Online booking tools can make or break a corporate travel program’s ability to meet savings goals, increase duty of care compliance and improve traveler experiences. But OBT success requires smart strategy.
BCD Travel’s Juan Perez, a business travel industry veteran who’s guided dozens of companies toward better online booking adoption, offers a few best practices for OBTs:
1. Make simplicity the standard.
“It’s important for travel managers to understand their travelers are comparing corporate booking tools to the retail sites they use to book vacations. An online booking tool has got to be easy to use,” Perez said. “If it’s not, you won’t get the compliance you want.”
2. Test drive.
Travel managers and their teams spend months planning online booking tool implementation. They also should spend some time using it. “If a feature doesn’t seem intuitive, talk to your travel management company about how other clients simplify it for their travelers. Incorporate those good ideas, and then give your OBT another test drive,” Perez advised.
3. Conduct an OBT audit
Conduct an OBT audit every 12 to 18 months—and every time you upgrade technology—to identify bottlenecks. That’s the best way to make sure your OBT is keeping up with consumer travel sites’ standards for ease of use.
4. Create templates.
Determine the three to five locations where your employees go most often, and create trip templates that include air, hotel, ground transportation, even recommended restaurants. That saves travelers time and ensures their bookings comply with your company travel policy. (Check out how Daimler created a three-click-trip process to make booking easier for travelers and drive savings.)
5. Spotlight the savings.
“If your company doesn’t have a mandating culture, simply telling employees they must comply with travel policy may not work,” Perez said. Instead, let them know how much they’ll help the company save by booking online—at the moment they’re booking—which can influence their behavior. “Such point-of-sale information can be very persuasive. Some of our clients have seen online adoption climb as much as 70% after sharing these costs with travelers,” he said.
6. Offer non-travel alternatives.
“Adding virtual collaboration options alongside trip information in your OBT can help cut travel costs and improve employees’ work-life balance,” Perez said. It’s an especially effective alternative for internal meetings; one client saved US$5.5 million in just five months using virtual collaboration.
7. Understand traveler behavior.
Use your travel program data, including reason codes, to understand why travelers step outside of policy. BCD’s DecisionSource® program management platform enables a variety of reports that provide insights on how travelers’ decisions affect your program. If travelers aren’t using your OBT because they lack confidence that your corporate program offers the best hotel rates and airfares, promote your use of Hotel Price Assurance and Air Price Assurance solutions, both rolling out as core solutions for BCD Travel clients.
8. Engage and influence travelers.
Do your reports show areas of your company just aren’t getting with the OBT program? Use Traveler Engagement strategies to raise awareness of your online booking tool, show employees how easy it is to use and remind them to book online. “An engagement campaign that uses pop-up messages in your online booking tool and mobile reminders via traveler apps like BCD’s TripSource® can really drive change,” Perez said.