Posts tagged ‘business travelers’
Ok CarryingOn fans if you’re still out there, I’d like to apologize for not being very active over the past few months. Chalk it off to a bunch of things we won’t go into here, but after observing the recent statements and actions of the TSA, even the Rip Van Winkle of bloggers would be stirred to life!!
It all started when I read that the sequestration forced budget cuts were going to cause chaos in air travel. It seems as if a 4% budget cut would result in everything from forced flight cancellations to reduce the workload on ATC staff, to dramatically longer security lines with a less secure environment to boot, and a quadrupling of the time it takes to clear customs at some of our bigger international gateways.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Chief John Pistole were the ringleaders of a clear effort that used hyperbole to create panic among the masses who use the air transportation system on a regular or irregular basis. They were quickly joined by a chorus of industry insiders and pundits who accepted their predicted outcomes without even the slightest pushback, and then decried the impact on the travel industry.
In fact, in the days after the sequestration started, Napolitano suggested that the lines had already begun to build (this despite the fact that not one screener has been let go, since the law requires that federal workers must be given 30 days notice before a furlough, but we digress from the chaos).
It’s all political theatre designed to scare us into thinking that what amounts to a rather insignificant budget cut, would mean the end of air travel as we know it.
We’ve written a few times about the TSA and like tracking them because of their entertainment factor (http://bit.ly/YxteVQ),
but for those of you who might not scrutinize them as closely as CarryingOn, here are a few of data points to consider:
• The TSA now employs 62,000 people, 47,000 of which are screeners, and has an annual budget of $8Billion.
• In 2007 some 680 million flyers were screened by what were then 44,000 screeners, but in 2011 only 640 million of us took to the skies, yet there were 47,000 screeners.
If you’re keeping score on that one, a 6.2% reduction in the number of people being screened seemed to require a 6.8% increase in the number of screeners. Now I don’t claim to be a TSA staffing specialist or to know all the complexities of what the TSA does, but I did do a two year stretch at LGA Airport a few years back, when the airline was still responsible for the screening checkpoint (we hired sub-contractors), and I seem to remember that if we had less people coming through the place, we needed less people to handle them. Who knows, maybe the shoes in the bin part causes you to need more people.
The TSA has also said that the only way to manage the required cuts is by reducing staff. Obviously that’s one way to do this, but surely not the only way. Maybe they can cut something else. Like what you ask? To answer that, it’s time for some more TSA fun facts, these provided by a joint report by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Oversight of Government Reform, which showed that among other things:
• The TSA has a warehouse in Dallas, Texas, where 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment sit in storage. The dormant equipment is worth $184 million.
• This equipment storage cost taxpayers another $23 million in depreciation, because nearly all of the 472 carry-on baggage screening machines in the warehouse have been sitting there unused for over nine months.
• The agency spends another $3.5 million every year just to lease and manage this warehouse.
In addition, under the recently renewed labor agreement, TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year (by comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400). The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.
If we total this stuff up you could lop $220 million off the budget, which represents close to 3/4th of the required cuts, and not one TSA head was touched in the process! And I’m guessing they could find another $100 million to get to the required 4% reduction without too much difficulty.
But I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on the TSA because they are relaxing the restriction against carrying pocket knives, billiard cues, and a host of other items that make absolutely no sense being onboard.
So while it might take more time to get through security, once onboard at least I can go back to my favorite thing to do on a long transcon flight, whittling wood. I can see it now…..”Hey, look there’s Minnesota Fats in 32C . I’m going over and introduce myself and see if I can trade him my wood carving of Janet Napolitano’s head in return for some tips on how to play a better game of 9 Ball.”
I love the forum that Carrying On provides. Previously, when I disagreed with something I read in the trades, I was forced to rant and rave to the poor schmo who was sitting next to me on the flight. Now, I have a platform to share my thoughts, and more importantly, get feedback from other industry professionals. Last week I had an excellent opportunity to engage with Jay Campbell regarding one of his stories discussing mobile travel apps. Below is an excerpt from my latest comment from our discussion, which I’d urge all the travel managers out there to read.
In a recent webinar we conducted, we found that only half of the travel managers surveyed either have a mobile program or plan to implement mobile in the next six months. Here are my thoughts as to why you best get with the program!
“If, for some reason, a company chooses not to offer a mobile app to its end users, or chooses to offer an inferior solution to them, those employees will seek out solutions on their own. This is a bad thing for the following reasons – just remember my acronym APPS and you’ll be good to go:
- Accountability | With 250,000+ apps out there, many are going to be dogs. Who is accountable if the one-off app breaks or provides your employee with bad information that results in them being stranded?
- Productivity | Back to the large selection. Do you really want your employees spending their valuable time searching 7-10 random apps when a single integrated solution can do the trick?
- Pricing | Many consumer apps, particularly the travel ones, are quite expensive. You can be certain that the company ends up paying for many of these when they hit expense reports.
- Security | There is no chance that your IT department has the resources or desire to validate the security of every consumer app that your employees may end up downloading.
I’ll close with an analogy because I like using analogies (maybe in a future posting I will tell you why life is like bowling).
I absolutely think the “rubber meets the road” with the end user, particularly with something like mobile. However, to even get on the road and operate a vehicle, you must have a license to drive, your car needs to be inspected and approved, and you need insurance in case something goes wrong. Our corporate customers sometimes serve as a sort of Department of Motor Vehicles. Sure, as a company we could drive without a license in a car with bad brakes or insurance, but we don’t mind adhering to the DMV rules because we recognize we have two masters: the company and their end users.”
Last week I read a story on The Beat in which Jay Campbell insinuates that simply marketing mobile solutions directly to corporate travelers is sufficient to establish a corporate technology provider as traveler-centric. Bowling night was canceled last Tuesday, so I wasn’t waking up to the typical Wednesday morning fog. I reread the posting several times, and frankly I cannot comprehend how marketing to an end-user makes a company or its products traveler-centric. In fact, I’d argue that it’s quite telling when a company must resort to marketing to end-users when its clients are unwilling to pass along a seemingly critical product offering such as mobile. And, last I heard, the product in question is free, so I’m guessing when an economic buyer is unwilling to launch something that is supposed to benefit the end user, and that doesn’t cost the enterprise anything, there must be something else going on.
I’m going to quote Susan Steinbrink from PhocusWright who coined the term “traveler-centric” in the 2009 PhoCusWright’s U.S. Corporate Travel Distribution Fourth Edition Report. In that report she wrote:
“Traveler-centric buying recognizes the pivotal role of the Internet is selling/purchasing business travel components and services . . . [and] views business travelers to be seen as consumers and leisure travelers in order to leverage consumer applications in business travel.”
Establishing a traveler-centric program requires a fundamental shift in corporate buying practices in order to recognize the demands of the traveler and/or advancements in technology that help serve that traveler. In my opinion, travel managers have no choice but to find a balance; and need to offer an experience comparable to that in the consumer market, while simultaneously maintaining the control they need to meet all of their corporate objectives around policies and preferred suppliers. When all is said and done, only a superior end-user experience will increase employee productivity and drive adoption, especially in a non-mandated environment.
Over the years we’ve been at the forefront of educating corporate buyers on the value of adopting a traveler-centric approach. Our mobile product which launched in May 2008, was built with the end user and the enterprise in mind – we believe this is where technology should be. Today, the majority of Rearden Personal Assistant clients have embraced the mobile app and willingly promote it to their end-users because it enhances their program while providing a great user experience. These companies understand the importance of a mobile solution and simply want to offer their end-users the best possible experience, but are not willing to sacrifice anything relative to the overall management of their program, and in our opinion, they shouldn’t have to. Not all mobile apps are created equal. In fact, based on overwhelming demand, we’ve enabled our mobile application for use with other booking tools.
At the end of the day, companies can spend thousands of dollars marketing to travelers, buyers, procurement execs, whomever, but when all the chips are counted, it’s the product that is evaluated and ultimately considered “traveler-centric” . . . or not.
As native New Yorkers, Mike and I are often mistaken for Johnny Drama and Turtle. I’ll let you figure out who is who. Awe, c’mon Mikey, let’s “hug it out!” When does Entourage’s next season start? I love that show. HBO’s tagline refers to its original programming as thought provoking and entertaining, just like our webinars.
Have you heard the one about the TMC exec, the corporate travel buyer, and the travel technology expert who walk into a bar? Neither have I, but I’m sure more madness ensued than with the priest, rabbi and minister. (more…)
by Mike and Tony
Don’t get the reference above? Ask your kids. While you’re at it, observe how they’ve adopted technology. Whether or not you choose to embrace it, your business travelers are, and right now there is nothing hotter than mobile technology. BTN tells us that 92% of business travelers have a smartphone and most of them are looking for apps (applications, not pigs ‘n blankets or bruschetta) that simplify their lives. Just like McDonald’s, Apple’s served up more than a billion apps.
In less than 2 years, OpenTable users have booked more than 2 million dining reservations straight from their mobile phones. Facebook has 100 million mobile users, and its mobile growth now exceeds that of its desktop version. We don’t make this up. About a year ago, Wall Street Journal reporter, Nick Wingfield, explained that, “many travelers are now using smart phones the way they once used laptops.” He backed this up with In-Stat data in which 52% of travelers said they could ultimately envision a smartphone completely replacing their computer.
We’re not here to argue whether or not people will be editing Excel spreadsheets from their phones. Then again, would you have believed us a year ago if we predicted that 100 million people would be poking each other and desperately awaiting Snooki updates (isn’t that what people do on Facebook), all while on the go? The key takeaway here is that smartphones are now as powerful as computers and they are rapidly becoming the device of choice. (more…)