The partnering role between travel management companies and their corporate clients won’t change significantly in the near future. But how TMCs deliver products and services will be dramatically different. That’s the look ahead BCD Travel President and Chief Executive Officer John Snyder offered during a recent teleconference hosted by The Company Dime.
In the hour-long question-and-answer session, Snyder outlined evolutionary forces that are shaping tomorrow’s business travel landscape. Common themes: technology, data and talent.
Mobile tools will be essential for every business traveler and, therefore, every company that sends them on the road, Snyder said. “Mobile started as an itinerary management tool, but it’s migrated far beyond that.”
BCD envisions mobile as a full-service platform—a communications line tethering travelers to their companies and corporate programs and a point of sale for trip-related products and services. The TMC is already heading that direction with its TripSource® platform, which lets travelers access detailed itineraries, book hotels, receive risk and disruption alerts and get relevant offers for trip-related purchases, such as in-program car services.
“Our goal is to drive a higher level of service and a much more engaged traveler” who’ll feel fully connected to the corporate program, Snyder said. He noted that mobile is crucial to an omnichannel strategy that connects travelers to the TMC via phone, online portal, email, text—any channel they choose.
End-to-end program management
Technology advancements also are enabling TMCs to move beyond travel management to end-to-end program management. “There’s been a lot of talk about end-to-end through the years,” Snyder said, “but it’s finally coming to fruition.”
U.S. food and beverage giant Kellogg and BCD Travel launched an end-to-end reinvention of Kellogg’s North American travel program last year. Onsite agents now support the entire booking-to-expense cycle, offering travelers a technology-enhanced, integrated experience. Kellogg’s travelers are happier, and the end-to-end efficiencies helped the company achieve a 13% drop in net cost per trip mile.
The “Amazon effect”
BCD is using big data as a tool to drive better business decisions for corporate customers and for its own operations, i.e., “the Amazon effect.” The TMC is using data analysis to detect travelers’ preferences and patterns. That allows personalization—a “tailored solution” capable of influencing travelers’ spending and easing their trip experience, Snyder said.
BCD’s consulting arm, Advito, is building the strategy into advisory offerings. For example, its new practice group, Demand and Behavior Management, will help companies choose and use technology tools that support retailer-style behavioral economics tactics. The aim is to guide travelers toward better purchasing decisions for themselves and their employers.
Finding and retaining talent
“I’ve been vocal that we need to do a better job of promoting our industry and bringing fresh talent into our industry,” Snyder said. “If you look at the average age in our industry, it creeps up every year. In some corporations, it’s nearing the high 40s as the average age.” His message to the industry: It’s time to act.
BCD’s efforts include agent training programs; a Management Associate Program in partnership with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives; collaboration with Women in Travel (WINiT); and partnershps with local universities and workforce development agencies across its global operations.
The company is constantly hunting for one essential skill—a knack for providing service that can boost travelers’ trip experiences. “We are really looking for people with strong and deep customer service skills,” Snyder said. “We can train them on everything else.”
BCD’s focus on training helps the TMC retain good employees, as does its focus on building a better workplace and corporate social responsibility, Snyder said. The company has earned recognition for both. Forbes has repeatedly placed BCD on its list of top U.S. employers. Sustainability rating firm EcoVadis gave BCD a gold rating for its CSR efforts—making it the first TMC to earn EcoVadis gold.
“One thing we’ve learned very clearly is that the generation coming up wants to work for a company that cares and gives back to the community,” Snyder said. “It has a huge impact on our recruiting and retention. I think there are a lot of people who come to BCD because they see that we put more effort into workforce development and CSR than much of our competition.”
Listen to a recording of the teleconference ($10 fee) for more of Snyder’s perspectives on company and industry topics, including American Airlines’ new distribution capability (NDC), British Airways/Iberia GDS surcharge, TMC non-standard process surcharges and the recent Sabre-SynXis security incident.