The importance of business traveler satisfaction and how it affects employee productivity and retention is becoming a major focus in today’s corporate travel industry. Traditionally, travel expense has been top priority for corporate travel managers and their procurement departments, but there’s been elevating concern over the last few years around how frequent business travel can lead to wear and tear, or “friction” on the traveler, and in turn, cost companies.
Traveler satisfaction means different things depending on the travel manager and the industry they work in. However, most travel managers are in agreement when it comes just how important traveler satisfaction is. The topic was discussed in-depth at the 2017 Global Business Travel Association Convention on the panel “Tackling Traveler Satisfaction: True Stories From Travel Managers.” As panelist Michael Robertson, Vice President, Americas Sales and Account Management at Egencia explained, “Without traveler satisfaction, engagement, usage, governance, duty of care, data insight and analytics, and savings quickly lose their value.”
Skift, in conjunction with Egencia, recently conducted a survey of more than 60 corporate travel managers to learn more about the evolving business travel landscape and how traveler satisfaction fits in. Respondents opted into the survey via Skift’s Corporate Travel Innovation Report newsletter.
In the survey, 51 percent of travel managers agreed that improving traveler satisfaction has become a bigger priority in the past one to three years, compared to 36 percent who said it’s stayed the same, and 13 percent who believed it hasn’t become a major priority yet, but will in the future. Despite the growing focus on satisfaction, 45 percent of travel managers said that cost savings has been their biggest priority in the past one to three years, compared to the 25 percent of travel managers who said that traveler satisfaction was their biggest priority.
Also on the panel, Priscilla Campbell, Global Travel Manager at Akamai, explained how to best manage when a company’s focus on limiting travel expenses has the potential to impede satisfaction. She warns, “When faced with the need for cost reductions, discretionary and high cost travel naturally fall on the chopping block. This means you need to be prepared with creative alternatives and positive messaging and be focused on creating an optimistic narrative, if or when the tides change at your company.”
When it comes to the frustrations that might hinder traveler satisfaction, disrupted and delayed flights, along with inconvenient booking tools are the most common, according to the survey. While there’s not much that travel managers can do to control flight disruptions, many travel managers want the mobile tools they provide their travelers with to be better equipped to manage such situations. Ninety-two percent of travel managers agree or strongly agree that business travelers want to book or manage travel across all of their devices, while another 90 percent agree or strongly agree that business travelers want to do even more with their mobile phones, such as check into a hotel and rent a car.
Understanding that business travelers are not all one in the same is also key to help ensure traveler satisfaction. Carly Jones, Senior Manager of Global Travel and Events at David’s Bridal was also on the panel at GBTA, and emphasized this point. “One size does not fit all. You need to understand the unique needs of individual travelers. That means finding solutions to help the store manager who’s a single mom, who may feel that traveling for business is going to add a lot of stress to her life––as well as the executive who’s looking forward to a four-star hotel stay and getting points on his credit card.”
Improving traveler satisfaction while keeping costs in check is undoubtedly challenging, but as new tools and technologies become available to help empower business travelers throughout the entire travel journey, it’s becoming increasingly easier to eliminate friction. To learn more about how travel managers are achieving business traveler satisfaction and thinking about other issues top of mind, download the Skift Insights Deck: “Bringing Humanity Back to Business Travel.”
This content was created collaboratively by Egencia and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.