Travel Management Outfit is Going Places with Windstream

“It was a very different process, we were there every step of the way with representation from Windstream, and that was welcomed.”

Todd StonemanVice President of Information Systems, Professional Travel

Industry Focus: Corporate Travel Management

Location(s): 7

Windstream Solution(s): Business Continuity, Network Security & Communications

Web Site: www.protrav.com

Professional Travel, Inc. specializes in corporate travel management for businesses small to large. It’s been under the same ownership since its founding in 1963, helping the agency become one of the largest privately owned travel management companies in America. Professional Travel offers a wide range of custom solutions to effectively manage its clients’ travel programs, each of which aims to drive down costs for its customers, while still providing first-rate customer service.

The Challenge

According to its Vice President of Information Systems Todd Stoneman, Professional Travel conducts 95% of its customer contact by phone and email – if its voice and data networks are down, so is business. Professional Travel is also responsible for coordinating complex flight schedules. It’s essential to both the company and its customers that it remains up and running at all times. Therefore, Professional Travel needed a communications provider capable of supplying its with reliable voice and data services.

But no matter how reliable of a provider Professional Travel was able to find, it still faced a major issue which threatened to cripple its network at any time. Professional Travel’s main call center in North Olmsted, OH, is the victim of frequent power outages. These outages not only inconvenienced clients, but also contributed to lost revenue for Professional Travel. Unfortunately, its building manager would not allow it to install a generator to minimize risk, so Professional Travel needed an alternate solution.

The Solution

Professional Travel began its search for a new communications provider by creating a matrix of approximately twenty-five different items which it considered to be important in a communications provider. Certain items in the matrix, such as customer service and accessibility, carried more weight than others items which were deemed to be less important. Professional Travel then rated nearly a dozen different providers on each of the attributes listed on the matrix.

Windstream outscored all other providers on the matrix test and, as a result, was chosen by Professional Travel to be its new communications provider. Professional Travel now runs both its voice and data traffic over Windstream’s MPLS network.

“In our business, we can’t afford to alienate any of our customers at any given point, so we need to make sure we’ve got a good working relationship with the telecom company, even in the planning stages, so that’s why we chose Windstream.”

Todd StonemanVice President of Information Systems, Professional Travel

Windstream was also able to help Professional Travel find a solution to the network downtime that it was experiencing as a result of frequent power outages by providing the agency with a mix of services aimed to improve its network redundancy and disaster recovery. Windstream currently provides Professional Travel with Colocation Services which enable it to keep its offices interconnected and business up and running even in the event of a power outage at its North Olmsted location. For disaster recovery, Professional Travel utilizes Windstream’s Network Firewall service as well as Managed Router Support.

The Benefit

Windstream provided Professional Travel with the reliability it so desperately needed in its voice and data networks. “In our business, where about 95% of customer contact is by phone or email, it’s not a face-to-face type of transaction that we handle,” said Stoneman. ”It’s critical that we have one hundred percent up time and a stable carrier behind us – without that, we’re not in business long. “We don’t have huge amounts of data, but our business is basically connected back to an airline mainframe, and it’s done via Windstream’s MPLS service. It’s a critical part of our business, much like the voice, and again, that has worked very well and we’ve had very minimal issues,” added Stoneman.

The additional services Windstream provides Professional Travel for its disaster recovery needs have allowed the agency to remain operable during all subsequent power outages. “Colocation Services were a big issue because of the need for redundancy,” said Stoneman. “In our particular area, we get power outages here and there, especially in the springtime. By having the colocation, we are able to keep our offices interconnected and keep our systems running, even if the power in our main offices goes out. That’s critical for some of our clients – they can’t have downtime, so in effect we can’t either.”

“With the Network Firewall and Managed Routers, you set them and forget them, and that’s a good thing,” added Stoneman. “That’s what you want to do. We’re not in the business of managing firewalls and routers and don’t want to be, and that’s why we leave it to Windstream.”

The highlight for Professional Travel in its relationship with Windstream has been the outstanding customer service which Windstream has shown them. “We’re still dealing with the same people we were dealing with a few years back when we started with Windstream,” said Stoneman. “I can’t say the same for other telecom companies – usually you get a salesperson that disappears as soon as the sale’s done. We’re still dealing with the same salesperson and same tech rep that helped implement it. They know our business very well, so it’s easy to get things done when you need something changed or fixed. That speaks volumes about Windstream.”

In fact, Professional Travel was so impressed with Windstream’s customer service that it was actually the reason Windstream won them over. “It’s not always a cost factor, obviously that’s a big part of it, but more importantly it was about the customer service and the planning,” said Stoneman. “In our business, we can’t afford to alienate any of our customers at any given point, so we need to make sure we’ve got a good working relationship with the telecom company, even in the planning stages, so that’s why we chose Windstream.”