Jeanette Vikbacka Castaing | Sr. Manager, Internal Communications in Paris
The coronavirus outbreak hit the world with a whiplash-like effect. It’s a tragedy that affects millions of people and a health, social, and political crisis that’s had a tremendous impact on the global economy. It’s shown us the importance of being prepared when crisis hits. It’s also challenged businesses to rethink everything from priorities and processes to allocation of resources.
The travel industry was one business sector hit especially hard. As a travel management company, our customers were suddenly in unchartered territory. How should business travel managers deal with existing and upcoming business trips? How could Egencia help them track where business travelers were, had been, and planned to be?
One thing we quickly realized was the need to communicate to our customers. We knew they deserved to have the most recent and relevant information available. They needed it immediately — and in multiple languages. Because of the impact the pandemic had on Egencia and Expedia Group (EG), our EG localization team implemented a “crisis” process where teams could submit urgent “around-the-clock” requests. However, the initial set up of the added 24/7 translation service took a few days and we needed an immediate solution.
The solution was closer than we thought. Wendy White, Egencia CMO, had an idea: Egencia employees.
“Egencia has an amazing culture of customer-centricity and collaboration. I put out a call for translation volunteers in our employee communications Slack channel one evening before I went to bed, asking people to sign up in a Smartsheet,” White said. “They just had to choose their language and let us know the times of day they could be available. By the time I woke up we had 70 volunteers in 13 languages, and by lunch over 100 people volunteered.”
Some members of the translation volunteer team:
The new temporary translation team consisted of business travel consultants, account managers and implementation experts from all over the globe. A new dedicated Slack channel was created to facilitate coordination. It served as the main tool for the translation projects, where employees self-identified who could do what. A SharePoint document kept all of the translations in one place and allowed team members to drop in and ask questions.
Loreto Herraiz, was one of our Spanish translators.
“I signed up without hesitation,” she said. “The project appealed to me since it perfectly resumes the core values of Egencia: We’re one team who always puts the customer first. I also saw it as an interesting opportunity to learn more about how we communicate with our customers.”
A lot of information around travel risk management and how to address current and future business travel was created in a short period of time. An additional benefit was that the translation team also brought a fresh pair of eyes to our customer messaging, and in some cases provided helpful insights as to how to improve our communications.
The results of the team’s efforts went beyond the delivery of much-needed translations. The project formed a sense of purpose, pride, and comradery — a perfect recipe for increasing employee engagement. And the extreme agility and speed of our process was greatly appreciated by our customers who needed information on impacts to business travel.
Even though the speed and scope of the coronavirus took the world by surprise, thankfully at EG it did not. This temporary process was only needed for the first 3-4 days. After that, we again made full use of our usual internal localization team and their new, scalable 24/7 service that supported all of Expedia Group.
So what did we learn from this experience? Egencia is much more than a travel management company. We have a team of employees that have amazing skills that extend far beyond their day jobs. It was also a gentle reminder of the importance to set clear goals, communicate, and be agile. When we do this, we can move mountains.
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