Travel in one way or another has been a close companion of Vera her whole life. With a solid professional experience in the travel industry, working for travel agencies and airlines, Vera herself has lived all over the globe – Africa, Asia, Europe, The Middle East, till about 6 years ago when she lands on a job at Sutherland in Bulgaria. A job that inspires her drive for innovation, keeps her motivated, never bored and meets her with young professionals who love the travel industry as much as she does, and as their inside joke goes “have kerosene in their veins”. Vera is the Account Director of our program for a leading European airline.
We are chatting with Vera today about the job of the Airline Reservation Specialist, the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry, team culture, moments of hard work, and moments of pride. Read on.
Sutherland: Hi Vera, what is the program that you manage?
Vera: Our client is one of the oldest and safest airlines in the world, almost 100 years in operation flying to over 130 destinations worldwide. They take special care to be environment friendly and use highest class of low carbon emission aircraft to make that difference. I won’t quote a name, but I will just say it’s Santa Claus’s favorite airline 😉!
S: Tell us about your team.
V: People think booking a flight is easy, but there are so many components to it – calculating flight miles, knowing all about airport taxes and restrictions, pre, on, and post flight requests, no contact is ever for one and the same thing, so the job of my team is not an easy one. One often needs support from his colleagues, so having a cohesive team with a strong bond and trust is very important. I believe we are very special in that way. We are a relatively small program compared to others in the geo, but we with a sense of humor came up with a Latin slogan that best describes us as a team “Parvi sed Feroci “ – Small but fierce 😃. We are friends, we support each other, we succeed together!
We also require high level of knowledge and full focus on changing policies from our consultants and we work towards taking away from them the most repetitive tasks daily by automation, bots, self-pace learnings, knowledge articles etc.
S: What is your role?
V: It is my role to make sure the partnership between Sutherland and our valuable client is one of trust, transparency, and success for both parties.
My role is also to oversee teams globally and make sure that they deliver efficient yet highest quality customer service to all our customers, be it end travelers, B2B partners, airports. I interact on daily basis with the client to provide feedback on performance, improvement opportunities. I constantly work with various Sutherland teams that support me in coming up with technical or other improvement plans (automation, lean 6 Sigma projects) to best align to our client strategy.
S: What is your opinion on the implications of Covid-19 to the travel industry?
V: Running an airline is never easy, but this industry experienced Covid impact to its fullest from unexpected cancellations and changes. The expectation is to quickly adapt to the new conditions on board and at airports. It requires maximum flexibility in terms of staffing and shifts. As a global company Sutherland has the capability to support from multiple locations and time zones, as well as employees to work from home or office, which is a logical way to optimize our flexibility and talent pool.
S: Share with us some moments that made you proud.
V: We have many achievements as a team. We managed to improve our handling capacity by 30%, we broke all-time records on selling additional services, we ran a project to identify the best candidate profile using predictive hiring model, we created an amazing new hire and upskill training program, but what I would say we are most proud of is the togetherness we showed in Covid times, we readily shared the pain and effort to get through this together.
Sometimes a small moment can be so rewarding. Some years back we were struggling with a specific backlog. No matter how hard we tried each month, we would still end up with the backlog. We made a commitment to our client by the next review this will be no more. My team was backing me up all the way, we brainstormed, we made action plans and we executed them. On the next review meeting one of our client’s top managers said, “What Vera promises, Vera delivers!” That was the moment I felt most recognized than ever, felt I was in the right place to make a difference.
The most rewarding part is when we receive positive feedback from travelers about the way we have impacted their lives for the better by resolving their issue or going the extra mile for them. Also, when we receive additional lines of business and markets from our client, which shows the highest level of trust in us, but it also allows us to expand the team, give more learning and career opportunities for our team members.