There is so much talk these days about the importance of boosting traveler satisfaction, that an employee-friendly travel policy is essential for attracting and retaining talent in today’s competitive job market.
But does the traveler experience really have an impact on retention rates and employee satisfaction? Business travelers from across the globe believe so, according to an international survey conducted by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and the German research firm GfK involving business travelers from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Singapore and India.
The report, entitled “Traveler 360°,” found that at least 75 percent of travelers polled in each country believe that improving the business travel experience will have a positive impact on employees’ willingness to travel for business.
More than two-thirds also agree if companies work to make business travel more enjoyable, the potential outcomes would be improved morale, professional development, a renewed commitment to the job as well as better work-life balance, improved focus and feeling rewarded for their hard work.
So what exactly are employees seeking to make their travels enjoyable?
First, let’s start with what’s working. The survey found that 90 percent or more of business travelers across all seven countries are satisfied with the amount of time they spend traveling for their organizations. Three-quarters or more from each country also regard business travel as a welcome company perk.
But, as the survey indicates, business travel does take a toll on employees. When returning home from a business trip, Germans, Brits, Singaporeans, Australians and Americans say they feel most relieved to be home. Also right up there? Exhaustion. Only French and Indian travelers return feeling motivated.
To find out what’s detracting from their experience, we had survey respondents rank a number of challenges they may encounter on the road.
Interestingly, even though 84 percent or more of travelers from each group said they were satisfied with the amount of time they spend with family and friends, time spent apart from them is the top-ranked complaint German and British travelers have and it’s second for Americans and Australians. To address this challenge, a company might decide to give travelers compensated time off after a trip that has eaten into their personal time or allowing them to bring a guest to take advantage of a paid hotel room, if they cover their own airfare.
Australians and American travelers, on the other hand, are most concerned with keeping their day-to-day workload and commitments on track before, during and after the trip. To satisfy this group, travel managers might look into boosting productivity by streamlining the booking process with cutting-edge technology, ensuring travelers have access to high-speed Wi-Fi during their journeys and offering access to airport lounges where they can get work done more easily.
Meanwhile, the French are most frustrated by potential duty of care issues that may arise during a trip, ranking international and domestic security concerns as their top issues, while Singaporeans and Indians are most annoyed with not being able to adjust travel arrangements when something unexpectedly happens during some point of the journey.
To deal with this set of gripes, companies may wish to review their travel risk management program to ensure it is meeting their travelers’ needs. American Express GBT offers a number of solutions that can complement your program, including Expert Care™, which helps clients pinpoint their travelers’ whereabouts and communicate with them during a crisis, as well as Proactive Traveler Care™, which offers around-the-clock support and proactive messaging during a travel delay, cancellation or misconnection to see if rebooking assistance is needed.
Another area that falls under the “needs improvement” department: expense-reporting systems. Apart from business travelers in the U.S., half or more agree that putting together expense reports is overly complicated. A majority outside the U.S. also believes the amount of time it takes to be reimbursed for travel expenses takes too long. If you find your own expense system is a sluggish process — whether from the tool’s setup, how receipts are recorded or the fact there are multiple layers of approval before travelers can get reimbursed — you may want to speak with your accounting/finance department or software provider about how to simplify the system while still obtaining the data you require.
Finally, one last topic the survey covered that may boost traveler satisfaction: bleisure travel.
While there have been numerous reports over the years citing how popular of a trend this is, according to our survey, a small percentage of travelers actually seize the opportunity — even though three-quarters or more say their company is supportive of them blending business and leisure travel.
Illustrating this point, 90 percent of Indian travelers surveyed have their corporation’s support, the highest among the countries, but only 45 percent took such a trip in the past year. Only a quarter of Germans, who have the least company support (77 percent), took a bleisure trip the year prior.
Two things may be going on here. It may be that the managers who are approving their trips are influencing the decision. Aside from the U.S., over two-thirds of those polled agree that at their company, “an employee’s ability to blend business travel and leisure travel or activities depends on who their approver of business travel and expense reports is.” If this is the case at your firm, you may try to persuade trip approvers’ thinking by explaining the benefits of bleisure travel.
Or perhaps it’s like what we stated above — that travelers are exhausted after a trip and just wish to get back home ASAP. In that case, it sounds like what they really want is a business class seat on the return flight.
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