Take a Closer Look at the Multifaceted Modern Business Traveler

Take a Closer Look at the Multifaceted Modern Business Traveler
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MEET OUR TRAVEL COUNSELORS AND CLIENT MANAGERS

A legacy of exceptional service

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Carrie Dehen’s career in the travel industry began when she came across an advertisement in Vogue magazine for a travel school in Florida, and decided to apply. Since graduating in 1988, she’s worked at American Express and transitioned to American Express Global Business Travel in 1995. Carrie currently works as a travel counselor onsite at a client’s office in Minnesota, where she’s expected to wear many hats, from booking domestic and international travel, to working on cost analysis projects. As a fifth-time winner of the Pacesetters award – one of the longest running and most prestigious service recognition programs at American Express Global Business Travel – Carrie has the skills, expertise and determination to handle any situation that comes her way.

GETTING THE JOB DONE, NO MATTER WHAT

Carrie has developed great relationships with her clients. They know that she’s friendly, efficient and professional, and most importantly, that she’ll get the job done, under any circumstances. “I am a very determined, persistent person, and I don’t let obstacles stand in my way,” says Carrie.

She credits her ability to manage her daily responsibilities and any difficult travel situations that arise to her perseverance, patience and industry expertise. “It’s comforting for my clients to know that I am going to take over and lift the burden off of them,” she says.

That’s exactly what Carrie did in 2010 when three employees were stranded in the United Kingdom after Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupted. The employees needed to get back home to Minnesota, but their flights were cancelled, and transportation was shut down across many European countries. Carrie researched other options and saw that flights were still departing from Paris, so she booked transportation for them to get to Paris, as well as flights from Paris back to the United States. Unfortunately, the employees arrived in Paris only to find out that their flights had just been cancelled. Carrie worked overtime for the next few days to help them, and booked hotel accommodations so they had a place to stay until they could fly out. She was able to confirm seats on new flights several times, but each of those flights was cancelled. Carrie finally booked the employees on a flight home three days later. Although the volcanic ash cloud caused major travel disruptions across Europe, Carrie got the three employees back to Minnesota safely – and even greeted them with a huge “Welcome Home” banner at the office. “To me, service dependability means upholding the same values and offering equal quality service with every call,” says Carrie. “Whether it’s related to a rental car or a complex international itinerary, quality service must always be the same.”

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As the American Express Global Business Travel client manager for a large global engineering company, Joshua Abantohollans is responsible for providing total travel management support. He’s spent time understanding the client’s business and travel patterns, and looks after their entire program – above and beyond transaction processing – to help them achieve their travel goals. Joshua’s been with American Express Global Business Travel for half of his 12 years at American Express – and it’s his experiences outside the travel industry that help him think creatively about the client’s travel program. “I’m a free thinker,” he says. “I’ve learned this industry from the outside in, and I use what I know from working on the Consumer Card side of our business. The bottom line is to help a client achieve a return on their investment, and I strive to be innovative in my solutions.”

TOTAL TRAVEL MANAGEMENT IN ACTION

Every day is different, but what never changes is the fast pace. His days begin and end with e-mail, and he has a solid team in place to handle day-to-day travel management so that he can focus on optimizing the client’s travel program. A white board in his office tracks the progress of the client’s key travel initiatives – things like centralizing online booking and completing a cost analysis on VIP service usage. Joshua spends most of his time in meetings to move these initiatives forward, and analyzes reports to uncover potential savings.

When Joshua took on the engineering account in 2012, he saw low online adoption as a fixable problem. “In every project,” he says, “we share findings with the client and present key arguments to persuade them to take action within their organization.” Following Joshua’s recommendation, the client fine-tuned the online booking site, conducted traveler training and added a team member to manage the global online program. Online adoption increased by 35 percent in six months.

Joshua sees providing deep insight as one of the most important parts of his job. He digs for information relevant to the engineering industry and the client’s program, so that he can equip the client’s travel manager with tools to make smart decisions. “When I come to the table with insight,” he says, “they see me as a trusted advisor. I’m in the business of getting people to say ‘Yes’ so that we can improve their program together. Deep insight allows me to do that.”

Improving the client’s program is what it’s all about for Joshua: “I love knowing that the decisions I make on a daily basis have a real impact on my client’s goals.”

 

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In his spare time, Jon Stuckey is a family-oriented man. His two young daughters keep him very busy – whether that is chasing him around the park, or going for long family walks along the seafront, near his home in Hove on the south coast of the UK. But from Monday to Friday, Jon works as a client manager for American Express Global Business Travel. He’s worked in the travel industry for 17 years, so he’s got the experience to understand his customer’s objectives and how travel can help move their business forward.

DEEP INSIGHT TO DRIVE PROGRAMME SUCCESS

Jon’s approach to client management is to base his advice and decisions on facts. He looks at the figures and what the customer wants to achieve, and uses American Express Global Business Travel’s data, tools and processes – which have been honed after decades of working with businesses around the world – to help his customers build business travel plans to drive results. When a new programme is in place, Jon is keen to see it succeed. He closely tracks progress with customised client dashboards and monthly reports so that he can give the customer visibility into their return on investment.

“For me, deep insight means understanding my customer’s business, their competitors and what their business strategy is,” Jon says. “And how the value we deliver in travel can help to deliver business goals.”

And that’s what Jon does. In 2013, for example, he identified that one of his customers in the pharmaceutical industry needed to offset the cost of innovation. Based on his experience with similar customers, he believed that getting more travellers to book online rather than offline would free up much needed money. To make sure his thinking was right, he conducted a what-if analysis based on the customer’s current online usage. He suggested a realistic plan, aligned to the company’s culture, to increase online bookings. With buy-in from the customer, Jon promoted the online booking tool with travel bookers directly, and online travel bookings soon increased and the customer saved 60% in transaction fees and the European average ticket price reduced by 10% due to the visual guilt factor. The additional money in the customer’s bank will allow for further innovation – Jon’s deep insight has ultimately helped the company maintain a competitive edge.

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Suzanne Fuller got her start in the travel industry early, beginning with a summer job at a nearby hotel during high school. “I got the bug,” she said, and followed up her first work experience with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. She eventually fell into meeting planning and sourcing, and joined American Express Meetings & Events in 2000.

EXCEPTIONAL TRAVELER CARE, WHEN IT MATTERS MOST

Based virtually in Delaware, Suzanne oversees an 11-person team of meeting planners and sourcing managers that supports a U.S.-based healthcare company. She’s responsible for the day-to-day activity, working directly with meeting and sourcing managers, speaking with the client and handling administrative activities.

A winner of the Pacesetters award – American Express Global Business Travel’s highest honor for top-performing travel counselors, meeting planners and team leaders – and inducted into the Pacesetters Hall of Fame in 2014, Suzanne attributes her success to keeping an open mind, and always being available to her colleagues and the meeting planners and sourcing managers who report to her.    

Suzanne’s goal is to take care of every meeting detail – and every meeting attendee. “We want happy people,” she said. “We want to satisfy clients to keep them coming back.”

That’s what she did when a storm hit the Mid-Atlantic region in February 2014, leaving thousands of travelers stranded over Valentine’s Day weekend, including 300 attendees for one of her client’s meetings. Suzanne and her team scrambled to get hotel accommodations, and worked around the clock to book new flights. A small group needed to get home right away, so Suzanne’s staff rented a vehicle and scheduled a driver. For those meeting attendees staying at the hotel over the weekend, Suzanne arranged with the hotel to set up a hospitality room with snacks, televisions and phones.

The toughest part? “I had to keep attendees from having a meltdown,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve learned that staying calm keeps the customer calm. Having a positive attitude just helps the situation move along.”

“American Express Meetings & Events” is a service provided by American Express Global Business Travel.