Back Office System for Travel Agencies – 6 Tips to Make Your Software Implementation a Success
The implementation of a good back office system within a travel agency is a real challenge! Whether you are a travel agency that carries out the majority of its operations manually and therefore without any back office system or you are a travel agency with an obsolete accounting solution that has been installed some years ago, you will face multiple issues!
At TravelWorks, we have implemented back office systems for hundreds of travel agencies. Thanks to our extensive experience in the travel booking field, we can share with you some important tips to avoid any setbacks during the implementation process.
1. Choose the Right System for You
This may seem obvious but it is essential to analyse your current needs, to define the areas to improve (e.g. avoid double data entry, reduce accounting errors, improve the quality of the commission tracking, etc.) and make sure that the system you have chosen will meet all your business objectives.
Recommendation: Create a selection grid where you list all of your prerequisites. Assign a score on each item you want to evaluate for each supplier. The total points awarded to each supplier will allow you to identify the best supplier while respecting a consistent method of evaluation.
2. Appoint a Leader in Charge of the Implementation
This step may seem trivial but it is so important when you acquire your software! If you are the owner of the travel agency and you do not have the time to properly manage this project, make sure to appoint someone within your organization as the person responsible for successfully implementing your new system. This person’s mission will be to fully understand your operational issues and to ensure that your internal staff is properly trained on how the system works. The person you choose will act as the coordinator with the software provider and will ensure the implementation process occurs without any major worries.
Recommendation: Make sure that the person you appoint is tech-savvy and particularly motivated by the challenge. It’s important that the success of this implementation project matters to them.
3. Anticipate the Transition Period and Explain to Your Internal Teams the Benefits Related to the Project
Each individual in a team responds differently but sometimes, some people are particularly reluctant to change, for fear of failure, for fear of having to learn a new methodology, for lack of flexibility or open-mindedness, etc. In short, it’s possible that in your teams, one or more individuals are not exactly elated to replace the software already in place that seemed to be perfect for them and with which they’ve worked with for years. It is therefore important to explain to them what motivates this change and why the implementation of this new system will benefit the whole team, including them.
Make sure that the people who are fearful of change and/or less tech-savvy are properly trained once the system is implemented. You can even negotiate with your software provider some longer or additional training sessions for individuals who still feel uncomfortable using the new system.
4. Do Your Homework During the First 2 Months of the Implementation
Regardless of the quality of the training you will receive from your software provider, the vendor will not have the responsibility of constantly ‘pushing’ you to use its system. Very often, you will be trained on a specific software feature and you will be asked to put into practice what you have been taught. You learned how to configure your users’ access rights? Do not wait to configure all your agents’ profile in the system! You now know how to configure your supplier settings? Do not delay configuring them one by one in the software with their commission rules! You now know how to issue invoices in the system? Make sure your teams don’t wait 2 weeks before issuing their first invoices! In short, the faster your teams practise using the new tool, the faster they will master it and be satisfied. The next training sessions will be more efficient and easier to follow and it will eventually reduce their learning curve.
Recommendation: To motivate your troops, define specific objectives concerning the new system in use and set up a reward system for your staff members that demonstrate a regular and effective usage. A $20 gift card in any store represents a small investment that can, every week, lead to the smooth running of the implementation project.
5. Identify Quick Wins and Communicate Them Internally
Your new accounting software and its interface with a booking engine no longer create invoices manually since they are now automated for your accounting staff. Talk to them about this during a coffee break so everyone can recognize the immediate gains your team has achieved. Your travel agents now have access to dashboards in real time to track their commissions. Your external accountant can now connect to your system without being in your office and can manage your bank reconciliations in a few clicks. You can also share with them the benefits of this new situation. In short, take advantage of the buzz this new software creates in your agency to spread cheerfulness and satisfaction relative to the new system implementation.
Recommendation: Do not forget to schedule internal meetings on a regular basis to make summaries for each step of the implementation process. This will allow you, on the one hand, to collect positive feedback on your implementation project from your colleagues and on the other hand, to identify constructive criticisms from team members who are still skeptical about the new software benefits.
6. Set Up a Process of Continuous Improvement of Your Procedures
After several months of use, your teams will have familiarized themselves with their new work tool, they’ll have mastered it, and their comments will be positive. Everyone will wonder how you were able to work before using this new system. Take advantage of these positive moments to brainstorm other processes that were not necessarily initially identified that you could also optimize with your new solution. For example, your new software has enabled you to maximize your billing and accounting processes. Have you thought about some optional modules that could help you optimize your marketing, or improve the quality of your customer service or your brand awareness on the mobile channel?
Recommendation: Consider including all your key managers in your continuous improvement reflection. Your marketing manager and/or your customer service director would probably appreciate optimizing certain specific operations in their department thanks to additional optional modules in your system that you can activate. If you have smaller teams and you are the only one in charge of making important decisions, don’t forget to push further analyses by wearing many different hats!
In conclusion, the implementation of a new back office system in a travel agency is always a critical step within the organization. Think about anticipating this transitional phase since it can be chaotic or tedious to experience if you did not put the right actions into place. The implementation is very beneficial for your travel agency when it has been orchestrated with the necessary means.
We wish you great success with your software implementation project!