What has been the biggest surprise for you returning back into the Focus Partnership?
How everyone’s roles has changed and how busy it is, my colleagues have picked up lots of new and existing roles during this time, all with one continual aim, which is to help the Focus Partners.
In the week I’ve been back it’s great to see the shoots of recovery coming through, with both travel and our Partners.
How can Partners really utilise the Focus Partnership central team?
Remember that the Focus Central team is considered an extension of your own team. If you have a question, we have wealth of operational background, and if we don’t have the exact answer we’re lucky to have 59 other supportive Partners to ask.
We also have our steering groups, Air, Technology, Champion and soon Rail and they help to evaluate solutions and put that group buying power into place by offering pricing deals.
You used to head up an operations department, what advice would you give operations managers?
There is no doubt that you will see change in the travel industry and preparing for that is key. Take a look at your disaster recovery plan and prepare for staff to work from home (if you haven’t already) as they need to self-isolate at short notice.
Make sure your GDS logins are kept active as these can be deleted after a period of inactivity.
Stay relevant and keep up to date, using tools such as the Focus extranet and our newsletters are a great way to keep connected to the industry and all the changes.
When your consultants come back there will likely be a stack of vouchers to be used. Keeping track of these is key. Make sure all your staff understand the vouchers and can find them easily. I would suggest adding notes into the passengers or company profiles on the GDS to warn about these outstanding credits.
Remember that some of your consultants might have been out of the game for some months now, so some training whilst they are in furlough is a great way to keep them updated about new travel and airlines policies. Also explaining about the different processes and what to expect when they come back, might ease any worries they might have.
What do you see the biggest challenges facing consultants returning to work?
The ‘new norm’. There will be information overload from all the new airline policies. At Focus we have been working on making this information as easy as possible to find by creating quick guides on the relevant airlines pages.
Tip- make sure everyone has a working log in for our Focus Extranet!
Are the Focus Partnership doing anything to help?
Helping and guiding our partners is one of our core beliefs. We have been running a series of online panels which provide great insights into the industry, also help with HR, legal and financial advise through this time has been one of our key components. We also run a weekly Partner call which is open to all our main contacts to join and is a great chance to discuss the ever changing challenges this pandemic has brought us.
Our Fares Executive Laura has also run some brilliant training sessions to help increase knowledge of fares, which gives you the opportunity to make extra revenue. Laura will also be covering training on working with EMD’s and other types of vouchers when we start to see more bookings coming in.
Also remembering that being part of Focus means you’re never alone. You can always ask any of the central team for help or advice
How can technology help with these challenges?
As we have seen through this crisis, technology has never played a more important role. Using technology is a great way to show your clients those added benefits.
Some of the ones we have shouting about are the Travelogix Covid-19 Tracker. Free of charge for Partners and started as a system to track Covid-19 rates and travellers, it soon developed and will become a duty of care tool.
Safeture have produced a map which can be embedded into any website and help with planning with trips and includes areas of lockdowns, quarantine measures, flight restrictions and even school closures. Visit openupforbusiness.com for more information
Amadeus have built a chatbot which will be helpful for corporates looking for quick information on destinations for their travellers. The chatbot is extremely easy to use and hopefully will help your clients make the right decisions before phoning through.
You can find it here: https://www.travel-19.com/
Any tips for those returning from furlough leave?
Travel has changed, you really need to take time to understand your new invaluable role and responsibilities. One challenge I expect we will face is constant border changes/health updates, often at short notice, and you need to bear this in mind and keep your travellers updated with changes that may affect them. Partners that use Focus Dashboard, could set the system up so upcoming bookings can be quickly visible and checked by your reservations teams.
You will need to look after your travellers wellbeing and would recommend you offer flexi tickets which may help cover any short notice changes. We have seen a lot of special Business class fares which may be more suitable and safer for your traveller . Help your traveller feel more secure by using fares that include priority check in and more room on the aircraft to help and social distance. Focus Farefinder can be programmed to quickly quote for higher cabin classes.
Make sure you offer transfers, car hire and hotels for each booking. Treat each booking like your customer is a VIP and at the same time increase the revenue for your TMC.
How have the Focus Central team kept you engaged whilst you’ve been on furlough?
I am not a person to sit still, I enjoy working and having a project, so I worked out a plan to keep busy. I completed over 130 hours of training in my 7 weeks on furlough and these included Microsoft, project management courses and coding, all to help in my role. I have found it has helped starting my day at the normal time, logging on in the morning and then spending the afternoon either on DIY or car maintenance.
Along with this, the central team have kept in contact, I have regular catch up calls with Focus CEO Abby and my line manager Pascal about what is happening in the business. We also have social sessions with the wider team and include ‘Monday Lunch Picnic’ where we have lunch together and discuss what we did at the weekend, and weekly Friday gin hours where we take it in turns to host the entertainment. Most recently we did an online escape room, and in my week I undertook the important task of teaching them Geordie, you’ll be pleased to know they’re now all fluent.
These are the training courses I have completed:
- Microsoft, Excel, Powerpoint, Word etc I would rate this as 9 out of 10 and is easy going – Free for 30 days and then £1.99. https://www.elearnoffice.com/
- Future Learn – A lot of courses Covers Project Management, Data collecting, Remote working, Decision making, problem solving, I would rate these 7 out of 10 . Most are free – https://www.futurelearn.com/
- Google Garage – Understanding Code, Machine learning etc. Short courses between 1 and 3 hours. Most are free. – https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage. Rate 9/10
- Google Fundamentals of digital marketing certification – 40 hours in total, but is made up of the small courses above Free course. https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage rate 9/10.
- GDS training courses
I have also covered various Coding and web design courses which are free to contact me and talk about if you wish.