How to...

Help employees book and travel smarter

Boosting savings beyond supplier deals is essential for those companies with mature travel programmes as they are already close to maximising the savings they can gain. The key for travel managers is to look inside their organisations to find new ways to control costs, says Claudia Unger.

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Arguably, a company’s relationship with its own travellers is even more important than with its suppliers, not only for saving money but also for boosting productivity and keeping people safe. We call this relationship traveller management, and it falls into demand management (influencing the number of trips travellers take) and buying behaviour management (influencing the way travellers plan their trips and how much they spend and with whom).

Why is it so important? Changing technologies and changing attitudes, for one. Also, travel managers are realising travellers often make smarter booking decisions if they are persuaded rather than forced to do the right thing. Lastly, better technology is also making it possible to influence travellers to spend smarter in typically unmanaged areas, such as dining or taxis. Read on for our step-by-step guide

STEP 1: Take a look at your existing travel programme from your travellers’ perspective. Does it meet their needs by giving them better prices than they could find themselves? Are you giving them the tools and information they need to make the best buying decisions? If not, go out and get them. Make sure every line of policy is necessary. Remove if not. And re-think the way you talk to travellers: try to 'check in' with them, by suggesting how you can help them make smarter buying decisions, instead of 'checking up' on them.

One way to adopt this new attitude is to re-cast yourself as a consultant to your business, not as a policy gatekeeper. This means creating a new perception of travel in the company as well as of your role. Re-position travel as only one way to bring people together, emphasising the need to consider those alternatives at all times.

STEP 2: Sell your travel programme. You should introduce sales and marketing techniques, such as gamification, that influences employees with targets and rewards for doing the right thing. Reward improvements in five or six different types of behaviour, like buying tickets further in advance or using the approved online booking channel. Deliver messages via mobile platforms and social media as well as more traditional methods.

STEP 3: Guide travellers before and during their trip. Encourage 'zero-budget thinking', making travellers justify the financial case every time they travel, even if it is only to themselves.

Try to offer non-travel alternatives at point of sale too, such as comparison tables that help travellers decide between travel and videoconferencing, and pop-up prompts for online booking tools that remind travellers there are alternatives to face-to-face meetings. If employees decide to travel, emerging technologies and strategies can help them buy smarter such as creating destination packages: a collection of travel tips, web links and mobile apps for each of your company’s key destinations to help them save money and navigate like a local.

Another example is providing a pricing context, such as programming the booking tool to show not only the traveller’s chosen price but the average price the company pays on that route, the negotiated fare and the lowest logical fare.

Apply consumer pricing psychology. If your online booking tool offers two four-star hotel options for a particular city, add a three-star hotel option as it will encourage travellers to book the cheaper four-star option.

Also apply Anchor prices. This is the first price a consumer is introduced to and becomes their benchmark expectation for how much they should pay in future.

STEP 4: Keep the programme under review. You can seek traveller feedback to gain their buy-in and tap into their knowledge of suppliers and destinations. Develop and monitor relevant key performance indicators to measure whether you are improving your traveller management. Examples include:

  • Travel intensity: how much employees are travelling (miles, room nights, number of trips)
  • What is the share of meetings using virtual meeting technology in comparison to all internal meetings?
  • How far in advance are we booking trips?

BCD's White Paper ‘Traveller Management’ can be obtained by emailing UK.marketing@bcdtravel.co.uk