There is a major shift happening when it comes to the key objective of business travel programs: savings. Gone are the days where you, the travel manager, are negotiating for lower prices with carriers directly. You’ve reached the peak of “getting a good deal” and now need to look elsewhere for increased savings.
Enter the traveler’s experience. In our recent study with ACTE on the Evolution of Travel Policy, “75% of respondents agree that traveler service improvements can lead to savings.” And these improvements do not need to come with a higher bill. 72% of respondents of the study agree that improving the traveler experience does not come with added expenses or in-trip costs.
So how can you get ahead of the game and start thinking about improving your traveler’s experience? There are a few key areas to focus on, mostly involving some type of technology. And don’t overlook the power of data. There are several key metrics that, if tracked properly, can justify improving your traveler’s experience.
Giving travelers up-to-date information before they travel appears to be an attractive way to boost service. Almost one in three (30%) corporate travel managers surveyed have already implemented some form of pre-trip messaging, while 27% want to introduce pre-trip services over the next 1–2 years. More than half (53%) of mature, well-established travel programs have already implemented pre-trip messaging.
Whether it’s through pre-trip safety training, emails, an internal website, or a traveler app, communicating with travelers before travel is an important way to improve their experience. A good way to get started is by surveying your frequent travelers. This will help you discover the types of information they’d like to know prior to their next trip. Then, you can see what the most common requests are and create content around your travelers’ needs.
In-trip messaging is another example of how organizations can communicate to improve traveler service. 23% of respondents have already deployed in-trip messaging. For 27%, implementation of in-trip messaging is fairly imminent (within the next 1–2 years). For a further 5%, implementing these services seems to lie in the future. Forty percent of mature, well-established travel programs have already implemented in-trip messaging.
If an unscheduled itinerary change or emergency arises, you’ll want to get in touch with your travelers fast so they can act quickly. Make sure to optimize the most convenient and important channels for in-trip messaging: email and mobile. Remember your travelers will be on-the-go, so keep messages short, sweet, and mobile-friendly.
Travel management apps
Corporate travel managers seem intrigued by the potential of apps to improve the travel experience. Over a third (35%) of respondents have plans in place to introduce apps that allow travelers to change their booking in-trip; 31% want to make this happen within the next 2 years.
However, real-world implementations are relatively scarce; only 16% of organizations surveyed have introduced apps. That number is higher among mature, well-established programs; 26% have already introduced apps for in-trip changes. Over a quarter (26%) of survey respondents are not even considering them.
Would company bans on downloading apps to traveler devices inhibit roll-out plans? Not necessarily. Over a third (38%) of organizations surveyed do not restrict downloads, and 19% plan to make their existing policy more flexible.
Understanding what apps your travelers are currently using could give you insight into what you could optimize and use for all your travelers. Start by assessing what is in the market and what your frequent travelers are using. Then, after implementation, use training to get the most out of mobile apps.
Mobile booking emerges as the most favored means for organizations to improve service. Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents have either implemented mobile booking (29%) or plan to do so (34%). A further one in five (20%) are discussing the topic.
Embrace mobile booking if you haven’t done so already. Make sure to communicate the options of changing or updating a booking to your travelers, as they may not be aware they can do so. This is good information to include in your pre-trip messaging.
Justifying improvements with data
Big data has gone from being a buzzword to being a necessity for almost every department within an organization. But when it comes to travel programs, there is a lack of consistency and clarity in travel data and traveler feedback across the board. While there are gaps, this feedback and data are vital to justifying improvements in traveler experience. The ability to identify the areas of your travel program that can be optimized with concrete data is a great way to improve your travel program and your travelers’ experience, while, most importantly, increasing savings.
The ACTE study goes into more detail about the importance of these metrics and how companies are adapting to collect more comprehensive data. Here are some methods to consider this year and beyond to support improvements for your travelers:
- Qualitative and quantitative traveler feedback
- Formal post-trip surveys
- Travel productivity metrics
- Work-life balance metrics
- Employee retention metrics
- Stress reduction metrics
Improving the traveler experience is going to (and in some cases already is) bring a lot of change to business travel programs. But the outlook is bright with increased savings, improved traveler services, and overall program satisfaction.
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