Traveler satisfaction tops the corporate travel wishlist
GBTA 2016 points out that balancing business travelers’ needs for familiar consumer-like booking experiences, with their companies’ needs to manage cost and ensure traveler safety was clearly a top concern.
If GBTA 2016 was an international sporting event, the big winners from the Denver conference were business travellers themselves.
As we walked the show floor of GBTA 2016, and attended the education sessions, we were struck by how spot-on this year’s show theme of ‘balance’ was. Balancing business travelers’ needs for familiar consumer-like booking experiences, with their companies’ needs to manage cost and ensure traveler safety was clearly a top concern. This year, companies were focusing on technology and employee traveler satisfaction as their key success metrics.
Balancing duty of care and traveler behavior
Given recent world events, it’s no surprise that duty of care was a major concern at this year’s conference. Show participants in particular wanted to know, “Will sharing economy services provide adequate safety measures and duty of care for my travelers?”
Regardless of your opinion on the sharing economy, one thing is clear, it is still a grey area that many companies have not yet addressed in their travel policies. In the “How Do You Measure Up?” education session, most of the audience of travel managers – yes, travel managers – did not even know if sharing economy services were covered by their company travel policy.
With travel management companies (TMCs) starting to provide access to sharing economy services, the importance for companies to set a policy, and communicate it clearly, is increasingly evident. On the road, business travelers don’t check their company policy before making decisions that may ultimately hinder a travel manger’s ability to help in a crisis. To get ahead of these trends, travel managers need to define what services are covered in their policies, and update their TMC apps and website booking tools before their travelers book.
When it comes to technology, the industry still has not stuck its landing
While the travel industry is making strides in technology, the overall consensus is that the corporate travel space has a way to go before its technology catches up with leisure offerings.
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, Inc., said:
“I do think there will be consolidation in the corporate travel space because some of these companies don’t have the scale to invest in technology… there’s going to be a lot of consolidation in this industry; financing is cheap and it’s driving acquisitions activity.”
Increased investment in technology is good news for travel managers battling leakage from their business travelers using consumer websites. Corporate solutions that aren’t user-friendly don’t work. By offering travelers access to familiar, consumer-like experiences, travel managers are more likely to drive natural adoption and compliance in their programs.
Should the gold medal go to companies with top cost savings or most satisfied travelers?
For years, most companies’ procurement departments had goals of reducing cost. However, it’s clear that the industry is now trying to find ways to balance costs with business traveler and employee satisfaction.
Cost reduction is still going strong as illustrated by innovations announced at GBTA 2016. One of which included GLP Designation Group’s value estimator tool, designed to quantify the value of managed travel. Egencia released its Travel Intelligence home page, which provides a summary overview of a customer’s travel program. Taking a look beyond the data to provide actionable insights was a burgeoning theme at this year’s show.
It is clear that wanting employee satisfaction is now a necessity. As United’s CEO Oscar Munoz said:
“The airline industry has made travel hell for business travelers. We need to do better to improve the air travel experience.”
During the Act Global, Think Local education session, Will Tate from Goldspring Consulting noted that “if travel managers want travelers to follow policies they need to prioritize service over reasonable costs.”
TMCs talked candidly about their plans to improve the customer experience, whether through mobile apps, data sciences and refreshing their duty of care services. If the industry can deliver on these promises, it will be a big win for business travelers.
There Are Still Some Hurdles to Jump
The corporate travel industry is striving to catch up with its leisure counterparts, and we are encouraged by the strides we saw at this year’s GBTA event. The industry continues to evolve to meet the needs of both leisure and business travelers.
While TMC’s haven’t scored a “perfect 10” yet, we’re definitely getting closer.
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