Getting your travellers to do the right thing when booking travel can be challenging but smart tactics can help influence their behaviour
Influencing traveller behaviour has loomed large on travel manager’s priorities over the last few years, since travellers’ choices have widened to include the sharing economy and the ability to purchase from consumer websites.
While it’s good that travellers have greater choice, you still need to ensure that wherever they surf, that they make the booking within travel policy and using the suppliers you want them to.
This can be challenging as dictating channels and choice can be demotivating for employees, but the business travel industry has met the challenge head on and created innovative ways to keep travellers on track.
These new strategies include those borrowed from the consumer world, to create competition between individual travellers, departments or functions to be the most compliant. Travellers can win recognition, points or prizes for their efforts, or just feel smug that they’ve beaten a rival department.
So rather than penalise them for bad behaviour, you reward them for good behaviour. This strategy is called gamification. In essence, it increases employee engagement and loyalty and employees have fun along the way.
Crucially, gamification can help break the stranglehold that airline and hotel loyalty programmes can have on your travellers – if that is an issue for you – as employees will switch their loyalty to your preferred suppliers instead.
During an ITM Summit on Maximising Compliance last December (repeated at the Supplier Academy in February this year), the buyers organisation surveyed buyers on what they thought was the biggest challenge in the next five years and maintaining compliance figured large in the results.
Moreover, the session speakers emphasised the complexities of the journey ahead, outlining a number of top challenges affecting compliance that may create obstacles along the way:
1. The DIY Traveller who think they’re experts and who buy “off piste” due to price or access to content
2. Direct promotions driving direct bookings
3. Loyalty programmes that encourage their use for personal travel
4. The user experience of the booking process
5. Lack of good, clear information
6. Bad policy and programme
7. No reinforcement of programme
8. Travellers’ ignorance of the value of the programme
9. Payment mechanism not supporting the programme
10. Urgency and speed of access in some sectors
Whatever the particular challenge with your travellers, and the reasons for it, you need to focus on the area you want to improve. It could be to increase levels of advance booking, to reduce the use of flexible tickets over restricted tickets or the over-use of premium cabins.
The next step with gamification is to set a target against the goal, and a timeframe (usually no more than three months otherwise travellers will lose interest), and create a leader board so that different departments or functions can see who is winning; this will also induce competition.
The prize can be anything from the kudos of winning to a physical prize.
If it suits your company culture, publicising who the least compliant departments are will also up the ante.
If gamification doesn’t suit your company culture, then perhaps an element of behavioural psychology might work better? The end game is the same and this involves altering travellers’ actions, emotions and thoughts.
During the booking process, for example, remind travellers of the company’s cost-saving goals, use icons to flag up preferred partners as options fill the screen and remind them of the free services and amenities they will receive if they book with preferred partners. Such interruptions can change the decision process.
If none of these ideas resonate with you and your company then at the very least, ensure that the company travel policy is presented in a positive way, underlining the benefits to the company’s bottom line, for example, and the continuation of company resources.
A travel policy must also be accessible; perhaps provide a list of key points on each desk as a reminder and certainly upload it to the company intranet. Some companies require their employees to read and sign a copy of the company rules.
For Kevin Heath, Head of Business Travel, assisting clients with compliance is an important aspect of the Travel Counsellors’ service. “The key is to find a strategy that works for you and your style of company,” he says. “Your Travel Counsellor will be happy to talk to you about setting and maintaining an effective travel policy.”
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