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January 30, 2020

A Travel Program So Good Travelers Actually Want to Use It

What would happen if your travel program was so good your travelers actually wanted to use it?

Festive Road Managing Partner Caroline Strachan posed this thought-provoking question during her session at TRAVERSE 19, and we think it’s one worth digging into further.

Today’s corporate travel, finance, operations, and HR leaders are all too familiar with this struggle — traveler experience is forced to take a backseat to strict policies in the name of compliance and cost savings, which often leads to frustrated road warriors and travel program leakage.

But hear us out on this — what if you really could have it all?

To reach that promised land of great experience and optimized costs, it first helps to think of three travelers groups Caroline introduced in her presentation:

  • Price-Led: These travelers take pride in saving every possible penny during their business trips. They do expect simple things like a comfortable bed and a bottle of water, but wouldn’t go so far as to travel in the overhead compartment. In corporate travel, the finance team often hopes for more travelers like this, but the reality is that business travelers aren’t often price-led.
  • Experience-Led: These travelers focus on the more experiential aspects of a trip such as comfort, great service, and novelty. While it’d be a mistake to think of them as completely cost ignorant — they may just rightfully believe whilst away from home they deserve to live like they would at home — it is true that dollar signs are not their main point of consideration when booking.
  • Loyalty-Led: These travelers pay attention to loyalty points with a devotion that borders on obsession, and reaps them big rewards. Whether it’s an airline, hotel chain, or rental car company they’ve committed to (or even all of the above), they’re looking for every opportunity to rack up points, upgrades, and benefits, even if this means staying the opposite side of town to their meeting, or adapting schedules. Accordingly they’ll show loyalty to any corporate travel program that allows them to do so with ease.

Building a successful business travel program in 2020 means addressing the unique needs and preferences of all of those groups so as not to alienate any of them. During her session, Caroline highlighted a few key ways corporate travel managers can stay on top of addressing all their traveler needs throughout the road warrior journey while remaining conscious of budgets and spend:

1. Clarify your travel policy. You took care to draft a policy for travelers in the first place, but it’s difficult to adhere to documentation you can’t find and don’t understand. A 10-page static document might be good for outlining every specific of your travel program, but your employees likely won’t (and, we’d argue, shouldn’t) step away from their to-do lists when only bits and pieces specifically apply to them.

Traveler-Friendly Tip: Make sure your corporate travel policy is accessible, with a one page summary, and is flexible enough to encourage (rather than frustrate) your employees.

2. Make it easy for travelers to personalize corporate travel itineraries. The one thing all three traveler categories have in common is that they’re ultimately looking to tailor their itineraries to suit their personal preferences, be it lowest price or favorite in-flight experience. Not only do you save travelers precious on-the-clock time by simplifying booking, you also gain by making your employees’ wellness, satisfaction, and productivity a priority.

Traveler-Friendly Tip: A flexible policy combined with a robust travel management solution allows individual travelers to pick what’s best for them and the organization.

3. Provide transparency around inventory selection and pricing. Thanks to the consumer travel booking experience, travelers now expect to see a range of supplier options and transparent pricing for each choice. Giving your travelers the full array of inventory from a variety of sources will help them (a) find the options they’ll most likely book, (b) trust you’re thinking of them in the context of your travel program, and (c) encourage them to book within the organization’s perimeters and tools.

Traveler-Friendly Tip: Invest in a solution that brings together inventory from multiple sources to ensure every angle is covered.

4. Care for travelers over the full course of their trips. The business travel experience begins at the booking and doesn’t end until your traveler has submitted their last expense. Thinking through where and how you can support your travelers at each step of the business travel journey will help improve the overall experience and allow you to identify opportunities to optimize your program for success.

Traveler-Friendly Tip: To help travelers stay focused on the task at hand, make before, on, and post-trip support easily accessible at any time day or night, across communication channels such as email, chat, and phone.

Ultimately, today’s travelers want their corporate travel programs to know them, and only tell them exactly what they need to know at the point they need to know it. Accomplish that, and you’ll have achieved the previously unthinkable - a travel program your travelers actually look forward to using.

Be sure to register for this year’s TRAVERSE Travel + Tech Festival, coming to the Palace of Fine in Arts in San Francisco this September, for even more corporate travel insights from the industry’s top thought leaders.

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