Behind the scenes: Managing business travel during the COVID-19 health crisis
Managing business travel during the COVID-19 health crisis
In January 2020, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) triggered health concerns worldwide, affecting all segments of the travel industry from hotels and airlines to leisure and business travel. Companies started to activate their business continuity plans to reduce the spread of the virus and provide a safe environment for their employees. With borders closing and new airline restrictions being announced daily, the need for critical intelligence and traveler tracking became paramount in the efforts to locate and bring travelers home.
During this period of travel constraints, FCM practiced a proactive and well-rehearsed approach to critical situations, continually customizing and enhancing certain measures through our global network to effectively handle the COVID-19 crisis.
FCM’s five-prong approach to 24/7 risk management support:
- Active monitoring of travel risk assessments and advisories
- Conscientious tracking of all travel transactions
- Keeping an open channel with FCM’s global risk management specialist partner WorldAware
- Accurate communication of travel risks to all stakeholders (internal and external)
- Enabling technology for clients to access traveler locations, reservations & relevant travel alerts
Accurate and Timely Updates
Through intelligent gathering of information from official government health ministries and integrated risk management company WorldAware, FCM became a key partner in helping companies monitor, respond and combat unanticipated situations during the challenging situation.
On January 22nd, FCM and WorldAware held a briefing on the coronavirus after communication was released by China restricting all travel out of Wuhan. The decision was made immediately to escalate that alert to FCM’s highest level which is Crisis, thus automating an SMS text message to all our customers globally.
From there, customers received a full report of travelers in the affected area. As the restricted zones continued to spread over the next 5 days, we continued to push out critical information to travel managers, keeping them informed of the impact that this crisis was having on their travel.
On January 31st, as the COVID-19 situation became more critical, FCM issued a company-wide client communication piece, providing updates on measures which had been taken, support available from our account management team, and advisories on official news and health ministry sources for developments.
With a 300% spike in Secure users resulting from the COVID-19 situation, our global support teams worked tirelessly to enable new customers at a record pace. Development teams working on our traveler portal Hub, reporting tool Clientbank, and FCM Mobile restructured their priorities and delivered on innovative new features such as Secure’s Book Date feature, a Cancellation Report for Account Managers, and a bespoke COVID-19 Dashboard assisting customers to proactively assess the list of potentially affected travelers.
After the World Health Organization labeled COVID-19 as a pandemic, FCM Mobile was enhanced to give clients the ability to enable a third-party travel risk management company phone number directly into the app, providing an extra layer of protection for travelers. FCM then expanded the COVID-19 Dashboard to show all departures and arrivals in and out of China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, France, Spain, and Italy.
Support from our people to yours
The coronavirus crisis highlighted the importance of having a balanced travel program, supported both by technology solutions and the experience of our travel experts who have a vested interest in the wellbeing of our customers.
Regardless of time of day, each time a critical level travel alert was received, FCM’s operations teams would extract a company-wide dataset of itineraries to identify affected travelers. Travel consultants would then follow up promptly to begin the process of reaching out to each and every traveler, informing them of the travel emergency and to offer service support.
In order to keep track of the ever-changing penalty waivers issued by airlines, FCM Airline relationship managers kept all operational team members informed on airline memos so our travel consultants could readily affect changes and penalty waivers whilst minimizing additional costs for clients. Where tickets purchased were non-refundable or unchangeable, FCM travel consultants proactively offered to raise waiver and refund requests to airlines as exceptions.
The dedication of FCM consultants through this time, from working long hours to staying updated on pertinent information at every turn, functions as a prime example of how the combination of service and technology can work hand-in-hand to provide effective support in critical situations.
“I want to say THANK YOU to every FCM agent for all the help they have provided during this stressful time to make sure our travelers were supported. Even though they were so busy during that time they still provided a fantastic customer service.”
“We got out! We lust landed in Newark and just wanted to say THANK YOU for helping my family and I get back to the U.S. on what I’m sure will be one of the very last flights available. I was worried, and you saved us, quite literally. FCM has been amazing with me since this whole evacuation process started, you were really there in every way when we needed you.”