How to Inspire Rogue Travelers to Make In-Policy Bookings

As highlighted in the latest installment of ACTE’S “Modern Business Traveler” series, an ongoing research study underwritten by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), one of the biggest challenges in managing today’s corporate travelers is that many are making out-of-policy bookings by reserving either directly with the airlines and hotels or via online travel agencies, such as Expedia and Kayak.

So how can a travel manager (TM) rein in these so-called “rogue travelers”? First, understand their motivations for straying. Then use our guide below to determine the best tactic to use with that specific type of traveler.

For the traveler who doesn’t know any better

As the ACTE survey points out, most travelers want to do the right thing — they just may not realize what that is. We take it a step further and say they may not realize how the right thing is also right for them. For this type of traveler, it’s simply about educating them.

Take the cost-sensitive employee who thinks they can find a better deal online. They may not be aware of how preferred supplier agreements work and that you actually have struck the best bargain, but only if they book with a certain hotel or air carrier. Or perhaps they don’t know that the hotel rates American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) can get their clients beats or meets competitors’ prices nine out of 10 times.

And if it’s variety a traveler wants but doesn’t know they have, American Express GBT has access to more than one million properties worldwide, from major chains to boutique hotels and Airbnb rentals to serviced apartments.

Finally, for the traveler afraid about losing out on their hotel and airline reward points, they need not worry. When they book through us, their loyalty number is tied to the reservation in the GDS, and their points will go to their account automatically.

For the traveler who responds to guilt

According to the ACTE survey, 80 percent of TMs use a technique known as visual guilt to drive compliance. Visual guilt messages, delivered via the online booking tool (OBT), prompt the traveler to reconsider the travel option they are about to purchase if a more policy-compliant alternative is available.

But how can TMs lay on the visual guilt if a traveler isn’t using the OBT in the first place? It’ll take some extra doing, but we recommend using a business intelligence tool to see how much your gold star employees are saving by making in-policy bookings vs. those who aren’t. Once you gather the hard numbers — which can be all pulled together seamlessly using a tool like PREMIER INSIGHTS — share the findings in a group email, with or without naming names.

For the traveler who wants social validation

You’ll be surprised how many this one applies to.

As the ACTE white paper points out, it’s one of our innate desires to want to belong to a group, and most people want to be seen as doing the right thing by their peers and bosses.

So like more than three-quarters of the TMs surveyed already are doing, consider using company culture and peer pressure to influence your travelers’ conscience.

In fact, as you can read in this Harvard Business Review article, peer pressure goes a lot further than monetary incentives when persuading employees to do what you want. Because of the phenomenon known as social influence, we tend to change our perceptions and behaviors in ways that are consistent with the group, oftentimes without us even realizing it.

To apply pressure, consider how to shape your travelers’ behavior as a whole. It may be sending out an email blast to all your travelers celebrating those employees who consistently make compliant bookings while also issuing a respectful but firm reminder that underscores the importance of staying inbounds. Or consider having a social page on your company’s intranet site where travelers can go, feel united and share their experiences — and where you can gently push some policy reminders.

For the traveler who has concerns about what’s going on in the world

And quite frankly, who doesn’t?

To get these folks on board, simply remind them about how in-policy bookings impact your duty of care obligations and response time. If they are not making their entire reservation via the OBT — including hotel — then your risk management team will run into difficulties when trying to locate them during a crisis situation. Stress to them how capturing that trip itinerary and having all those details in one place can mean faster assistance from your team and ours, especially if it’s during a natural disaster like Hurricane Maria where all communications systems are knocked out and on-the-ground support from a travel risk provider like our partner iJET is needed to get them back to safety.

For the traveler who only cares about what’s in it for them

For those focused on only one thing — how it will benefit them — none of the tactics above will work. They’re sticking to their guns no matter what. At this juncture, you have two options: You either can accept that some people never will change and realize that if you have 90 percent of employees who are compliant, that’s a job well done. Or you can push the rule-breakers by making compliance mandatory.

If going with the latter approach, use an approval tool like our EXPERT APPROVAL, which allows you to see itinerary details and costs before giving the trip a green light. You also can employ the chat function and push notifications to remind them about policy rules. Then, after you approve the trip, follow up using our EXPERT AUDITOR, which allows you to see if they did in fact adhere to policy rules. If they didn’t, let them sweat it out a bit and take your sweet time before approving their next trip.