< PrevNext > 8 High-Impact Opportunities By Elizabeth West / April 26, 2016 / Contact Reporter Share The elements of the business travel experience where travel managers can gain lots of traveler happiness ground, based on analysis of travelers in mature programs. Some can be implemented today, while others require broader industry development.PRE-TRIP1. Quality of shopping/booking toolsMicrosoft global travel manager and venue group lead Eric Bailey is quick to point out that “everyone knows corporate booking tools are horrible.” While he’s been working with Amadeus to change that with predictive tools that integrate with the Microsoft Outlook calendar, the richness of the content available through corporate channels continues to lag. Whether suppliers will ever provide content options through corporate tools similar to what they offer via direct channels is doubtful. “At Hilton, I can pick my pillow—feather or whatever—I’m never going to get that in Concur,” said GoldSpring Consulting partner Will Tate. “The suppliers are going to continue to withhold content from the corporate paths to maintain that experience gap along the last mile. They’re going to hold onto it specifically for upsell and customer experience. So we’re never really going to get [to the point that the corporate tool is on par with the leisure tools], but we have to get a lot closer, that’s where the effort is going to go.” At Hilton, I can pick my pillow—feather or whatever—I’m never going to get that in Concur.”GoldSpring Consulting partner Will Tate. 2. Choice/quality of suppliers“Happiness is the perception of choice,” said Margaret Brady, former travel manager for consulting firm Grant Thornton, emphasizing the word “perception.” Because travelers don’t want every choice; they want the right choice for them. That’s a hard nut to crack, but understanding the best choices for those travelers within the context of policy and within the context of their booking histories could be key. Dynamic traveler profiles and predictive tools could start to address this issue. Brady also acknowledged the concept of autonomy and trusting travelers to make the right decisions for the business. “Companies that don’t allow their people to think for themselves in 2016 are not doing themselves any favors. People want to make informed choices.”ON-TRIP3. Convenience of travelThis is among the most difficult for heavily procured travel programs to track back, as it likely requires a savings trade-off that companies don’t want to make. Some travel managers are willing, for example, to favor indirect flights in their booking tools to support an airline partner on a weaker route, in exchange for a discount on another route. Those types of negotiation tactics don’t do travelers any favors, but they do drive bottom-line savings. Corporates need to balance the give and take. Suppliers are making increased service levels easier to access with “tweener” products like Economy Plus and JetBlue’s Mint, inspiring some companies to pony up for higher-touch experiences for longer-haul journeys. Flight departure and arrival times play a critical role, as well, and might be considered through the lens of the lifecycle of the employee.4. Reliable Internet/data connectionsAccording to the Traveler Happiness Index, 50 percent of travelers in mature programs have a company-paid mobile device and 41 percent have a mobile data subscription plan attached to it. Just 38 percent of travelers in average programs have company-paid mobile devices, and only 25 percent have a subscription plan. But reliable connections go beyond the device. Partnering with hotels and even airlines that offer quality Wi-Fi connections can be a priority. Rich booking tool content can also come into play here. Routehappy’s integration with Egencia’s TripNavigator tool provides details about airline seats (think: availability of an electrical outlet). For hotels, Olset offers performance ratings on hotel amenities like quality of Wi-Fi. Providing this kind of information at the point of sale allows travelers to scan options that matter to them.5. Tools/memberships to skip lines or bypass travel processesHere, the concept of “convenience” converges with a desire among business travelers to bypass painful travel processes like security and waiting in line to board a plane or check into a hotel. Strategically aligning with supplier loyalty programs can get a bit touchy, but it’s one method travel managers are using to ensure counter and line bypass, plus upgrades when available (see page 26 for more). BTN’s Traveler Happiness Index showed that membership in programs like TSA Precheck ($85 for five years) and Global Entry ($100 annually) are among the five most valued inclusions in a travel program, ranking one rung higher than premium flights for international travel. Mental note: The allure of spending less time in a security line trumps the desire of an upgraded seat on a flight upward of seven hours long. Do the math. This is an easy win.POST-TRIP6. Ease of expense reportingThe dread of expense reporting is a drag on traveler happiness. Receipt imaging and uploading to expense reporting tools is the top-rated feature for respondents to the Traveler Happiness Index survey. But they may not know what they don’t know. Investors are ploughing real money into providers like Chrome River, ensuring automation features roll out in quick succession. The ideal would be not to have to create expense reports, period. Providers like Abacus, Concur and Expensify are working toward that with real-time functionality that instantly creates expense reports for travelers by automatically linking card data and scanned receipts. Users then verify the line items for accuracy before submitting. Trippeo’s ReceiptKeep can scan a traveler’s Gmail account for e-receipts and send a PDF copy to Trippeo. Voice receipt-capture and geocoding can cut reporting steps, while Certify’s Mobile Instant Policy Check compares input expenses with a company’s travel policy to avoid compliance doubts. 7. Work/life balanceTime flexibility, the allowance to work at home or take a compensatory day to make up for business travel over weekends and holidays, was the No. 1 desire for road warriors and everyone else in terms of corporate policy. A 2012 United Nations study on sustainable business travel programs also recognized this issue as a top priority but an oft overlooked one: “Often lost in the equation are the health/performance requirements of the traveler and issues of work/life balance. In many instances, a traveler is asked to fly out on a Saturday, as the ticket price is cheaper, thus foregoing quality family time. This element of work/life balance tends to be given the lowest priority. Generally, the choice is driven overwhelmingly by cost. Marcey Rader, in her book Beyond Travel: The Road Warrior’s Survival Guide, cited another U.N. study that showed that compensatory time for weekends and holidays travelers had to miss as the No. 1 priority for business travelers but also the one thing they would be least likely to request. Companies that don’t allow their people to think for themselves in 2016 are not doing themselves any favors. People want to make informed choices.”Consultant Margaret Brady 8. Feeling that my company supported my productivity and well-being while travelingIt’s a squishy metric, but a powerful one on which travelers in heavily procured travel programs said their companies barely delivered. In some cases, the little things matter. Companies like ITW and Coca-Cola have arranged for small personal amenities at heavily trafficked hotels to show appreciation for travelers. “Arriving at a hotel at midnight on a Saturday can be a lonely place,” said Will Tate, who implemented a similar practice as travel manager for Dresser Inc. in 1995: Arranging a pre-printed note that acknowledged the traveler and included Dresser’s after-hours travel support number. “I can’t tell you how many emails we got saying how meaningful that was to our travelers,” said Tate. In 1995, manual times called for manual measures, but now, mobile travel management capabilities can shape the traveler experience. Increasing touch points during business trips is a huge opportunity for corporations to drive traveler happiness. It’s tangible support in what has been a vacuum.