A Tale of Three Tickets – International Business Travelers in the Digital Age

International Business Travelers can face many issues. As a Consultant, I would tell you about all the compliance issues and the option of being held in detention if you get caught with the wrong visa or work permit. This is my tale of trying to book a ticket that involved three countries called Switzerland, Germany and France.

Once upon a time in a land far away, locked inside a few mountains, a middle-aged lady, Mrs. W. tried to live in a more environmentally friendly way. So she sent her carriage to Africa. It was the age of mass transportation, the neo-romanticism movement had just begun and a few freaks committed to train travel as a way of life.

Our middle-aged lady, Mrs. W. did consider a horse carriage but the train was the transportation of choice. It promised to offer safety, a view, the potential for a class of wine in the restaurant carriage and most importantly, it was supposedly reliable. Our lady had a commitment in the beautiful city of mustard: Dijon, France.

After two days in this beautiful little town she planned to liaise with her old-time university friend TK and his new, soon-to-be fiancée that she had not met yet. Mrs. W. needed to take a train to Frankfurt in Germany. Then she planned to return home, too late to see off her lover who was going to go on a long adventure in the lands, formerly known as Hindustan.

Mrs. W. tried to book her tickets. Her handmaiden was off on vacation so Mrs. W. so to the task herself. She also could not send her delivery boy, because she had let all the staff go due to urgent renovations happening in her castle (or cottage or mini city apartment).

The first part of the trip, from Zurich to Dijon went fine. The second part seemed more complicated. She first consulted with the train company in Switzerland. It seemed to be difficult for them to issue a ticket where none of the train station was in their territory. Then the train company in Germany told her it would take several days to process a ticket.

She hoped for a faster solution and asked locals in France for help. One of her assigned supporters from the university, gave her the hint to work with the French train company. When she finally managed to obtain a ticket, the confirmation letter told her that the ticket would arrive in four days with the mail. This was the day she would already be gone. Despite the potential of using the telephone, Mrs. W. was not sure if her French was up to the standard for such a complicated conversation.

So Mrs. W tried to contact the French train company again via the common mail exchange.

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How innovative she thought. She first received an answer from a machine.

Bonjour Angie ! Tu l’as sans doute remarqué, j’ai changé … Désormais, je m’appelle OUIbot pour que la seule réponse à tes envies de voyage soit « OUI » !

T’aider à réserver des voyages en train, c’est ma spécialité ! Mais ce n’est pas la seule corde à mon arc… NOUVEAU Maintenant réserve avec moi des trains TGVmax en ajoutant “en TGVmax” à ta recherche !

Mrs. W responded: I don’t speak French

The Machine said:

Désolé, je ne suis pas encore polyglotte… Mais je travaille dur pour y arriver!

The machine told her that he is not “polyglotte” but was working hard to get there. He tried to be funny. Even used emoticons to express his feelings. Mrs. W. was not amused.

She pressed the button “Talk to a Human”. Then she left the scene for a walk in the cold and icy city. She ended up in a bar where she met a friend and was at ease when she returned home. After dinner, she returned to her desk. A human seemed to take of her matter.

Un conseiller va prendre le relais. Pour qu’il soit le plus efficace possible, peux-tu me préciser ta demande ?

Mrs. W. tried to explain the issue in French and English.

Oui, je voudrais changer le ticket pour un ticket en ligne, pas de papier. (I don’t speak French so well but I need to have an online ticket, not a ticket sent by mail. I did not see that the ticket would be sent by mail. I assumed it was always a pdf or online ticket). Can you help me please?

Several hours passed. Nothing happened.

She got the same response. She would have to get a new ticket on the counter and claim the cost back via registered mail.

Mrs. W. gave in. She went to the counter and explained the issue. The lady at SNCF was efficient and helpful and showed her how to claim the ticket costs back. She typed a letter in French. The registered mail cost her CHF 8.60 and she had to go to the post office in person, because her handmaid and the butler had taken the day off again.

The SNCF tickets came a week after she had ordered them. In good time and they looked perfectly like back in the last century. “Handwritten tickets, that’s what’s missing” she thought to herself. The nostalgia that overcame her when she held the tickets in her hand was priceless. Yes, another adventure in the digital age. So Downton Abbey.

Angie

PS: Here is more on International Business Travelers (IBT) and if you need a more serious discussion about the topic please make an appointment with me.

Here are my tips on security measures for international business travelers and expats.

We are more sensitive to security issues after a terrorist attack. The precautions you can take are limited but will be helpful in an emergency situation be it a health issue, the death of one of your close relatives, a natural disaster or a terror attack.

  • Only travel when it is a necessity. Check if meetings can be held via video conferencing technology instead.
  • Update your personal information on Social Media.
  • Log in and register on the website of the security provider your company works with. If you don’t know the security provider ask your travel manager, HR manager, and Global Mobility Team. If none of them knows, ask Risk Management or Corporate Security. This information should be published on your company intranet site. Many companies work with International SOS ISOS and my experience with their support for expats is excellent.
  • Have a business card size overview of emergency numbers in your wallet AND your phone. Carry this card with you at all times. Have your passport, ID, work, and residence permit on you.
  • Carry a card with your blood type and allergies or other medical conditions in your wallet.
  • Stay connected to your spouse/life partner and agree regular times for calls when you are traveling.
  • Read the emergency travel alerts provided by ISOS and your Embassy.
  • In an emergency stay connected to other families in the host location. Contact International SOS ISOS or your security provider immediately when you feel you need to leave the country for health or safety reasons.
  • Have an emergency medical kit with you when you go on a business trip. Most company doctors provide such a kit when you go there to get necessary vaccinations and travel advice. Watch out for health issues after your journey.
  • If you have been in a traumatic situation seek psychological support for yourself and your family members. Your company will provide a contact.
  • As a single female business traveler prioritize safety and request safety rooms in hotels. Travel with recognized taxis and keep away from bars. In male-dominated cultures hire a driver or ask your host to ensure your personal safety.
  • Learn emergency phone numbers in the host country by heart.
  • If you manage a global team establish a call tree in your team and devise a backup structure for emergencies. Have an emergency data system for a day where you all have to work from home.

We all don’t want to think about emergencies but when we are in such a situation it is important that we can fall back on a program we have learned. It is important that we know already whom to call and where to find the number. If this is helpful for you please share.

Read more:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/question-judgement-personal-reflection-nicolas-stramilos



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