Once upon a time the process of travelling for business was purely functional, a necessary part of an organisation’s day-to-day functioning. The goal of reducing travel spend went hand-in-hand with this practical approach to business travel, but in the last few years the tide has certainly turned, with most companies looking to improve the traveller experience.
Travellers now (rightly!) have more of a say in how they travel for business than ever before. An increasing number of travel managers and procurement departments are levelling the needs of their employees with the needs of the organisation as a whole, as a way of boosting employee satisfaction and engagement.
Increasing the comfort, convenience and simplicity of business travel is becoming ever more important as organisations look to improve traveller wellbeing. But realising and implementing these changes in a way that doesn’t increase travel spend or compromise your organisation’s duty of care is a much greater challenge.
That’s why we’ve pulled together the knowledge of our expert account managers and their best tips to improve the traveller experience in your organisation.
1. Make it easier to book travel
Despite the travel management industry’s recent efforts to offer more technologically advanced online booking solutions, there are still many business travellers hopping from travel website to travel website. Staff are then booking flights, rail and their hotel stay all on different platforms. This wasted time can lead to travellers feeling frustrated at the mere thought of having to book even the simplest of trips.
As a travel or procurement manager, it’s definitely worth looking into single solution booking options. These are online booking tools that search the web and GDS for the best deals and allow travellers to book flights, rail, hotels and even taxis or hire cars in one place, meaning that much less time is spent booking.
If you’re currently using a travel management company (TMC) and are finding that travellers aren’t content with the process of booking their business travel, then have an honest discussion with both your TMC and your travellers. For example, travellers may be avoiding using your TMC’s booking system because they don’t feel confident that they know how to use it properly – something that is easily fixed with a little extra training.
2. Introduce a dynamic travel policy
Strict and limited travel options are a very common source of frustration for travellers and can often lead to travellers going rogue and booking out of policy – something that then becomes a problem for travel managers.
However, introducing a dynamic travel policy enables organisations to increase the amount of choice that travellers have when booking, whilst also remaining in control of their travel spend. Unlike a traditional business travel policy that is a static set of business travel guidelines, a dynamic business travel policy will adapt depending on the options available at the time of booking.
The results of implementing a dynamic travel policy can be dramatic – for example, Land Securities, a Click Travel client, reduced their average hotel spend by 28% in just 3 months after implementing a dynamic travel policy.
3. Implement gamification into your organisation
Most of us experience gamification every time we receive a stamp on our rewards card when we buy a coffee, or receive a discount code as a thank you for purchasing an item online. Introducing these concepts into the arena of business travel can be a really effective way of encouraging travellers to book in policy, be mindful of their travel spend or even just as a way of giving back to travellers who travel often.
Some organisations operate a points system, with travellers who book 3 weeks in advance receiving 50 points, 1 week in advance earning 10 points and so on. The more points that they have the more they can use to buy rewards such as trips or cinema tickets at the end of the financial year.
There are many ways in which the gaming system can be implemented and used, for example booking with preferred suppliers; not checking in unnecessary bags; picking the best value hotels; completing expense reports early and using off airport parking.
4. Explore the concept of ‘Bleisure’
The concept of bleisure seems to have gained some real momentum and the idea of what constitutes a ‘bleisure trip’ is broadening, now referring to the decision to tag a few days of annual leave onto the end of a trip.
Financially, a bleisure trip can make sense; the employee isn’t increasing spend by extending their trip, as your organisation will already be paying for the travel. In fact, if a traveller’s decision to extend their trip means that they can return at a less popular travelling time then a spot of bleisure could actually cause a reduction in travel spend for the trip. Of course, the benefits of bleisure extend far beyond cost and allowing an employee to enjoy some recreation time is a surefire way to increase employee satisfaction, as well as reducing the likelihood of ‘burnout’ and other stress-related health problems.
However, the primary concern with bleisure is that organisations are fulfilling their Duty of Care obligations to their employees and the only realistic, practical way to mitigate against difficult situations is to explicitly address the matter of bleisure trips within your corporate travel policy; that way, both employer and employee know where they stand and what they’re accountable for.
As always, when it comes to the finer points of travel management, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and what works for one organisation won’t necessarily work for another. Talk to your TMC or account manager to explore how best your organisation can improve traveller experience without compromising existing business travel goals or culture.