We hear a lot about the need to boost traveler satisfaction and well-being, but it can be somewhat difficult for travel policy decision makers to grasp how imperative a concept that is if they do little traveling themselves or get the VIP travel treatment. Only when they have “been there, done that” on a red-eye flight in economy seats after a mechanical issue has delayed their departure can they truly empathize.
Still, let’s put ourselves in business travelers’ shoes today by exploring some of the common gripes they have and what companies can do to address them.
Gripe No. 1: Air travel is agonizing
Airport arrival anxiety. Snaking security lines. Pushy passengers. Six a.m. departures. Flight cancellations. The list of reasons why air travel is one of the most stressful aspects of a work-related trip can go on and on.
But a lot of these frustrations can be alleviated with a traveler-friendly policy, one that provides access to airport lounges and expedited security clearance and gives travelers upgraded seating options or flexibility with fares so that they don’t have to board the earliest flight with multiple stops. Of course, what traveling employees really would love is greater access to business class, but seats in premium economy is a nice compromise.
And when employees encounter flight delays and cancellations, having a disruption service like Proactive Traveler Care™ from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), which offers automatic rebooking assistance 24/7, can help ease some of their frustration.
Gripe No. 2: Accommodation options are limited
Business travelers want to have a greater say in where they stay during a work trip. After all, it’s their temporary home away from home, their sanctuary after a long flight and day of meetings.
Traditionally, organizations have limited the hotel options in their program, pushing for employees to book with preferred suppliers. But in an effort to offer employees more choice and flexibility, some organizations are shifting away from this model and instead are implementing caps that establish a limit on what travelers can spend on lodging in a particular city or region (as you can read about in this white paper).
When employing this kind of strategy, organizations still can save on accommodation costs by taking advantage of the discounts that American Express GBT has negotiated on behalf of our clients. Plus, with a tool like our Hotel Re-Shop Expert™, currently available to clients in select locations, they also can save when hotel rates for the same room type drops.
And because we have more than 2 million properties in our inventory, including content that we’ve negotiated ourselves as well as that from our partnerships with Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb, travelers certainly can’t complain that they don’t have choices!
Gripe No. 3: The travel policy isn’t clear
Travel policies are supposed to give employees crystal-clear clarity regarding their booking behaviors, yet sometimes they add to the confusion. Travelers unwittingly may be breaking rules because of complicated wording or if they are not even aware of the policy’s existence.
But with messages that can be pushed via our pre-trip approval solution, Expert Auditor™, and in our self-booking tool, Neo™, travel managers naturally can promote policy awareness and educate travelers about what’s in and out of bounds.
Some policy guidelines may need to be clarified first, though. For instance, a policy may state that employees must select the “lowest logical airfare” (LLA) when booking air travel, but companies actually need to define those parameters. And what is considered LLA for the majority of employees may not be the same for the firm’s top executives.
By the way, companies that do grant senior execs special privileges, such as business class seats for domestic flights or upgraded hotel rooms, may consider making that clear in the policy. If employees perceive that rules are being bent for just a few, it may generate resentment and inspire some to “go rogue.”
Gripe No. 4: Travel wreaks havoc on their health
It can be difficult to combat the unhealthy choices lurking at every corner of a business trip. From having every meal out or on the go to a chaotic schedule that leaves little time and desire to work out, business travel can sabotage even those with totally healthy intentions. And it’s not just bad food choices and a lack of exercise that can morph into a health issue. Jet lag disrupting sleep patterns and the plain rigors of travel can wear one’s body and mind down, gradually leading to unproductive, unhappy employees.
Companies can lead initiatives to promote healthier choices but to truly understand how the travel program and policies are impacting workers, we suggest a data analytics tool to review KPIs that influence travel well-being.
Peer Travel Insights, a new benchmarking solution from American Express GBT, features a traveler well-being dashboard that provides key insights impacting travelers’ health, such as the average trip duration, how much time employees are spending away from home and the number of red-eye flights being taken. The tool also provides an overall traveler well-being score so companies can see, for better or worse, how they are faring in this department against their peers.
Now that’s gripe management 101!