The last two decades have witnessed the meteoric growth of Chinese companies, with many venturing into international markets. As recently as 2005, there were only 16 Chinese firms in the Fortune Global 500 – almost all of which were state-owned enterprises. This year, there are 145 companies from Greater China on the list, accounting for 31% of the total revenue of the world's 500 largest corporations.
As these businesses continue to expand their global footprint, creating a consistent and convenient business travel experience for all their employees worldwide is becoming a top priority.
“The KPIs that large Chinese companies use to measure the success of their travel programs have evolved considerably over the past decade,” says Albert Zhong, CWT’s General Manager for China. “In the past, cost management was the primary focus. Today we see many corporates paying more attention to improving the traveler experience – and this trend has accelerated following the pandemic.”
One approach to standardize service levels and experiences across multiple markets is to use a “hub” model. Typically, when travelers need assistance with their travel plans, they call their travel management company’s service center located in the same country. So, a traveler based in Paris would call the service center in France, while a traveler living in Sydney would contact the Australia service center. In a hub configuration, travelers from around the world are all routed to the same service center and assisted by a team of travel counselors who have an in-depth understanding of their organization’s travel requirements and policies, which helps produce a more consistent experience.
Earlier this year, CWT launched an English-Mandarin bilingual service hub in Singapore, with Alibaba, one of the world’s leading tech firms, becoming the first customer to sign up. The service hub, which operates 24/7, currently supports Alibaba employees based in markets outside mainland China, including Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. These employees contact the hub for assistance with their travel arrangements, as well as on-trip support in the event of trip disruptions such as flight delays and cancelations. The results to date have been extremely encouraging.
“We are getting excellent feedback from our employees,” said Jelly Li, Senior Procurement Manager at Alibaba. “Our travelers say they now find it easier to get the support they need because the travel counselors are familiar with our organization’s policies and preferences. At the same time, our Chinese employees who have relocated to other countries love that they can communicate with the travel counselors in Mandarin, which makes them feel more at home.”
Mr Zhong says CWT is seeing a lot of interest in this model from other large Chinese multinationals, with another major tech corporation expected to switch over the bilingual service hub early next year. Looking ahead, CWT is exploring ways to create an even better traveler experience by introducing new technologies that will give our counselors greater insight into travelers’ current and historical interactions with CWT, allowing them to operate more efficiently and effectively.