How we increased focus on sales and service by 40% – without hiring

Our business is all about improving the overall traveler experience to build long-term growth and strong customer relationships. This is what gives Gebeco its competitive edge. To further enhance this edge, we wanted to find an automated solution to help steer our agents clear from manual operational processes so they can continue to concentrate on complex sales and providing the highest-quality level of service to travelers. Let me explain how we made it happen.

At Gebeco, we aim to sell travels that inspires. We specialize in designing and selling elaborated itineraries to give our travelers an authentic, cultural experience in their destination. We also offer a wide range of complementary services to our travelers; anything from arranging cooking workshops to suitable travel literature for the destination or visa and insurance services. Naturally, these are not off-the-shelf products but entail a long and intensive sales process, consequently we need our staff to dedicate as much time as possible on their customers. With elaborated itineraries and complex sales come a great deal more queue monitoring and schedule changes – both tasks also spanning over longer periods of time. So, spending a disproportionally huge amount of time on manual, time-consuming and non-revenue generating tasks in order for us to be on top of all bookings was unsustainable. We needed to ask ourselves, “Can we afford this in the long run?”. “Is there not a better and more efficient way?”. Actually, it turns out, there is!

From manual struggle to robotics marvel
As responsible for operations and process management at Gebeco, my drive and daily goal is to make these areas as streamlined as possible. And I am a firm believer that technology is the key enabler for both. So, after thoroughly analyzing our processes, we decided to look towards automation technology and implemented a mix of Amadeus’ Robotics solutions. The combination of robots has been our gateway to more sales, better yield and improved customer servicing. The investment in automation, particularly the robots, has been more than worth it!

One of our main challenges involved handling all of the highly complex and repetitive manual workload around air fare optimization. Most of our customers book their tickets more than a year in advance, and one of our key selling points is a long term guaranteed price. Therefore, we had around 40 experienced employees mostly dedicated to daily manual air fare searches – looking for fares that meet the committed booking conditions while leaving us the most profitable yield before documents issuance. Schedule changes, airline notifications and PNR quality checks were other tasks that required constant staff attention and would take our experienced team away from sales and servicing travelers.

The Amadeus Robotics solutions were the helping hands we needed. With always-on applications running in the background and with the capacity to constantly monitor, validate and update queues and bookings, we have been able to move 40% of our operations staff to customer-facing activities – which is exactly what we wanted to achieve. We saw the results almost immediately. The economic effect soon became evident, driven by more and faster sales and better yield.

Less is more
The robots have empowered our travel agency operations very well, which also extends to our customers. One of our major selling points is that we pride ourselves in making everything around the customers’ bookings as simple as possible for them. If travelers book directly, they are often flooded with notifications from the airlines about schedule changes, minor or major, which makes them not only overwhelmed but also undermines the traveler confidence. But the thing is, so are we. It is a massive task to monitor and sort through the notifications and determine actions to keep this simplistic customer experience intact. With our Auto-Schedule Change robot, we can set our own rules to determine the type of schedule change that affect reservations, and automatically sort PNRs accordingly. Now, with minor schedule changes being handled by the robotics application, our agents only need to take care of the really major ones and following up the communication about them to the customers. Ultimately, our customers only receive highly relevant and timely information instead of being overwhelmed and stressed out.

Are we replacing humans?
It’s not easy to get all of the staff to accept giving up tasks to robotics. Naturally, we all fear ‘not to be needed’, and that our jobs might be taken away from us. And with our staff it was no different. However, with transparency and excessive communication, we explained our purpose, rationale and expected value for the operations, the customers and their own daily productivity. There was never a goal for us to reduce staff – robots can never replace humans. To the contrary, what it is all about is give staff the flexibility to make use of their expertise where it really brings the most value. We wanted our staff to have the time and capacity to focus on the customer, as travel advisor is essential and invaluable in helping travelers overcome challenges and responding to their demands. It is in fact job enrichment. Now, our teams appreciate the freed-up time to put their talents to best use – and they love their new robotic helping hands.

Investing in a productive future
The flight market is becoming more and more complex. Consequently, the amount of manual workload grows exponentially.My view is that if you take your bottom line and your clients seriously, you need some sort of robotics capability in your operations. You and your teams have more important things to do for your customers and business than dealing with manual, time-consuming workloads. 

When we started on this journey, we had high hopes of improved operations and good business results, but we were blown away with the veritable effects. For Gebeco, leveraging robotics to be able to reallocate 40% of internal resources to sales and servicing has been extremely rewarding. This key move towards automation has taken us in the technological direction we wanted to go – but also closer to our customers. So, my advice is to trust the robots and invest in a productive future.

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