I moderate a lot of panels. They always include smart and thoughtful travel professionals who are innovating in their space. These people are experimenting with artificial intelligence, building chatbots, and finding new ways to improve their travel programs. I’ve learnt a lot from these folks – they have some surprising answers to the biggest challenges in corporate travel today. And what are those answers, you ask? Well, let me start with the questions.
QUESTION #1: How do you balance traveler satisfaction with your corporate program policies?
Your job is to save the company money and to keep your travelers happy. It’s a delicate balance. You can’t allow every employee to book business class flights and chauffeured transportation. But forcing your road warriors to use a bad booking tool or into a middle seat in row 41 creates a lot of friction. So, what’s a travel manager to do? Well, let’s look at the data.
When we polled 400 travel managers on a recent webinar, you told us the booking experience frustrates your travelers the most.
There’s a lot of research out there on traveler satisfaction. GBTA and American Express Global Business Travel conducted a recent survey of corporate travelers and they found that flexibility when planning a trip drives the most satisfaction.
And unsurprisingly, getting through the airport and to your gate scored high for productivity factors:
There’s a lot more data out there, and it’s helpful knowing the general trends, but nothing beats talking to your travelers. Their needs are unique. If you know what you can do to improve their travel planning and booking experience, you’ll have a lot of happy travelers – and even better you’ll save the company money.
QUESTION #2: What one innovation or disruption should I pay attention to today?
All of them, of course! But there are a few that will have a bigger impact on the industry than others. Take chatbots for example. WeChat’s Chumen Wenwen is a digital assistant bot that helps WeChat users access flights and hotels. Slack, Twitter, WhatsApp – they’re all exploring uses for chatbot technology. FCM’s virtual assistant SAM provides an assortment of useful features and 30SecondsToFly’s Claire plugs directly into the corporate travel program and offers tools like text to book for travelers and program management for travel managers.
Implementing technology like chatbots can be daunting, but you don’t have to tackle it alone. Companies like ours are building seamless integrations into tools like Facebook Messenger, bots that help travelers check flight status and book hotels, that offer duty of care services and agent support. The technology is available and improving – you just need a good travel management or technology partner to help you implement.
QUESTION #3: How do I increase adoption of my online booking tool?
According to Phocuswright’s latest U.S. Business Traveler study the use of a corporate online booking tool for hotels is less than 50% regardless of how tightly managed a travel program, and only 24% of travelers prefer to use the mandated online booking tool overall.
Some corporations using Deem’s Work Fource platform reach 100% adoption. How do they do it? There are numerous ways to optimize the booking experience for travelers but according to Ashley Whillans, a professor at Harvard Business School, people’s instinctive decision-making is influenced by four factors – it all depends on if the tool is easy, attractive, social and timely.
- Easy – if the tool is fast and offers the content a traveler needs to book a trip, they’re more likely to use it.
- Attractive – provide incentives and personalization to engage the traveler
- Social – humans are strongly influenced by their peers, so exerting social pressure will influence adoption
- Timely – if you’re booking tool presents the right information at the right time, travelers are more likely to take the action you want them to