By Colin Temple, Vice President and General Manager, North America, American Express Global Business Travel 

“He who would travel happily must travel light.”

While this quote by the famed French writer, traveler and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has long been associated with the physical baggage one carries on a journey, I’ve recently begun to view it through an entirely new lens.

Today’s modern business traveler — be it the classic high-volume traveler, minimalist laptop lugger or the infrequent traveler — doesn’t just want to travel light in the literal sense. The world is more unpredictable than ever before, and getting around it becomes more complicated each day. Peace of mind, rather, is the new “traveling light” — the ability to travel knowing that you’re backed by the smart and savvy care and support you need to make your trip its most productive, from door to destination and back home again.

The new “traveling light” is also about choice, personalization and, especially for your company, cost savings. It’s about removing what we as an industry call “friction” from the travel equation in real, tangible ways while empowering businesses to keep growing and moving forward.

It’s this very idea that led my team and me at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) to rethink corporate travel for middle market companies, one of the fastest growing and evolving business segments in North America and abroad, according to the National Center for Middle Market.

Let’s be honest: One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to travel policies, programs or even companies, and whether they’re questions about affordability, scalability or ease of use, traditional corporate travel simply hasn’t served the middle market well — not to mention, a lot of corporate travel booking tools haven’t evolved at the pace of consumer travel tech and user experience. We at American Express GBT went back to the drawing board to figure out how we could be a more valuable partner.

Guiding Principles Behind our Middle Market Redesign

Before American Express GBT set out to rebuild a program, it was important that we truly understood the needs of travelers to ensure that those insights would be foundational to the program’s design. Ultimately, we landed on seven “service principles” that not only would guide development, but also serve as a sort of checks-and-balances to the many questions that would arise naturally during the process and ground us to what really matters — the traveler.

 

    1. Personalization: Travelers don’t just want choice, they want their preferences, and the ability to curate those preferences through tailored interactions or personalized servicing during and well after the booking process.

 

    1. Proactive Servicing: While some enterprise-sized companies have regularly enjoyed this benefit, it was important — especially in today’s changing travel landscape — that middle market travelers have access to real-time information and insight-driven resolutions should any “friction” develop during the course of their trip.

 

    1. Consistency: Much like today’s omnipresent (and still growing) digital environment, the modern business traveler continues to demand a true, multichannel, end-to-end servicing approach that can be accessed whenever and wherever they are.

 

    1. Value for Money: Cost savings is vital no matter the size of your business, but it’s an imperative for middle market companies. When employees help their companies manage business travel costs, whether through parameters their company has laid out or through their own watchful eye, it results in real savings that can be felt across their organizations.

 

    1. Clarity: Business travel or deployment of a managed travel solution shouldn’t be hard. We have an obligation to the modern business traveler and their companies to build programs that are easy to understand and easy to access.

 

    1. Customer Effort: Technology always should lean toward paths of least resistance to ensure simplicity and easily repeatable processes.

 

  1. Knowledge: In an increasingly interconnected world, local knowledge and expert advice are essential to giving middle market businesses that peace of mind as they focus on growing and scaling their footprints.

 

What’s Next?

So, 2017 is set to be a watershed year for us at American Express GBT. We’ve made a big commitment to strategic investments and technology acquisitions that are set to propel our business and the industry forward. I’m particularly excited for the rollout of our enhanced middle market experience, which officially launches this month. It goes hand in hand with the changing behaviors of today’s business travelers, who are demanding a new approach to business travel.

Since December 2016, we’ve been hard at work piloting GBT’s new offering and soon will be formally onboarding a number of new customers. Throughout the year, you’ll be hearing more from me, and members of my team and others on what’s happening on the ground, what we’re hearing from customers, and our unique point of view on what modern business travelers should expect from successful travel.

I welcome you to stay tuned to my and American Express GBT’s LinkedIn page for more. As always, if you have any questions about GBT’s middle market offering, feel free to send me a message or reach out to one of our amazing sales team members here.