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February 6, 2017

How Personalization is Revolutionizing Travel Programs


As one of the most hated and stressful parts of a job, business travel was and is a target for modernization. Many are trying to improve this process through technology, in the Silicon Valley that’s an obvious answer. But not all technology makes an impact, it’s personalized technology that makes a difference.

With a traditionally managed travel program using technology that's been around since the 1970s, companies rarely questioned if it was offering their employees the inventory they needed and the experience they wanted. This was before Google could instantly generate answers to our questions and consumer websites could combine travel options from multiple sources. Companies got used to the status quo and travelers voices got lost in the process.

That instantly changed when options became easily accessible with a click.

Employees began to question the known process and were intrigued to have more control over their options. Companies who did not listen to travelers watched them book out of the program and find ways around the system. They sat back and watched the effectiveness of their program dwindle as more and more control slipped away.

Our COO, Nancy Atkinson commented that nowadays companies “need to balance employee satisfaction and company savings to adapt to the demands of the workforce shift.”

One of the first real open booking programs was built by Salesforce travel leaders Dorian Stoney and Ralph Colunga who allowed travelers to use multiple sites to lower costs from a risk management perspective. In an organization that was growing extremely fast, they got tired of climbing the mountain and realized they needed to evaluate business travel differently before they fell off the edge. They were pioneers of creating an open-minded program that supports both the corporate objectives and travelers.

Today they have managed to keep most employees on board by starting a best practices community internally, but to do so moving forward they will need, as most organizations will, to focus on personalization.

Think about the number of rooms available in New York three weeks from now. Each room varies whether it is refundable, offers a certain bed, is included in loyalty clubs, has a nice view, the list is endless. It all depends on what you care about during a business trip. Multiply these rooms by the hundreds of hotels in New York, and it’s extremely difficult for a user to find the best option for themselves.

We make it simple for travelers by optimizing search so travelers can make smart choices relevant to their preferences, without being drowned. We see the value in transparency, highlighting what you are going to gain and what you could lose by laying out options in a simple design driven by savings.

Within the platform, the team monitors user behavior to evaluate what features support the traveler most, and then optimize again and again to improve personalization and the intelligence of the algorithm. Since we utilize incentives to change employee buying behavior, we constantly measure NPS (a score that measures customer satisfaction) so we can achieve a better experience for travelers and a higher level of savings for customers.

As consumers we expect to have an array of options, whether we’re strolling the cereal aisle or picking a bottle of wine from a menu. We focus on providing choice through a massive inventory. We then build the right policy by contextualizing the information in real time, enabling travelers to make better choices within policy.

The most effective travel programs create a balance between supportive technology and personalization to ultimately accomplish company objectives.

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