Call centres, hubs, local teams: Which service model is right for you?


Service levels is a topic that’s always a high on the agenda for travel managers. The discourse rages on about what servicing model best fits multinational and high-volume travel programs, or smaller, national programs.

What it comes down to is what you value more: the speed at which someone can pick up the phone or a team that truly understands your travellers’ needs and your company’s policy.

First things first…a structural comparison

Here are the nuts and bolts:

Call Centre

Hub - Personalised Team

Local - Personalised Team

Agents based in one country, supporting travellers based in any country 

Agents based in one country, supporting travellers located in same country, and others in the region 

Agents based in an office located in the same country as travellers

Larger work setting and higher volume of agents

Pod-style work setting with a focused group of agents

Pod-style work setting with a focused group of agents

Agents are divided up among various non-specialised team leaders

Agents are divided up by specialised teams, possibly by client or industry

Agents are divided up by specialised teams, possibly by client or industry

Calls are answered by any available agent on a first-come, first-served basis

Calls are answered by an available agent within the assigned specialised team on a first-come, first-served basis

Calls are answered by an available agent within the assigned specialised team on a first-come, first-served basis

customer service

A personal touch or speed of service?

Personalised teams, whether it’s a Hub or Local, will always come with a more human touch. When your travellers work with the same group of people for all their bookings, the agents will become very familiar with your program’s requirements, such as policy rules, preferred suppliers, unused ticket processing, and more. And your travellers will feel more at ease knowing their bookings are managed by a team that knows them.

Call centres won’t have the same personal touch. Still, they can handle higher call volumes at a faster rate, which may be more attractive to large multinational organisations with travel programs that transact in the tens of millions of dollars.

Which model is more flexible?

It’s been said over and over, but recent events have proven that corporate travel programs need to be agile and nimble in the face of change. Depending on where this falls in your priorities for your program, it can determine what kind of service model you’ll prefer.

When it comes to a local, personalised team that is dedicated to an industry, segment, or client, it is much easier to adapt to changes in traveller needs or feedback. For example, a client-specific team can receive real-time policy updates and apply those new requirements immediately. This feedback also goes two ways – if agents are hearing the same concerns, complaints, or are mitigating the same problems repeatedly, it can be raised with the travel manager(s).

The other important thing to remember is that agents who are assigned to specific teams, whether by industry, volume, or client, tend to have more experience than an entry-level agent and can provide more informed service.

It’s similar in a hub environment. The only change is that the travel consultants support travellers from more than one country. Here’s an example. You’re an organisation with an office in South Africa, and you also have team members based in Mozambique, Nigeria and Kenya. Instead of using a local team in each of those countries where you may only have a few travellers, they can all instead be “hubbed” and supported through South Africa. They can still book, and invoice as if they were based in the origin country, and even pay in local currency. Plus, all the above service you’d get from a local team is replicated in a hub (or at least, it is at FCM Travel!).

This may be a harsh way to put it (and isn’t necessarily bad depending on your priorities), but to call centre agents, your travellers’ calls are just another checkbox in their day. This is the result of a high-volume framework. There won’t be the same feedback loops, and since a call centre will be servicing many clients at large, change will be more incrementally and may take more approvals.


Which model is more scalable?

Another important consideration when choosing your support model is how it scales with your organisation's needs and costs. 

When it comes to numbers, call centres simply have more staff. A call centre can host hundreds of agents in one spot, and the dawn of remote work can even triple those estimations. This means an agent will always be available to answer the phone when the next disruption, crisis, or emergency happens. And, call centres can scale more quickly at lower costs, making them more attractive to organisations where the "bottom line" is the most important factor.

This all may come at another cost, though. You won't be able to expect the same level of “white-glove” service as you'd get from a local or hub team; an agent might be taking a booking from your organisation for the first time, and that first time may also be their last time.

The biggest argument for a call centre is that a personalised team won't have the numbers to support travellers. But we need to remember that a personalised team is by no means “small” and can have upward of 40-50 agents assigned to one traveller segment, industry, or client.

Building relationships and navigating nuances

How important is it to you that your travellers feel like they have a connection with the consultants servicing your program?

The main difference between an agent from a call centre and a personalised local or hub team is how well they will understand your travellers and program. Even on a personalised team of 40 people, it is statistically likely that a traveller will work with the same travel consultant time and time again. This is especially impactful for your road warriors.

Imagine what you would like better:

  1. Having to reexplain your requirements and wants every time you call
  2. Or speaking with an agent who already knows, and may even remember your favourite hotels or booking procedures?

It’s a simple fact that call centres can’t accommodate this. So, if it’s important to you, then you have your answer on which model is a better fit for your program.


Meet the FCM Global Management & Corporate Executive Teams

Which one is right for you?

It all comes down to preferences, priorities, and needs. During your request for proposal (RFP) process, make sure to include questions that unpack how a TMC handles servicing. Ask for customer testimonials, referrals, and examples of how they’ve handled specific issues or problems.

To be transparent, at FCM, we use the personalised team model of local teams and hubs. We’ve found that it’s the best way to bring our travellers and clients the support they need, all while keeping the human connection. This comes at a cost, but the results are priceless. If you want to hear about how we do it, let’s schedule some time to chat.

Give service a personalised touch. Let’s talk.

By proceeding, I agree to the website terms of use and to my personal information being handled in accordance with the privacy policy.