Personalization. It’s a buzzword being thrown around a lot these days. Business travelers demand it, and those in the industry are scrambling to supply it.
From how they are able to book their trips to the kind of service they receive during their journey door to door, business travelers are seeking a more customized service experience that not only takes into account their unique preferences but also make predictions about where to go next.
And what’s the key to a more personalized service? In a word, data.
Of course, it’s not just the data alone that is important. It’s about how to interpret that data and then how to use it to build a more customized—and therefore seamless—travel experience.
While travel managers and human resource leaders may be the ones to benefit most from offering a more personalized travel experience—boosting the company’s employee value proposition and aiding with recruiting and retaining efforts—there is a pressure on travel management companies (TMCs) to be the personalization pioneers.
A more efficient experience
One way that American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is leading this quest lies in a powerful, innovative tool it obtained after its acquisition of KDS. KDS Neo, an intuitive, door-to-door travel search and booking platform, is transforming the way travelers book their trips—and, by the way, KDS Neo just won the coveted title of “Best Self-Booking Tool” at the 2017 Business Travel Awards in London.
Instead of showing the lowest-cost preferred options like many other booking tools, Neo crunches data based on various trip factors and is designed to put better travel selections in front of business travelers, thus reducing the steps, and clicks, it takes to make a booking.
“Rather than creating this whole supermarket shopping experience,” where you have tons of choices and have to go on a hunt, “it already has the right options for you and produces a recommended series of trip options,” Evan Konwiser, vice president of digital traveler at American Express GBT, explains of Neo’s capabilities.
“It’s all about maximizing that shopping process so that it becomes one click over a few seconds versus many, many clicks over many, many minutes,” he says, noting the technology keeps on improving each quarter and, as a result, is delivering better and better results.
When the best options based on both the company and traveler’s preferences are being displayed automatically, he adds, travelers are more likely to book through the proper channels and with in-policy suppliers, so it’s also a win for travel managers on the compliance front.
American Express GBT also is working to enhance the functionality of other apps and online tools to facilitate an even more effective dialogue with customers. For instance, it is adding more preference fields in the settings so that its specialists can communicate and respond in exactly the manner each individual traveler wants them to.
But, it’s going even deeper than that.
“We also have a new profile solution that is greatly enhanced in the flexibility of the kind of data that we can collect. Not only does it allow us to start asking different questions and collecting new kinds of data, but it also allows us to analyze traveler data and automatically populate fields,” Konwiser says.
And don’t worry. Konwiser assures that most of this information is being pulled from existing booking data, so it’s absolutely not intrusive or impinging on their privacy.
With such data, the travel specialist can see what company the traveler works for, the company’s in-policy suppliers, the employee’s travel behavior and preferences, their past and current trip information—even if they had to hang on the line for an additional five minutes the last time they were on the phone with an American Express GBT travel counselor. These are all pertinent details necessary for providing a high-quality, personalized service, he says.
A more intimate experience
Another step American Express GBT is taking toward personalization may not sound as cutting-edge as KDS Neo, but it does add tremendous value to the customer experience: It is a new telephony system.
The cool thing about it is, travelers now will be recognized automatically when they dial in from a known number.
Even cooler is, American Express GBT travel counselors can pull up critical details about the traveler before even picking up the call that will facilitate the conversation. Not only will the traveler be greeted by name, but the counselor already may know that the reason they’re calling is because, say, their flight from Denver was canceled due to a weather event and they need to find another way back home to New York.
“So even if the counselor doesn’t know the traveler personally, the traveler’s still getting that kind of intimate service as if they did know the counselor,” Konwiser explains.
It also helps to expedite the rebooking process, saving customers precious time that they could be spending contacting their office and family.
The last piece of the puzzle
One final request travel managers and business travelers have for TMCs? For there to be a consolidation of the technology so they only have to use one (or close to one) application for all their travel needs.
Konwiser admits this is a problem in the industry overall, that a lot of the technology is fragmented and does not work well together. However, he stresses that American Express GBT is “investing heavily” to create a “harmonized platform” so that services increasingly will be delivered through a single app or single point of contact.
“We’re taking some pretty big swings at that right now,” he says. “We’ve already delivered many solutions and are continuing to bring these pieces together for a more seamless experience.”
And for more about this personalization trend—specifically how others in the industry are working toward it—be on the lookout for another Atlas post coming later this week.