


While chatbots are now commonplace for customer service, Hutchings believes travel


buyers can leverage robotic process automation (RPA) across a broader range of functions in their role. RPA can replace administrative or repetitive tasks, but implementing bots either in-house or with a technology partner can lead to barriers. “There is a general fear of innovation and if people don’t understand it, they think it’s not for them, but it is here now. Embracing it enables people to elevate their roles in any company.” Hutchings says the bots are developed by EY in India, and cover audits, tax, and


other areas, and came about after the realisation “that our travel transactional volumes were increasing, but our head count to support the programme was not”. Below she outlines her journey so far...


WE WENT LIVE WITH OUR FIRST RPA in Novem- ber 2016. We used it to chase people to book flights if they


had registered to attend a meeting or event and linked that with related tools, such as attendee registration and traveller tracking. As a result, where the RPA process is involved we have seen an average ticket price reduction of 15 to 25 per cent because there was a swing from booking less than 14 days ahead to more than four weeks.


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NOW WE HAVE A MULTI- TUDE OF ROBOTIC PRO- CESSES in place, including EY Lobby, an internal hotel


feedback tool. People report on their hotel stay and individuals use it to see where other EY employees are staying. We have daily updated information in the traveller tracking tool about where and when people are travelling. As soon as they come back, the robotic process automatically


BBT July/August 2018


sends them an email to ask about the hotel they stayed in; it gives a link to a survey for them to complete and that populates our generic database. We had 16,000 hotel reviews posted in the first two months and 5,000 hits from people researching what other EY employees were saying about where to stay. We launched EY Lobby in January, when we changed our hotel pro- gramme to dynamic pricing, moving from 2,500 to 32,000 EY rates.


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YOU CAN USE BOTS TO ENHANCE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT and reten- tion. We are looking at creat-


ing EY Hobby to give people information on events that match their interests in a city where they are travelling on business. And we are considering developing “Who is around?”, an opting-in social network for EY employees who are travelling to the same city, so that they can see who will be there and arrange to meet, if they would like to.


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WE ARE ALSO INSTIGAT- ING A CHATBOT to help with some of the questions and answers on travel policy.


We will prepopulate the bot with the answers to questions we are asked con- stantly and as new questions crop up, we will put the answers in.


RECENTLY, WE IMPLE- MENTED A TRAVELLER ALERT. If we get a notifica- tion from the agency saying


there is strike disruption in a country, the process looks for anyone going there over a certain period and sends them informa- tion about what’s going on – everybody gets the same message at the same time. Or if people are flying between destina- tions where a vaccination is required, such as yellow fever to go to Mexico from Brazil, the RPA will find anyone who has made a reservation between those two cities and send them an email to remind them to have the inoculation and to carry a certif- icate to prove they have done so.


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IF PEOPLE GET HUNG UP ABOUT whether new pro- cesses will be 100 per cent perfect, they don’t roll out a


process and get left behind. If something can replace a function 80 per cent accurate- ly, I’m alright with that. Many companies are using chatbots and, more often than not, if it answers questions quickly, it’s a chatbot. If I was doing the job I was doing 20 years ago, I’d be bored, but I love this stuff! You carry other people with you when you are enthused: I don’t have to come up with any more ideas; the team is coming up with them. It’s brilliant to watch.


BUYINGBUSINESSTRAVEL.COM


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