Employees are in fact consumers, and they want what they want, when they want it. And what they want is not limited to the things that their employers care about like cheap flights, hotels and transportation. They want the tools and facilitation to plan travel that work for them personally.
There are several primary reasons that employees work around corporate travel guidelines and avoid the corporate travel department or partner:
- The points - They want them - They don't want to give them up to the corporate account. Work travel takes your employees away from their family and friends, not to mention the physical and mental impact. Lessen some the impact by allowing them to benefit by using their personal travel rewards accounts for flights, hotels, etc. This way, they’re accumulating points toward their next vacation. They'll thank you with loyalty and longevity.
- Cost vs. Reason - Of course the flight is cheapest when the birds are still sleeping, but who wants to subject themselves to that? They aren't looking to be extravagant, just reasonable. Logical parameters and leeway for employees booking travel should include understanding that the 6 a.m. flight that has them up at 3:45 a.m. or the flight with 3 stops isn't good for the employee and in the long run might cost the company more in performance, sick time or hiring replacements.
- Personal comfort - Just because a hotel has the lower price doesn't mean it's going to work for them. What if it's not in a great part of town, or too far from location they are traveling to or want to be near, or just not clean or well maintained? Let's face it, you've got employees who don't care too much about where they stay and those who care quite a bit. Consider providing overall parameters that allow the former to stay cheaper while enjoying a bit more nightlife while permitting the latter to get the real goose down pillows coupled with a bit more frugality elsewhere in the trip.
Increasingly there seems to be a bit of latitude (dare we call it empathy) for employees. And if corporate travel providers want to follow suit vs. losing bookings or even clients, they should start to think more like a travel agency and slightly less like travel procurement.
4 Ways for corporate travel to deliver a better experience to employees:
- Points and Value Exchange: Can you live with letting employees use their points based credit cards? If you can, you should. If you are concerned with fraud and lack of transparency in travel and expense reporting, consider alternatives that deliver employee value. An interesting example of innovation here, is Upside Travel that offers kickbacks to the employee in the form of gift cards for every flight and hotel package they book. The rates seem comparable to what can be found in the OTAs, so employers should feel like they are doing right by the employee without much sacrifice.
- Comprehensive Trip Planning Tools: Give employees the tools to plan both the main components of the trip (air, hotel, ground transportation) and deliver concierge like utility, providing tools to figure out after meeting yoga classes. Deliver dining and nightlife options for entertaining clients to help them seem buttoned up. What about coffee shops nearby that are good for quick meetings or passing time prior to meetings? And co-working spaces for collaborative work sessions. How about events happening during the dates of stay so that social time can be coordinated across lifestyle categories like sports, music, fine arts and the like. This value can be added without great expense but the payback could come in the form of adherence and even loyalty.
- Tech vs. Agents: Old school travel agents would figure all of these things out for the corporate traveler and with available technology, it can be accomplished now at a fraction of the cost you might be thinking. Website and mobile tools can deliver this trip planning functionality directly to employees and travel facilitators or agents can use the same tools to deliver solutions by email, chat or phone rather than using Google search or some other manual method.
- Embrace Alternative Suppliers: How do you handle the fact that, increasingly, employees are wanting to use Airbnb or HomeAway to find places to stay? It might meet budget parameters but are they an approved vendor? How about Uber, Lyft for ground transportation vs. car service or zipcar vs. rental car contracts?
Ultimately, the amount of gross booking volume and re-signing of corporate clients you enjoy will have a correlation to how you service these newly inspired and highly demanding travelers and their employers.
We've developed solutions for the travel industry that allow travelers to explore and plan the activities of their trip beyond the flight, the room and the car. Whether looking for coffee shops or co-working spaces or dining/nightlife or even events during the dates of stay. This allows travel brands from hotels to OTAs to corporate travel companies to provide simple and valuable utility to their travelers. This kind of flexible solution can be placed on page, in-app or social tab to enhance the customer experience in a scalable way. Currently we provide this service for every city and town in the United States and are opening up Canada.