Seven Travel Agency Prerequisites for Success
Agency back-office IT is no longer just financial accounting. Gone are the days when the back office simply logged the agency’s transactions. Whether recognized or not, today the back-office has become every agency’s prime resource of workflow information making it management’s center of control. Functioning as today’s Agency Management Platform, your agency’s future success has become increasingly dependent on the capabilities of your Back Office System (BOS).
To remain competitive, it is important that your back-office capabilities include automated, industry-specific workflow functionality, state-of-the-art real time processing, compatible information exchanges with third party systems (data handouts and exports), online workflow collaboration, and continuous updates driven by market and technology changes.
This overview summaries seven success-oriented capabilities that every BOS should have in its new role as your company’s Agency Management Platform.
Does your software vendor provide you with regular updates and continuous innovation?
Staying ahead of competition demands improved customer service on an on-going basis. Updating your IT cannot wait until your customer demands exceed your ability to deliver acceptable service. To be a market leader, your agency needs a pre-established rapid response system with your software vendor. The ability to update your agency’s business model as your business environment changes is critical to minimizing negative impacts and maximizing new opportunities.
How did your vendor respond to COVID-19 Refund Requests?
When COVID-19 disrupted travel, agencies faced unprecedented customer demands for refunds. To reduce carrier cash demands, GDS procedures required Refund Applications (RAs) to be submitted manually using the GDS Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) link. Nucore immediately automated the new RA process, minimizing refund delays and conserving agency cash at a time when cash was critical for survival. Read more (link to the detailed article on this issue).
Were you able to avoid a cash flow crisis?
Your back-office vendor’s experience and their agility in development process and designed in ability to continuously Your back-office vendor’s experience, development agility, designed-in software updating, innovative automation advancements, and agency-specific service offerings are critical for your business to react to industry changes in a timely manner. Establishing a relationship with a vendor that develops and updates client services as market changes occur, will allow your agency to be proactive instead of reactive, to avoid negative impacts, and to capitalize on new opportunities.
Is your GDS Data detailed and accurate?
Is your BSP Reconciliation fully automated?
There is no greater impact on customer satisfaction than the accuracy and timely completion of a transaction. It defines your agency’s quality of service. Customers expect fast and accurate issuance and changes to ticketing, itineraries, refunds, and every other agency deliverable. Back-office deficiencies should never become front office service barriers.
Does your back office capture all the GDS data needed to automate your agency?
Automating GDS data extraction is essential to accessing accurate and detailed financial data, which in turn, is required to automate the simplest to the most complex accounting functions. Streamlining automation from a simple reissue of a “No-ADC” ticket to a more complex GDS debit and credit information capture that automates the application of excess and short billings to outstanding ADMs and ACMs, requires accurate and detailed transaction data. Having accurate and detailed GDS data requires the full automation of your agency’s GDS data capture.
According to Sabre, a typical travel agency pays for more than 40 hours of non-productive, high-skilled labor every month. Does yours?
Increased automation decreases manual labor. A fully automated BSP Reconciliation process not only saves labor, but also eliminates human error and expensive manual rework. Back Office automation significantly decreases customer-facing transaction times, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Front Office efficiency is dependent on Back Office data access and automation.
Together, automating accurate and deep data extraction and automating manual processes – especially those requiring high accounting skills such as BSP reconciliation – eliminates revenue leakage, increases profits, and improves an agency’s quality of service and competitiveness.
Win new accounts, reduce costs with automated Card Management, Reconciliation, and certified Data Handouts.
Accepting all forms of credit payment is every customer’s expectation. Providing up-to-date account information during payment reduces card rejections, over-limit fees, lower credit ratings, and increased client interest rates. The transaction amount, Point-of-Sale merchant fee, Value Added Tax, and credit limit are needed in real time, especially when the same account has multiple authorized users such as joint card and corporate card accounts. Additionally, corporate accounts may involve other sources and forms of payment being charged against their Statement of Account limitations.
Corporate clients require travel agencies to provide periodic and full accounting of all credit transactions for reconciliation and card vendor payment. Up-loadable transaction data vary from vendor to vendor. State-of-the-Art agency management platforms should be capable of automatically generating “data handouts” certified by card vendors including AMEX, MasterCard, VISA, UATP, and Airplus.
Proactive control of credit accounts benefits both customers and agencies. Client transactions are completed faster with fewer or no post-transaction corrections or penalties. Reconciliation becomes less complicated with fewer exceptions improving agency cashflow. Agency sales become more efficient and non-sales skilled labor is significantly reduced enabling management to reassign saved labor to income-producing responsibilities. Most importantly, an agency can close new corporate accounts with improved service offerings and vendor-certified data handouts.
Collaboration has proved to be a valuable tool for meetings, planning, problem resolution, corporate communication, and many other cost-saving purposes. Today, collaboration is becoming an integral part of a business’s primary workflow.
Anywhere, anytime collaboration within an agency’s everyday workflow requires travel-specific IT capabilities. Having a system that is web-based, provides the prerequisite communication, but to collaborate with a customer or other staff member to complete an agency workflow process, advanced Back-Office capabilities must be available to all participants. Online travel agency collaboration requires multiple modules to be opened simultaneously, invoices to be edited without voiding and replacement, drill-downs to be made to the point of data origination, and the real-time processing required for up-to-the-second information.
Workflow collaboration avoids delays due to transaction “hand-offs” from one staff member to another. Skills become available when needed, allowing continuous uninterrupted workflow from initiation to completion. With the right collaborative tools, agencies can save time with less labor, less travel, less mistakes, and deliver improved service in less time.
Travel-specific agency collaborative workflow capabilities include:
- Web-based, internet access
- Simultaneous opened tabs and modules
- Report drill down to originating data source
- Open invoice editing and logging
- Real-Time Accounting
When customers, suppliers, travel providers, and banks, communicate in their local or preferred currency, then workflow transactions and inter-company reconciliations become much simpler. Maintaining multiple currency ledgers allow communications to occur without error prone currency conversions. Participants will be more comfortable knowing all conversions are managed by the system automatically and accurately.
Multi-currency accounting and reporting is a valuable cash management tool in identifying the best time to optimize cross-currency invoicing and settlements.
Data Exporting Compatibility
Agency data is commonly exported to other software applications for further analysis and processing. Microsoft Excel has become the industry standard data analysis application. Excel has also become a standard portal for exporting data to other applications. The more frequent and the more data exported, the more important it is that your exporting process be fully compatible with MS Excel. Full compatibility eliminates intermediate data transformation, usually a time-consuming, error-prone manual process.
Agency data exporting should not require any Excel expertise. The process should be simple and easy to use. Exported data should be in a file able to be directly imported by Excel without any pre- or post-export processing.
A fully compatible Microsoft Excel export capability will save time, eliminate human errors, and require less staff training, Excel compatible exporting will simplify both internal and external data sharing with banks, suppliers, business partners, consultants, regulatory institutions, or government agencies.
Secure, Realtime Accounting
Managing a real time business requires real time information. To be a proactive leader instead of reactive follower, you need to know the status of your business and the potential impact of your actions at the time you make decisions. Your Back Office System should be able to maintain all accounts and financial reporting on a real time basis.
Knowing a supplier’s statement, especially a non-airline’s account status, immediately after processing invoices, helps prevent balances from reaching unacceptable levels. If an end-of-month, or even an end-of-day (permanent or temporary) financial close is required before accurate statements are available, then it may be too late to avoid inappropriate or costly decisions.
Knowing your agency’s accounts payables and receivables, general ledger, or any other financial statement or management report can be critical to making the right day-to-day or even hour-to-hour decisions, particularly in times of an active pandemic or political unrest when financial situations can be volatile and unpredictable.
Controlling access to financial information is important to your customers, vendors, banks, business partners, and your own reputation. Your Back Office system’s access privileges should be defined by individual, function, or type of financial activity on an easy to update, need-to-know basis.
In Real Time accounting with controlled, secure access is a prerequisite for:
- Effective Proactive Management
- Making Real Time Decisions
- Scaling Operations with Business Growth
- Maintaining Reputable Confidentiality
The Nucore Travel Agent Value Proposition
Having “next generation” software at the time of product launch is no longer the highest value a travel agency’s technology partner can deliver. Today, agency performance is dependent on IT that is industry specific and continuously updated. Support systems must be tailored to travel-specific workflows and continuously updated as markets evolve, regulations change, technologies emerge, and opportunities arise.
Nucore’s value proposition has been enhanced over the last decade. Nucore has designed into its day-to-day operations a sustainable, agile development process that delivers a continuous stream of benefits to its customers. Clients are updated quarterly, ensuring that no competitive advantage waits for the next generation announcement. Provided at no charge, Updates are provided at no charge eliminating budget approval delays.
As client demands grew over time, so did the Nucore Travel Agency Platform. Periodic system updates, feature enhancements, automated processes, new service offerings, architectural upgrades and new platform deployments have maintained Nucore client scalability and competitiveness over time. Revenues and profits were never stagnant. Instead, benefits were increased with every upgrade. Over the same period, management received advanced cash flow, productivity, tracking, and efficiency financial tools to optimize performance.