I had an interesting conversation with a travel manager this week. His observation was that today’s traveler journey is crappy and the user experience is so frustrating it often makes business travelers break out in tears. And that he – the one offering them the tissues- is the target of all the complains. This guy is running a big travel program, so has equally big sh.t entering his way on a daily base. He asked me how to turn this around. How to get big hugs and hurrays within the rapidly increasing business travel industry (2 trillion dollars) that is rapidly decreasing its customer comfort, clarity and communication? The answer is not that easy but there are ways to improve big time without spending big money.
30 years ago, my uncle Otto worked at a big bank in the Netherlands. He owned one of the first car-phones, yes the big one with the huge antenna. His secretary smoothly rolled out his travel arrangements. He turned left when entering the plane. His taxi expected him when he arrived. His hotel was a place of abundant luxury. This man had the time of his life whenever he left. And when he was in Holland, he got all the credits and status for being a business traveler and was pampered and admired all over again. We loved our uncle Otto (and the presents he got us on his trips). He was the man.
Now, if I am a business traveler today: I am not the man. My phone is ten times smaller, and so is the level of service I can count on when away. I don’t feel valued and appreciated and I will complain to anyone who crosses my path, preferably you, my travel manager. Since you are there.
What to do?
Face it: this is a big and complex problem. Your target is probably to spend less on travel. And normally when you spend less you get less. So the key question is: how can you do better for your colleagues without buying them business class seats, pink champagne and private drivers?
The answer is: technology
-Technology makes it possible to manage a large amount of people, hear them out, inform them, talk to them and understand their problems
– If you are able to proactively inform travelers about their trip (check in, delays, best transport option, Free WIFI points and even automatic hotel check in is on our Roadmap)..
– If you offer nice suggestions to your travelers during their trip, to keep them out of jail for example, they will probably thank you for that. Most travelers won’t get into severe trouble, but remember: it is always a small group that is in charge of the debate! 80% just follows the other troublemakers
– Collect all of the traveler data (booking data but also in-trip data) and use this when you are up for your next negotiations with travel suppliers. It gets you a head start position and you will know what is important to focus on. For us at Roadmap it would be free beer…
– Oh yes and use mobile tech because your travelers are on the go and need realtime support in the darkest of alleys!
In short: if you are a travel manager and you want to rock your field big time, it is time for tech. Be ready for rewards form both your travelers and your CFO… they will hug you more than you can handle.