12 Months Later – How We’ve Evolved and What We’ve Learned in the Year of a Pandemic
The past year has brought on many challenges from both a business and leadership perspective. What was initially thought to be a temporary situation quickly transformed into “the new normal.”
As we pass the 1-year milestone of this global pandemic, I can’t help but reflect on how our organization has evolved and progressed throughout the year despite the unpredictable circumstances we all faced.
The first change we had to adapt to was moving all employees from the office to a remote work environment. Although we encountered the same predictable challenges other organizations faced, what I remember most in reflection was how seamless the transition felt due to the cooperation and teamwork throughout the organization. The number one thing that made the transition successful was the open line of communication across the board. All employees at every level of the business stepped up their game in terms of how they communicated. Since you could no longer walk over to someone’s desk to ask a question or troubleshoot a problem, face-to-face interactions turned into frequent phone calls, video conferences, and slack messages. At times the adjustment was difficult, but it forced everyone to communicate as effectively and efficiently as possible, which will serve us well even after the pandemic is over.
From a leadership perspective, another change that had a significant impact on our business was a simple shift in the way we were thinking. For my team, our focus shifted from catering to our existing customers, ensuring their accounts were managed and needs were met, to growing our accounts and expanding our portfolio with a stronger emphasis on sales. When our customers stopped travelling, there were very few accounts to manage, so new business became our priority. We took the time to really listen to the challenges our customers and prospects were encountering and used that feedback to create product enhancements that could make an impact during non-covid times. The pandemic gave my team an opportunity to think outside the box and be innovative, and we took advantage of that.
In addition, we began delivering more thought leadership content and educating our audience, really emphasizing the importance of virtual cards. With virtual cards, each reservation for air, hotel, and car is booked and paid for in the exact amount of the reservation with a unique 16-digit number that becomes invalid after each transaction. Virtual cards are not only highly secure and easy to reconcile, but there is no physical plastic card to exchange, making them a preferred payment method for travelers, especially during a pandemic.
From a CSI perspective, this year we’ve seen a dramatic evolution in our payments product and the level of support we offer. This stems from a huge focus on contactless payments, digitization, and security within the corporate travel industry. Businesses want to ensure that if they’re going to be travelling again, they can abide by the new COVID standards and procedures and feel comfortable doing so. Whether staying at a hotel, flying, or driving, payment is at the root of all travel, and it must be simple, seamless, and non-disruptive. In order to meet this demand and provide travelers with peace of mind, we continue to evolve our payments product following those important principles.
Over the next 6-12 months, corporate travel is expected to make a slow comeback. With a number of conferences and tradeshows scheduled to be held in-person later this year, it feels promising. Now more than ever we must continue to educate on the benefits and advantages of virtual cards, and adapt to the new standards and procedures. As an organization, the work we’ve continued to put in over the last 12 months has set us up for success far beyond the pandemic.
Juliann Pless, SVP Travel Solutions