Why Memo Manager’s Flex Fields are a Game Changer: Q&A with Direct Travel

Lisa Rollo is an accounting project analyst for Direct Travel, a top-ranked U.S. travel management company (TMC) known for its world-class service. In this role, Rollo is charged with providing annual reports on all of her branch office’s debit memos as well as handling ad-hoc requests around particular agents, airlines, memo issues and more.

Working for a TMC that provides corporate travel, meetings and events, as well as leisure services, Rollo has a lot of transactions to keep track of, but there’s one tool, she says, that makes her job a lot easier: ARC’s Memo Manager.

Rollo sat down with ARC to talk about her successes using the tool’s flex fields—an invaluable, but often underutilized product feature. Memo Manager gives users access to six open flex fields, which can be used to store any agency-defined information about a memo. These fields allow companies to assign values or provide notes to each and every memo, giving users like Rollo the power to track, sort and create reports with ease.

ARC: You obviously understand the power of using flex fields in Memo Manager, but can you describe what your Direct Travel branch locations were doing before utilizing these fields to categorize and provide detail on their debit memos?

I would imagine that my predecessor had a paper filing system or perhaps a spreadsheet to log specific items that she was tracking in relation to our debit memos, though I can’t say for sure. Whatever the method was, it had to be a lot more labor intensive.

Using flex fields is an extremely convenient way to quickly export relevant data for reporting purposes. I can visualize all the piles of paper I’d have on my desk if I didn’t have this feature in Memo Manager—adding everything up and sorting everything manually. I hope agencies aren’t still operating this way!

OK, so let’s say an agency isn’t utilizing flex fields. What would you tell them the biggest benefit of using this feature is?

By using the flex fields, I can document the key points of each memo and create reports based on these key points. Memo Manager allows you to search for memos by the flex field data, giving you the ability to create spreadsheets of all relevant memos, depending on what you are tasked with reporting. Think about it: Whatever you put in those flex fields automatically becomes a searchable category for all of your debit memos.

With this information, I can track certain trends and very clearly see if there is a particular problem with an agent and training is required, or if maybe a contract isn’t loaded properly and commissions are being recalled because of that. It’s an easy way to get to the root cause of our debit memos.

Has using these flex fields helped you improve any internal processes at Direct Travel?

Absolutely. Two examples come to mind: For a while, we used flex fields to help us track memos that were issued for HX (or inactive) segments. I would run a quarterly report, exporting these specific memos [on in active segments] into Excel. Our tech team was actually requesting this report because they were responsible for making sure that all HX segments had been removed from PNRs. The team would use our Memo Manager data, to research whether or not their system was working properly, and eventually they were able to update the system accordingly, no longer needing the report.

There was also a time when management tasked me with tracking memos that were client reimbursable, and we simply used flex fields to document whether these memos were in fact paid by the client, or if not, why they weren’t.

What can seem like an overwhelming request has become an easy report thanks to these flex fields.

You currently use at least three of the flex fields for reporting and sometimes as many as six. Can tell us what you use each field for?

In my branch office, I use these standard definitions:

I use Flex Field 1 to identify the main category of debit memo (e.g., booking violations, commissions, commission and fee, credit memo, exchange violation, fare/tax discrepancy, missing/incorrect documentation, recall commission, refund violation, group deposit, or chargeback). I always use the same standard verbiage so that reports are easily searchable and sortable.

Flex Field 2 is used to provide more details on the reason for the debit memo. For example, if FF1 was commission, I might say why this commission-related issue happened in FF2 (e.g., FF1: Commission, FF2: 3% less due OAL on tkt).

In Flex Field 3, I notate the name of the responsible party, such as the agent, ticketing agent, or whoever was accountable for that debit memo.

Flex Field 4 displays the debit memo status (e.g., paid, disputed-accepted, disputed-denied, disputed-reduced, or client reimbursed).

Flex Field 5 and 6 are both optional, but when we do use them, we use the 5th field for additional information about the resolution or to track special information (e.g., client paid 50.00/invoice 123456), and the 6th to support FF5 data and provide even more detail. This is a great place to make a note of any amounts that may differ from the original amount of the memo, such as a reduced amount that was agreed upon in a dispute or an administrative fee that is being charged in addition to recalling an over-claimed commission.

What about when you think the memo reason is different from what the airline has assigned. Is that something you note in flex fields?

Honestly, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the reason code the airline lists on the memo. Each airline is different: some are very vague on their reasons and others are very clear. Regardless of whether we agree or not, we do usually have to provide more information than the airline offers for our internal purposes.

If the airline simply lists “Fee” as the reason for the memo, that means I need to dig deeper and categorize it, for example, as FF1-Missing/Incorrect Doc, FF2-Waiver code not on ticket, FF3-Susie Smith, FF6-Agent error 25.00. With six flex fields in Memo Manager, you have areas to include all of this information in an organized way.

How else do flex fields help you with internal reporting?

I’m able to create an annual report to showcase the areas in which training and development are needed based on our common causes for debit memos. I’m also able to track year-over-year improvements to be sure we are meeting our goals and improving our processes. The management team then uses this report to further analyze which agents may need additional training or what processes may need to be reviewed with the team. I could not provide this valuable information without Memo Manager’s flex fields.

Are there any other examples you’d like to share on how this feature has aided your memo management?

I just wanted to reiterate that using the flex fields can really help to break down the memo into all the relevant key points you will need for your reporting purposes. Simply exporting the memo will only show you, for example: Amount $658.00 for Commission. However, the whole story may be that the memo was disputed and reduced to $308.00 after providing the applicable contract to the airline. The memo included a $50.00 fee, which was an agent error, since the agent over-claimed the commission. By using the flex fields, I am able to later report accurate amounts to the management team, validating that we paid back $258.00 commission, we saved $350.00 in disputes, and Susie Smith was responsible for a $50.00 agent error. There’s really no way to separate this type of detail on a report outside of using flex fields.

Clearly this feature has enabled Direct Travel to report in ways it never could before. Can you determine if it’s saved the company any money?

I can’t attribute dollars directly just to flex field use, but I can say that with all of the tools that ARC has provided us, including Memo Manager and Memo Analyzer, we have been able to decrease our commission memo amount by 24 percent, from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2017. That’s less debit memos due to commission and more money in our agents’ pockets.