Sunday, 18 February 2018

GUEST BLOG: Bags of money



As Ryanair and Virgin introduce new luggage policies, buyers must ensure these are communicated to travellers, as small changes can have a big impact on a trip, says Denise Harman, senior director of programme management, UK & Ireland, CWT

Last month Ryanair rolled out its new baggage policy that only guarantees cabin bags for priority passengers, and Virgin confirmed it will no longer allow ‘smart baggage’ anywhere on its aircraft, if batteries can’t be removed.

We’re only at the start of 2018, but already it’s obvious that travel managers will have to be faster than ever to adapt and communicate changes to airline policy than ever before. In 2017, travellers had to react to a cabin ban on laptops to and from certain destinations, and ensure their devices are charged enough to turn on and be tested.
Having a travel policy that can flex when suppliers change the rules is really important. For some companies, it could be more cost efficient to upgrade their policy to include priority boarding than to have people wait 20 minutes at baggage collection. With larger volumes of travellers a week, they could work with their TMC and suppliers to negotiate a better deal.

At the root of all this is obviously safety and efficiency – efficiency at turning round a plane for Ryanair, as lateness both hits their bottom line and annoys customers, and for Virgin, the safety of passengers with battery stability. But also communication here is key – it’s so important for travel managers to be able to relay these changes quickly to avoid any unexpected delays, cost – or at worst – missed flights.
As a weekly business traveller, I want to get off the aircraft and head straight through passport control not worrying about the baggage collection as I’ve got my wheelie with me. For my hops from Dublin to London, it makes sense to me. So, it’s a double-edged sword for frequent flyers – as more people travel with large cabin baggage to avoid the charges on checking in bags, it takes longer to load the plane and get on the runway, and that causes us and the airline a delay, which I also don’t want.
Time is money. And money is bags!
This post was written by CTW who will be exhibiting at Business Travel Show on 21-22 February 2018. Visit CWT at stand B230 and talk to our teams from across the business, who will be there to help you find more about how to effectively manage travel and expenses. You will even uncover new efficiencies through the perfect blend of data and a customised traveller experience.



Saturday, 17 February 2018

GUEST BLOG: Four steps for managing business travel effectively


According to the Global Business Travel Association, spend on business travel is expected to grow 6%  in 2018, ending an ‘era of uncertainty’ for corporates with regards to budgets. This is hardly surprising when you consider that for every $1 spent on business travel, a company can realise $12.50 in incremental revenue. Firms are keen to use business travel to grow and expand.

However, with this increase, comes more pressure for those booking and managing trips. Research from Collinson Group, owner of Priority Pass, found that 65% of HR professionals at large companies anticipate the process of sending employees abroad will become more complicated from a Duty of Care perspective.

Employers have an obligation to provide a safe, secure and positive environment for staff to work in, both in and out of the office. Here are our key tips to manage business travel effectively:

Creating and communicating business travel guidelines 

While rough guidelines for business travel do exist, many companies have no standard approach when it comes to Duty of Care requirements. In fact, less than half of HR professionals (47% at large corporates / 40% at SMEs) issue staff with clear cut business travel guidelines. Unfortunately, even when these are issued to employees, they sometimes fall below the required mark. A third (36%) of business travellers described the information their company issued them with as “standardised” and not related to specific business travel needs. Firms should have a coherent risk management strategy in place and ensure these are relevant to the travel needs of individual members of staff.

Conducting effective risk assessments 

Risk assessments should be a fundamental part of Duty of Care, yet 53% of large corporates and 25% of SMEs only conduct risk assessments associated with employee travel if the employee is going to an area deemed “high risk”. Some of the reasons for this will relate to experience and/or budget considerations. But not having a proper risk assessment and contingency plan in place could mean that businesses are leaving staff – and themselves – exposed to unnecessary travel risks. Companies should consider using the services of third party risk partners, such as online portals providing real-time health and security information, to help support these processes.

Managing employees’ whereabouts 

When an employee requires assistance, you want to ensure a rapid response whilst also ensuring costs don’t spiral. There are different approaches to keep an eye on employees’ whereabouts when they’re travelling; companies need to find what works for them. For example, while travel tracking tools are often used by large corporates, they can be expensive and for many smaller companies, this will not be a sensible option. Instead, they should opt to micro-manage the tracking of their employees’ travel directly and on an individual basis. 

Providing a seamless travel experience

As well as keeping staff safe and fulfilling their Duty of Care responsibilities, employers need to ensure they focus on giving employees the best ‘customer experience’ possible – and not neglecting the importance of their social and emotional needs. Half (51%) of business travellers cite being away from home and family as the most challenging aspect of travelling abroad. Amongst other top concerns was access to consistent Wi-Fi (49%), being away from the office (38%) and the impact of travel on productivity (36%). What may feel like modest benefits to some, can make a real difference to staff effectiveness and their morale, while making them feel more valued and open to spending time away from home. For business travellers, the lounge in an airport or transportation hub is something of a sanctuary; a place for downtime and to relax, to stay connected with friends, colleagues and family members, as they prepare for travel.

Businesses need to ensure they are consolidating their approach to Duty of Care and ensure they are working with the right third party providers to achieve this. The reality is that if approached correctly, business travel can be highly rewarding, motivating for employees and drive extensive business gains.

This blog has been written by Jon White, Marketing Director, Travel Experiences, Collinson Group. The full findings from Collinson Group’s ‘Taking Care of Business Travel’ research can be found here.  If you want to find out more, please visit the Priority Pass team at the Business Travel Show, Stand B322.


Friday, 16 February 2018

GUEST BLOG: How sentiment analysis will revolutionise how companies measure the true cost of travel


 

Why is sentiment analysis important in understanding the total cost of business travel? 

If we look at our recently conducted Planes, Trains and Marginal Gains report, it is clear that business travellers have needs outside of a room for a night. So when we change a corporate policy that restricts the options available for our travellers, or restricts their travel abilities, there is often a correlating impact on morale. This impact on morale can manifest itself in many ways, such as tired or unprepared travellers, who arrive at meetings or events feeling frustrated. There is therefore a high likelihood that the reason for travel isn’t successful - that the sale isn’t closed, not all the meeting agenda was covered - meaning additional travel and meetings are needed, or poor business decisions are inadvertently made.

All of these have an impact on cost – whether it’s lost sales, or additional travel. But we need to marry these risks with the opportunity for savings. This is why it’s important to understand the impact of policy changes on travellers, or even try to pre-empt how a change would be felt within the business.

At Clarity, we are looking at how sentiment analysis can give us insight into how policy and business guidelines actually impacts the traveller. One of the key areas of focus for travel buyers for 2018 is how to spend less but retain quality, and so customer, and more importantly, traveller feedback is vital. But guess what? Not all travellers want to fill in a survey. And if they do, we don’t always get the truth. More often, we get as little information as is necessary to complete the survey. 

So, it’s important that any traveller surveys that we do provide clearly explain how it will inform the overall travel policy, with relevant questions, such as: opinions on days in lieu in return for extensive business travel; the benefit of utilising properties with access to gyms; monitoring the amount and quality of sleep that travellers get when away on business; and feedback on type and class of travel, location of accommodation etc. We can then link this information back to the properties, carriers, times and seasonality of stays and get a clearer picture of traveller experience and sentiment, and use this data to help strike a balance between corporate spend and traveller satisfaction.

We are also looking into how we can also use sentiment analysis from a much wider base of users to help provide recommendations that, when taken in conjunction with that amount of traveller feedback, give a strong wide coverage of sentiment around a product or experience for example - by tapping into the power of social media.

But this isn’t as simple as it sounds. For example, I need to be able to filter out noise such as unrelated sentiment. However the results are worth it. If I can help a customer determine the best fit travel policy that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company, give the company the ability to see the impact and sentiment of the travellers behind that policy throughout the lifespan of the contract, and more importantly monitor what impact any policy changes have, then the net result can be a happy customer and a happy traveller.

The bottom line is sentiment analysis is an essential component in measuring the total cost of travel in 2018. By embracing this, companies will be able to determine a best fit travel policy - one that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company - which in turn can reduce costs, maintain quality and, by combining spend with return on investment, enable customers to measure the true cost of travel.

This blog was written by Darren Williams, Head of Management Information and Data, at Clarity. He will be on stand B520 at the Business Travel Show demonstrating the new approaches Clarity is taking to measure the true cost of travel. To secure a one-on-one meeting at the show call 0800 731 1627.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

GUEST BLOG: 2018…the year of assistance?

 
Google has just announced a new term “the age of assistance.” So what does this mean?

According to Google this term refers to the customer service of today; the new multi-faceted and multi-layered way brands communicate with customers, rather than traditional customer service offerings.

Over the years we have witnessed significant changes in the way that brands communicate, interact and service customers. In a service driven industry such as business travel the importance of these changes is more prevalent than ever.
Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business and crucial for customer retention. You frequently see organisations spending large marketing budgets on customer acquisition; the best product, price and promotion but falling down at customer service and then losing the business.
The complex nature of business travel lends itself to “the age of assistance” where you are communicating with numerous contacts in the supply chain as well as recognising the specific needs and requirements of the end traveller. This is where using big data in a meaningful and personal way can be a key differentiator. It’s not just about the preferences of the individual traveller - wherever, whenever and however they need it - but also delivering real-time data and analytics to travel managers so they can drive better travel policy compliance and in turn, create long-term cost savings.
Technological advancements have opened up new communication channels for brands to embrace. The use of AI and chatbots is beginning to become widespread, whilst mobile, text, social media all now play an active part in brand communication plans.
In today’s hyper-connected, digital world, there is an opportunity to build brand loyalty through providing seamless customer satisfaction across multiple channels. To test the market, Traveldoo is currently undertaking a survey aimed at travel buyers. The survey focuses on the importance of customer service in the business travel industry and the buyers experience of customer service.
The results will be announced at the Business Travel Show.
If you are at Business Travel Show, the Traveldoo team would love to see you on stand B619 from 21-22 February 2018. Register for a free pass at www.businesstravelshow.com/register