A romantic getaway to the Maldives is far more exciting than planning a business trip to Pretoria. Not only is the journey for work rarely as exciting as a leisure getaway, but strict company rules and requirements tend to also complicate the corporate travel booking process.
Technology is essential in making booking corporate travel more exciting and rewarding. Road warriors are looking for consumer technologies that are not just on a par with the technology they use for personal travel, but that surpasses it.
In recent years, the corporate travel industry has witnessed a significant drive to improve user experiences, responding to the preferences of modern business travellers with more personalised products and offering a seamless, end-to-end service. Experts call this the ‘consumerisation’ of business travel, says Oz Desai, General Manager Corporate Traveller.
“The consumerisation of corporate travel is definitely happening. Travellers are telling us that when they travel for leisure, they have amazing tools, but when it comes to company trips, they have nothing. That is why Corporate Traveller is investing in traveller-centric solutions to change the perception of corporate travel and make it exciting again,” he says.
Corporate Traveller recently introduced Sam:], Flight Centre Travel Group’s Smart Assistant Mobile App. Desai explains Sam:]’ is programmed to keep travellers informed throughout their journey, from delivering weather updates at the destination to information on a traveller’s terminal gate, flight time changes and where to collect baggage.
It has become widely accepted that employee productivity is intrinsically linked to their well-being, which is why it is vital to allow road warriors the opportunity to recharge their batteries. To this end, Sam:] suggests which restaurants and attractions to visit, and alerts travellers about traffic delays.
Each Sam:] user is able to share personal travel tips and recommendations with fellow travellers. Sam:] presents this information so that only relevant pieces of data are presented to each user. The more a traveller uses Sam:], the more intelligent the chatbot becomes, and information delivered to the user is even more personalised.
The Corporate Traveller App has built-in gamification activities. It will tell you that you’ve flown enough miles to reach the moon or you’ve flown 940 hours (equal to watching 403.49 Harry Potter films or 46.63 Star Wars sagas).
Not only will Apps such as Corporate Traveller’s Sam:] make the booking experience more seamless and fun, but travellers are also helped to adhere to the rules and regulations of their company travel policy. According to Skift’s Andrew Sheivachman, one of the biggest challenges for companies is getting employees to book the way they’re supposed to book. The personalisation and consumer-friendly experience offered by Apps such as Sam:] can help to change that.
Apps aren’t the only way to consumerise the corporate travel experience.
In the hospitality industry, companies are being creative with online solutions that personalise the experience for corporate travellers. Virgin Hotels, for example, has created “The Know” programme, which asks guests a series of short questions to offer a more customised experience. “The more you let us Know, the more we can pander to your every desire and Personalise Your Stay. Maybe that means a mini-fridge, stocked with your favourite sips. Or the perfect pillow to match your sleep style,” the hotel group says about its programme. Other hotels, such as Intercontinental Hotels, are going beyond a desktop and mobile-friendly experience with smart rooms kitted with voice control features.
When it comes to terms of payment, consumerisation is top of mind. As consumers become accustomed to different methods of paying their leisure trips, including mobile and invisible payments, they expect their business travel bookings to be just as easy. New research from Barclaycard reveals that the use of mobile wallets and invisible payments for business travel will grow over the next five years, as companies cater to traveller demand for ‘bleisure’ travel (a mix of business and leisure) and technologies that are used by leisure groups.
As business tech evolves to keep up with the consumer world, the human travel consultant has a vital role to play. For corporate travel, travel agents are receiving renewed attention. Desai explains that Corporate Traveller experts are winning business for their ability to provide tailor-made business travel experiences.
Desai explains: “Travellers today like to enlist the help of a travel expert for quick advice and efficient service, such as fast-track rental car services and pre-empted flight changes without breaking a sweat. There is nothing more comforting than knowing there is a caring human to help so you can travel with peace of mind. Not to mention the ability to get instant help 24/7 from your expert in any travel emergency.”
When it comes to the consumerisation of travel, it is vital to keep the customer experience in mind. Travel can take its toll on employees, which is why technology and service must help to create a frictionless business experience that is just as enticing as the leisure experience.