Traci Mercer, Sabre Travel Network
As senior vice president, global lodging, ground and sea for Sabre Travel Network, Traci Mercer manages the strategic direction, commercial conversations and supply relationships for the company's non-air providers. She will take part in the Summit and Launch sessions at The Phocuswright Conference 2019.
In a series of interviews with executives participating at the event in Florida in November, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick...
What one mistake do you witness others making more than anything else?
An inability to manage or lead by influence. Let’s face it, our industry isn’t cut and dry; it is very rare that you "own" things all soup-to-nuts. That means that leading with influence - without a title, without a hard line, without direct ownership - is critical, yet very few seem to be able to do this well, and even less see this as the real opportunity that it is!
Maybe growing up in a large family or riding horses competitively helped me with this - in either case, I didn’t have control and had to find a way to work with the various players (be it a brut of a big brother named Thor or a 1,500-pound horse!) to get done what was needed.
When was the last time you spoke to one of your customers, and why?
Today! The opportunity to engage with customers is one of the things I enjoy most. As an inherently curious person (something that gets me in trouble at times) is so helpful in listening to and learning from others. Really being curious about how our customers are doing, what they are thinking about and where they are headed is so important.
I’m a big believer in leveraging customers as partners and advisors, and in turn, hopefully having a consultative relationship with them and coming together as “thought partners.” There are so many great minds in this industry, and we face similar challenges and opportunities, so having trusted partners is a huge advantage and leading with a desire to understand and be curious is a foundational element for me.
Who is the person you most admire within the industry?
Living or deceased? Because if we are going way back, it would have to be the Wright Brothers! Did they have any idea what they were starting??
Seriously, though, one individual that stands out is Erik Blachford. He doesn’t know me from anyone, but he was the CEO of Expedia when I started there. I remember him coming into our new-hire class - shorts and flip-flops after a midday run I think. He was so starkly different from the buttoned-down hospitality leaders I had worked for: casual, approachable, super smart and always smiling.
He said, “We want to help everyone, everywhere plan and purchase everything in travel.” I was awestruck. Inspired by his absolute belief in this (crazy ambitious!) mission. Meanwhile, I was trying to convince my mother I hadn’t "ruined my life" joining a "dot-com" that she was convinced would never work.
Through the years, I have continued to be impressed as his vision for the future and unencumbered view of what is possible. Plus, he is (still) seemingly always smiling!
Tell us something you dislike about your role in the company.
Every role, company and project has pros and cons, but I’m lucky to work in a great company on a fantastic part of the business and with a fun team. In my role as a senior vice president for Sabre Travel Network, I work frequently with travel suppliers and buyers, but it’s a challenge that I rarely get to talk with the end traveler who goes on the trip booked in Sabre. The B2B world is different!
What element in the industry do you consider is still the most difficult to measure?
Attribution. Knowing that right mix of what to spend, where and on what is such a challenge. I don’t envy the position that marketers face in this fragmented world of customer engagement.
If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?
Well, I call this “my morning."
I have three Cs in terms of the messages I prioritize: critical, customers, constrained.
Critical: those messages that are marked urgent, critical, etc.
Customers: those messages from customers in which I am the primary person expected to respond, in many cases several are copied, and it falls with others - but I try to verify.
Constrained: those messages sent just to me thus, "the buck stops with me" so I make sure to read and respond if needed so I’m not the bottleneck for progress.
It all sounds so easy when I lay it out like this, but we all know that isn’t the case. My rule of thumb as I go through my inbox each morning is: do it, delegate it, delete it, or schedule it. If it is two minutes or less, I just do it. If I can pass it on, I delegate it.
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If I can’t do either of those, I schedule it: One tip I have is to send the email in one click to EOD, EOW or Low Priority/Later folders. I have time blocked on my calendar to work those folders, and it speeds the initial sorting up considerably!
If none of the above fit… well, then I delete it! This helps me get the mass influx of mail into manageable size folders that I can then tackle when that time is blocked out on my calendar.
What single thing could improve the airport experience more than anything else?
For me the customs process! My favorite airport in the world is Changi in Singapore - I can go from wheels down to taxi in record time, once in only 12 minutes. The automation, ease and efficiency of the customs process was so impressive. I’d love to see the practices in place there deployed broadly.
What's your morning routine?
Oh Lord! OK, first you have to know I have no kids, and … um … four (yes FOUR) English bulldogs. So I am up at about 5:30 a.m., and if I am not up my dog Molly will literally paw at my face because she is slightly food motivated!
I stagger straight to the coffee machine - four bullies in tow - and head to feed the dogs and let them out. Then we all (husband, four dogs and some fresh coffee) cuddle up in front of the news, sip our coffee, toss a toy and spend a little time as a family.
It’s always better to start the day with my family (paws and all) if even for a few minutes. Then I get ready while listening to the recording of a missed meeting or an audio book. Afterwards, I head to the office (with more coffee!).
What's your must-have app?
Is it bad that is it is my Outlook Mail app? #boring! Next is WhatsApp for the ability to stay connected real time with friends and family globally, easily set groups and do video calls. It’s a one-stop shop that crosses the personal and professional aspects of my life seamlessly.
What are you reading right now?
I listen to audio books, it is a great way to turn otherwise down time into productive time with a good leadership book. I am currently listening to Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet. Another great book I highly recommend is How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job by Sally Helgesen.
What's your one travel hack everyone should know?
Honestly? It is a drier sheet! Pack it in your suitcase with your clean clothes. It helps them smell fresh while in transit. Carry it while traveling as a quick fix to ward off static cling (that is the worse!). Toss it in your dirty laundry bag for the trip home to keep that nasty gym clothes smell from stinking up your suitcase. It’s a triple-win!
Summit and Launch sessions
Get ready for fresh ideas! Summit and Launch feature some of travel's newest innovations at The Phocuswright Conference 2019.