Do you make your travel program easy for you, or for your travelers?

July 12, 2010 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

by Tony

I was in London a couple of weeks back to attend the Business Travel Market, a conference and trade show for the UK and broader European corporate travel market. In the opening remarks, Jon West, HRS’s Commercial Director for the UK and Ireland, posed the following question to the audience comprised mostly of corporate travel buyers:

“Do you make your travel program easy for you, or for your travelers?”

He went on to suggest that most travel managers have historically had an enterprise-centric view, causing them to put the needs of the business before the employee. This seemed to be a fairly accurate statement that rings true in the States as well.

A few hours later, I was sitting in a pub in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a pint and a decent curry. The crowd of mostly Brits was displaying an amazing fervor as they watched Portugal and Ivory Coast play to a 0-0 tie in a first round World Cup match. How people could be that whipped up into frenzy over a game in which the two participating countries had no apparent ties to their own, and during which neither team came close to scoring a goal was beyond me.  Was this really “a marvelous match, where the play has been taken to an epic level?” (Ironically, the announcer made this bold statement during a period when the players all seemed to be standing around, kicking the ball back and forth to each other without actually moving in any direction but sideways.)

After another pint I got over the irony, stopped questioning the world’s most popular sport, and began to reflect on Jon’s question from earlier in the day. “Do travel buyers make it easy for the enterprise or for the employee?” I ultimately came to the conclusion that the question was based on a false premise that the two are mutually exclusive.

Although travel buyers manage with the company being top-of-mind, there are plenty of instances where they also consider the traveler. “Duty of care”, “reasonable accommodation” (both driven by government actions), and “home based work environments” (enabled by technology, embraced by companies looking to reduce overhead) are all examples of when a manager thinks of the traveler, but for the most part are forced on the buyer versus being initiated by their own doing.  This brings me back to the original premise that, for the most part, when it comes to the basics of their program (policy, preferred suppliers, technology), travel managers put the enterprise first.

In recent years, as it relates to technology, a fundamental change is taking place that allows managers to have their cake and eat it too. Why should buyers have to settle for technology that frustrates their users and ultimately impedes their ability to meet the business needs? From my perspective, the product or service should satisfy the enterprise and the end-user. Something like mobile is a good example.   If you select a good application it will:

  • deploy in such a way as to not run afoul of any IT department mandates around security or access protocols,
  • complement your travel program by helping identify preferred suppliers and corporate policy,
  • and delight the end-user starving for technology that helps them.

We have two ears so why not use them both and have one listening to your boss and the other to the people who consume your travel program.  While you might not always hear what you want, you might hear something that can help you take your program to the next level, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

P.S. For those of you who were wondering, yes, my partner did indeed stay up all night voting last week for Nick Swisher of the Yankees as the last American League All Star and that’s right, Swishalicious is heading to Anaheim.  Nicely Done Mike D!!

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

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