Dispelling Travel Management Myths: The Happy and Compliant Traveler

WT-0815By Will Tate, Partner

Three myths and a truth – a unicorn, Bigfoot, a civil presidential campaign, and happy/compliant travelers… Although satisfied and compliant travelers may seem to fit in well with the others, this elusive ideal can be achieved.

Balancing the two great pressures in travel management is no easy feat – they can pull in different directions, have different stakeholders, and are driven by different emotions. Traveler satisfaction and travel policy compliance may seem like they are on opposite ends of the travel continuum, but our recent survey results indicate it’s possible for travel managers to find common ground through communication and persuasion.

We recently asked how the traveler experience is being improved through both your efforts inside the company and via the travelers’ efforts. Overwhelmingly, travel managers and travelers rely on the Online Booking Tool (OBT) and Travel Management Company (TMC) apps to assist. Our results indicate this support is expected as part of the TMC/OBT service platform, as it is for all other bookings. By focusing on mobile, travel managers have enabled both a communication and booking platform for a smoother travel experience. This ensures you and your travelers are aligned – setting the table for better compliance.

We also asked how compliance is being improved through both your efforts inside the company and via the efforts of your TMCs. Our results show that travel managers are prioritizing persuasion over mandates, with some stepped up enforcement, while TMCs are focused on travel messaging, followed by OBT, and point of sale adjustments. This indicates that the majority of travel managers have determined neither the carrot nor the stick work well, and are therefore battling for the heart – building compliance with influence, rather than force.

These results perfectly summarize the new travel management paradigm – competing for travelers by enhancing their experience while persuading them towards compliance, all within the managed travel path. Our respondents understand that the allure of independent supplier apps offer travelers bonus points (even pillow type selection), necessitating a competitive, attractive option. The managed travel path has to be easier, neater, faster, cleaner, and more useful than the competition. Done right, this can achieve the dual goals of benefitting travelers while driving compliance. Here are two things you can do moving forward on this path:

  • Ensure you understand, communicate, and drive travelers toward company goals by gaining their input. Owning an independent feedback loop ensures travelers’ voices are heard – then acted upon – then fed BACK to confirm travelers were heard and valued. Circling back to tell travelers HOW you acted on their input builds credibility, and integrity – which you’ll need when influencing undesirable behaviors.
  • Communicate back to travelers the value of their input. This builds a better experience with compliance. “Our company’s favorite hotel” next to your preferred property is certain to produce additional room nights. Higher satisfaction rates with the TMC/OBT service via the designated path wins additional traveler support. Traveler testimonials about service recovery build confidence with the program, yielding more travelers doing the right thing.

While the proof of mythical creatures remains elusive, the reality of the happy and compliant traveler does exist. It’s been said that persuasion is the art of getting people to do things that are in their own best interest that also benefit you. Clearly, this must have been said by a forward thinking travel buyer.

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