Turn your travel program into a 5-star restaurant and keep them coming back for more

March 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

by Tony

Growing up, I was an unruly kid. I had every trick in the book up my sleeve, and when my folks tried to get me to do something against my will, let’s just say that I could put Ferris Bueller to shame. Despite my magical talents, I was SOL when my mom made pasta faggioli (or as we called it pasta fazool) for dinner. There I was picking out the pasta from the beans, and unfortunately, my old man would have none of that. You either ate it all, or went hungry because there were no substitutions on Mom’s menu. Being even skinnier than I am now, it was a sad day when Little TD was forced to go to sleep without eating dinner.

I’ve got nothing against pasta faggioli today other than seeing a bowl of it on the menu at an Italian restaurant for $12.95, when we all know you can make a gallon of the stuff for $10, but I’d still prefer a juicy steak any day. Is the travel technology you’re serving up a delicious New York strip (portabella burger for my veggie friends) or is it the pasta fazool I ate as I held my nose? Unlike with Little TD, if your travelers are left hungry they can go elsewhere to eat. They’ll run up your costs by calling directly to the TMC, or even worse, they’ll book directly from a supplier’s site.

Last week I moderated a webinar entitled Adoption without a Mandate. I was joined by Henry Harteveldt, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, and Richard Clowes, Manager, Travel Operations at SAS, both experts in this area. We will soon have a link to the recorded session available, but in the meantime, I wanted to answer a couple follow up questions that came up after the webinar.

Path to Adoption

We operate in a world where travel managers don’t want to enforce mandates and be perceived as evil parents, so of course the top question asked was how to achieve high adoption rates.   So with Henry’s theory and Richard’s practice, here are some of the nuggets we came up with, so have a look:

  • Communication is a two way street – In any fruitful relationship, all parties need to stay in tune with each other. Therefore, when developing a successful travel program, it’s essential to understand the needs and wants of your travelers. Not only will they appreciate being involved in the process, but they will take ownership in the results. Nothing works more in your favor than the positive word of mouth this will generate. Additionally, after putting a new tool into place, it’s essential that you communicate the benefits it brings to your travelers. Just saying, “cause I said so!” won’t work. You need to do the initial sale and let the tool do the rest.
  • Serve up delicious technology and your travelers will bite – Travelers demand easy-to-use tools with clean and simple user experiences. This is what they are accustomed to in their personal lives (think Google). In order to compete, you need to provide something comparable or better for their professional lives. Additionally, technology that makes their lives easier scores big points. For today’s travelers, nothing fits the bill more than mobile applications.
  • Travelers are starving for real-time updates – Travelers want to always stay up-to-date. They need regular alerts and status updates. Find a tool that supports this functionality. It’s what we call the “stickiness” factor. The more value you bring to the traveler via the tool, the more “sticky” it becomes. If you’re not providing mobile updates, then how do you expect travelers to stay informed when on the road?
  • Don’t make me think– No one likes to remember thousands of usernames and passwords. Why not give your employees easy access to their arsenal of corporate tools from one location? Work with your IT department to implement single sign-on (SSO) across the variety of tools you provide employees, including HR systems, internal wikis, the booking tool, etc. Once you remove the barriers to access, you’ll see a significant boost in adoption across the board.
  • An expense solution can boost adoption – It’s funny how quickly people follow the rules when it comes to getting reimbursed. If you offer an automated expense solution that integrates with your booking tool, then you will reap the benefits. Travelers value simplicity, and if they can book the trip and expense it all from one location, then they will. Plus you will benefit by getting accurate and detailed spend data in a timely fashion.

Next month we are letting you “choose your own adventure” on an exciting webinar we are co-sponsoring with ACTE. Click here to register for this open dialogue with Mary Ann McNulty, Content Director at Promedia.travel and Susan Steinbrink, Senior Research and Corporate Market Analyst at PhoCusWright.

Entry filed under: expense, Mobile, Tony's thoughts, User Experience. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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