GoldSpring Consulting’s Kathy Kent and Jennifer Donnelly know the challenges of getting travelers to use designated corporate online booking tools. The two senior consultants provide pointers in several areas to smooth the implementation process and give program managers the best shot at getting employees to comply with policies and processes.
Like it or not, many business travelers use consumer travel booking sites and mobile apps for personal travel and are likely to compare the experience to that of corporate online booking tools. Managed corporate travelers will often search for what they want on consumer sites before calling the travel management company or booking through the OBT. Some will just make the bookings outside of their employers’ travel programs.
The good news, at least in showing the value of managed travel, is that the fragmented consumer technology space doesn’t have many tools that can fully support travelers before, during and after their trips.
A successful OBT implementation should focus on improving the user experience and bringing travelers back to the program. Here are some tips to accomplish this:
• Recruit some key stakeholders to be champions of the new system: travel arrangers, frequent travelers and groups with high visibility.
• Consider bringing in a third-party integrator or consultant to help with implementation; TMCs may configure booking tools to their own advantage.
• Communicate often about what’s coming and hype up the advantages of the new system.
• If it’s a global implementation, consider local nuances and account for them in the configuration.
• Ensure that the travel policy is simple enough to allow for proper booking tool configuration.
• Reduce the amount of warnings, messages and pop-ups in the tool; focus on the critical few that drive savings, safety or preferred supplier usage.
• Make visible as much content as possible. If travelers cannot find an airline, for example, they will assume the tool is not working and stray from the program
• Take advantage of all technologies and tools available from suppliers and the TMC. Bringing mobile booking, itineraries, flight alerts, safety advisories, hotel reviews, messaging and other features together in one ecosystem will create a traveler experience that is less fragmented than the consumer space, and available only inside your program.
After implementation, communicate widely and often to users and other stakeholders. Focus on individual benefits and the value of using the corporate travel program. Look at feedback during the first few weeks to determine if system tweaks are needed. Sometimes things happen in real-world scenarios that you couldn’t anticipate.
By focusing on traveler experience, travel managers can help users find value in the travel program and increase policy adoption. Mirroring consumer content, technology and processes as much as possible is key. There are tools and services available today to make this easier than ever before, including low-cost carrier integration, non-GDS hotel content and hotel reviews. Plan accordingly, implement all available and feasible options and ask for help if needed.
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