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BTN gathered five mini case studies of travel buyers thinking
outside the box.
“We have a limited
mobile strategy,” said Vanderbilt University travel program manager Sabrina
Kronk. “Our faculty and staff have their own devices, and we encourage them to
work with the tools that will make them more efficient.”
Kronk has embraced
the mobile opportunity from two angles. She has implemented an integrated
Concur solution for Vanderbilt’s 7,000 travelers, but she also recommends apps
that are outside the Concur ecosystem.
TripIt itinerary management and Concur expense apps launched concurrently at
Vanderbilt, but expense proved to be the gateway for Kronk’s travelers. “At
first, [travelers] were just using the app for the expense piece, but after a
while they started booking as well. We promoted that they could, but they
really had to come to that action on their own.”
also make use of Concur App Center, which gives them access to nearly 130
travel-related apps like ground transportation, dining recommendations and
translation services. Travelers can link some of the apps back to the expense
tool to streamline reporting, based on clearance from Vanderbilt’s internal
security. Kronk recognizes, however, that even a choice of 130 travel apps may
not satisfy universal traveler requirements. She solicits app suggestions from
travelers and features travel apps as part of a monthly newsletter, where she
also promotes and educates her travelers about the overall program, or she
tweets recommendations on the Vanderbilt Travel Twitter account.
Such an approach
offers travelers and travel managers the opportunity to learn from each other
to become more aligned and engaged with the program. “We want our travelers to
be happy,” she said.
Thornton as director of travel and meetings this year, travel management vet
Margaret Brady has a few pressing priorities, but high on her wish list is a
unified corporate mobile travel app, one that is independent of a travel
Many companies offer
up a menagerie of travel-related apps to their travelers: a booking app here,
an agency app there, an itinerary management tool, a separate expense
application. Why not put it all together? Or, in the words of Brady: “One
travel app and everything is in that travel app.” Under a single sign-on, Brady
wants to lasso in policy and other information that’s resident in a company
travel portal, booking capabilities, agency support, itinerary management
solutions and multiple supplier connections.
Brady buzzes about
Roadmap, a tech company that facilitates such integrations and mobile
solutions. She’s not a client, at least not yet, but she’s hot on the concept.
“The desktop portal that you see today in your office, you put in your phone,”
she said. “All the information—surveys, travel policies—it’s taking your
desktop and putting it on your phone because nobody is looking at their
desktop. If you keep it simple from that perspective and then you start working
on the traveler experience, then there are all those opportunities to build
different connections and different kinds of solutions.”
When a tired
traveler comes face-to-face with a weather-related travel mishap, change fees and
expensive last-minute tickets rack up trip costs. That’s leaving money on the
table, considering rebooking fees related to weather events often are accounted
for in the original ticket. ACT corporate travel senior manager Jennifer
Steinke is working with Short’s Travel Management to avoid such excesses.
On the platform
they’re building, the TMC would rebook an ACT traveler automatically and email
or text the new information to him or her. “It’s that type of proactive
disruption stuff that is one of the biggest focuses and benefits for
travelers,” Steinke said. Otherwise, a frustrated traveler might act rashly expedite
the trip home. “Instead of doing something free because you’ve already bought
the ticket, now you’re looking at $1,100 just to get home.”
When Egencia first
released its mobile app, it lacked some functions that would benefit travelers,
said IAC manager of corporate services Rosemary Maloney. She tested it with her
most frequent travelers and provided their feedback to the travel management
company. Several other travel buyers also gave comments, but Maloney was in a
unique position, as IAC once had owned Egencia. “I think [Egencia’s] mobile
team started to hate me because every week I had an email saying, ‘They said
that this would make it great,’” she said. “A year later, after us going back
and forth, they re-released the app.”
For example, the
original app provided no capability for last-minute bookings. The newer version
included an “assist me” button for travelers that prompts an Egencia agent to
call back, traveler information in hand. That’s especially useful during a
travel disruption. The app also now provides pop-up alerts for such information
as gate changes. Maloney continues to provide input to Egencia in an effort to
make the app even more intuitive, and she hopes someday it can provide a new
itinerary automatically when travel is disrupted.
She also boosted
adoption of the app at IAC by packaging it with the security app that enables
employees to receive email on their phones. So when they download that app,
they also get the travel app. “You never know when you’re going to be caught
somewhere because of weather and need a hotel that night,” Maloney said. “You
can book right from your mobile device, and you’re staying in policy.”
—Michael B. Baker
While some travel
managers stress about mobile deployment and try to control what apps travelers
can and cannot use, The Advisory Board Co. vice president of information
systems Steven Mandelbaum has implemented his own lack-of-policy policy.
Perhaps it’s better summed up for travelers as: Do what you want.
“We use TripCase today, so everything gets
pushed into there, but short of that they can use airline apps and hotel apps
and Uber and all sorts of apps,” he said.
The Advisory Board
is a bring-your-own-device company, meaning employees are responsible for their
own mobile technology, though the company does provide employees cellular
allowances based on travel intensity.
Mandelbaum said it’s
important to use apps for what they’re really good at. He deployed Sabre’s
TripCase because it’s good for itinerary management, he said, but he doesn’t
look to mobile for things like parsing. He likes the idea of an
all-encompassing mobile tool, but “until we can get boarding passes in there,
which the airlines don’t want to do because they consider it part of their
experience, you can’t get an all encompassing tool,” he said.
He added, “We’re
going to be stuck with this myriad of apps for a long time.”
This report originally appeared in the Oct. 26, 2015
edition of Business Travel News.
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