Tom Ruesink (VP – Product Management and Marketing) and Laurie Reese (EVP – Customer Services) sat down to discuss Cornerstone’s latest take on Post-COVID Staffing Levels in the Travel Industry.
- How will front line operations be affected within the next 1-3 years?
- How many businesses in the Travel Industry plan to return to full strength by 2023?
Tom and Laurie address these concerns and more.
Welcome to another episode of Cornerscoops. Cornerscoops is just kind of time where we sit down with different employees from Cornerstone and talk about either different aspects of the industry or what’s going on in the industry. And today I’m happy to be joined by Laurie Reese, who is Cornerstone’s executive vice president of customer services. Welcome, Laurie.
Laurie : (00:32)
Our product and marketing team had recently completed a survey that talked about staffing levels. And the question was … one question that we just asked is … “What do you think the impact of COVID will be to your support staffing levels of frontline operations in the next one to three years?” And the results came back showing that over 70% of our clients do not anticipate having a staffing level returning back to pre COVID levels. In fact, 42% had anticipated staffing reduction of over 25%. So Laurie, does that number surprise you at all?
Laurie : (01:22)
Unfortunately, it does not surprise me. You know, I’ve seen across the industry people that I know that were furloughed or things like that, who have seen that they’re not going to be asked to come back and, actually a lot of people are leaving the industry because they are finding that they see that they’re not going to be able to get back to the roles that they had previously. So no, it’s not surprising.
Well, now your team handles the calls from the customers, and what areas — what specific areas of the workflow process — they’ve been taking most calls on or have been most affected by that people are calling about?
Laurie : (02:14)
Yeah. So I think people are calling to find out how to handle some of the things that may be previously a person was handling. So maybe issuing tickets, tracking, unused tickets, things like that. But then they’re also calling to ask us what they have already programmed with us, what automation do they already have, because sometimes they’ve lost that expert that really understood all the details and ins and outs of what they have currently run with us. So we’re getting questions like that, of how to even increase the usage of the automation and also what they have running currently so that they can better what we’re doing for them today.
Yeah. Now you say that you know …with less staff, [and less] people [traveling], there’d be fewer calls to support. But have you guys seen a reduction in staff or reduction in calls and activity at all? Or has it actually been more because of people trying to figure those things out?
Laurie : (03:20)
Yeah, that’s a great question. And, you know, I think that probably a year ago I would have thought that our support requests would go down and they really haven’t. They’ve either stayed very consistent or gone up. And again, it’s trying to understand what automation they currently have. And then also, I think we’ve seen things like being able to troubleshoot, maybe the people that could troubleshoot before can’t. They don’t know how to do that now. And then also, what else can we do for them? Because they don’t have as many people, they really need more done on the automation side to replace the kind of person doing some of that work.
So if a customer wants to reach out what are some practical next steps that our client base or travel management companies could take as far as turning that ‘country house’ that might, that they might be seeing now into something that’s more of a streamlined process: efficient, automated, so forth. What are some practical things that our clients can do?
Laurie : (04:27)
Yeah, there’s some kind of quick and easy things that we can do to help our clients. So, one of them is to help with education so that if they’re struggling with not understanding how a process works, we can educate them. We can show them, we can train them on how to do some of the troubleshooting themselves. And then we can also do relatively quick assessments, like ‘here’s what you have today, here’s what you’re using. Here’s maybe what you have programmed in that you’re not [currently] using. So maybe they’re not sending all their tickets through auto ticketing, that kind of thing. And then we can also take that a bit further in. Helping them know what additional tools we can implement for them. So maybe like ticket tracking and things like that. So it’s really kind of three steps. We can educate. We can also help with assessments on what they have that they are, or maybe aren’t using. And then how can they increase their uses, whether it’s with what they have today or new offerings as well.
I know even one example, I think that, that we had talked about earlier in the year and we reached out to a lot of our clients on was fare checking and with clients changing their expiration dates. So there weren’t penalties for change fees, you know, fare checking settings. And it would be a perfect time to make sure that the fare checking settings were in line with those, with those policies as well and ticket tracks and things like that as well. So anyway, thank you very much for joining us and lending some insights to this area we appreciate your time and hopefully, it’s been helpful.
Thank you as well.