Miling Harpur, Head of Sales at Corporate Traveller, shares how savvy use of digital technology and a strong and agile culture saw the organisation stay wheels-up throughout the pandemic.

 

It’s so exciting to be preparing for things to ramp up again. We’ve kept a close eye on what’s been happening overseas and expect a rapid return to domestic and international travel once border restrictions are fully lifted. The lessons we’ve learned, the changes we’ve made and the technology we’ve invested in over the past 18 months put us in a stronger position than ever to deliver our services.

Yes, the travel industry was hit hard and fast by the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of domestic passengers alone dropped 95% in the June quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Customer-facing operations were forced to an almost complete standstill. Renewed lockdowns and border closures this year again saw the travel sector suffer. 

But at a time of unprecedented turbulence, Corporate Traveller has managed to stay agile, finding fresh ways to adapt to new demands, constraints and opportunities. 

It helped that when the pandemic first hit, we had smart people in the organisation make some very quick decisions that set us up to have a cash runway. And we’ve been lucky that we cater to the essential services who have exemptions to travel including healthcare, government and some mining and construction.

Communication and autonomy get priority seating

Corporate Traveller is the SME division or the Flight Centre group we look after, small and medium sized businesses. 

Flight Centre is really known for our culture in our business. Our success comes from our culture and people. It’s about how we interact with each other at work and all the rituals and things we do in our offices together. Having all of that taken away was tough. 

We were used to having everyone in the office most days, so at the beginning of the pandemic, when we were suddenly in a position where everyone was working from home it became very challenging. 

So we found new ways to stay connected, to recognise and reward staff and to celebrate wins. 

Communication was critical. Like a lot of businesses, we had several different communication channels. And that has the potential to create chaos, or at least inefficiency. 

That’s where our strong culture shines. Instead of having to specify from the top down which channel should be used for what, each of the small self-managed teams in our ‘Family-Village-Tribe’ structure, figured out what worked best for them. Our teams have done an incredible job of using their technology to maintain relationships even at a distance - to reinvent digital versions of those spontaneous corridor catch-ups. With tools like Quip, they’ve recreated those opportunities to nurture communication.

New definitions of success

The Salesforce platform has also allowed us to create new ways of measuring success. 

Corporate Traveller made a decision early in the pandemic to keep more salespeople on than anyone else in the industry. The challenge was how we would keep our sales reps motivated and occupied.

Instead of basing them on revenue, KPIs became based on maintaining high levels of contact with our customers. Making KPIs activity-focused meant we could keep our sales teams driven at the same time as continuing to deliver the personal, one-on-one contact that we’re known for. 

It was also important for us to acknowledge that our sales teams were having very different experiences across the country. Our teams in Melbourne and Sydney have been in a tough mental health state due to the ongoing lockdowns, compared to those in other capital cities that have been relatively open and free. So along with switching up KPIs, we’ve also focused closely on helping to maintain positive well-being over this challenging time. Fortunately, we have some passionate advocates for mental health at Corporate Traveller who helped run some mindset workshops with very positive outcomes for our teams.

Sales factory takes flight

Quip and the Salesforce platform have transformed the way we operate, both during the pandemic and going forward. 

Quip syncs seamlessly with Salesforce and allows us to operate globally much more effectively because we can share and collaborate on documents with real time updates. With Quip on mobile, teams can continue to work both online and offline, knowing that updates will be made quickly and seamlessly. 

In fact, we’ve built a customised leaderboard called Sales Factory on Quip, which has replaced cumbersome reporting in spreadsheets. Now we can get real-time snapshots of everyone’s performance tracked against easily adjustable targets - which is especially important in today’s constantly shifting landscape.

Now we can show screenshots from Sales Factory, and celebrate the success of those showing green on the charts. Those who are in red know they have work to do, so it keeps the whole team motivated. Everything is drawn directly from Salesforce, it is a gamechanger.

Where performance management sessions or national check-ins used to involve hours of pulling together data from different dashboards, now we can get a live update on one dashboard. Now, we can drill down into the performance of our sales reps by applying quick filters and our business development managers to have a clear picture of how their performance is tracking and where they need to make changes. 

We’re excited to in some ways be at the beginning of our journey with digital transformation. Just as we are all looking forward to a return to travel, so too are we looking forward to building on our employee and customer experience with the right digital solutions. It’s these solutions that have enabled us to create a strong work-from-anywhere culture. 

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