Predicting the success of your online booking tool starts with one simple question: Is it easy to use?
“Simplicity is the most important factor driving corporate online booking tool adoption,” says Juan Perez, vice president of Global Business Solutions for BCD Travel. “It’s important for travel managers to understand their travelers are comparing corporate OBTs to the retail sites they use to book vacations. A corporate site has got to be easy.”
Perez offers a few best practices—and real-world examples—for ensuring your company’s online booking tool meets the standard for simplicity.
Test drive and audit. Travel managers and their teams spend months planning for the implementation of an online booking tool. 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. Conduct an audit every 12 to 18 months—and every time you upgrade technology—to identify bottlenecks and make sure your OBT is keeping up with consumer travel sites’ standards for ease of use.
Create templates. Determine the three to five locations where your employees go most often and create one-click 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.
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 advises. Instead, let them know how much they’ll 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 says. “The key is making it easy for travelers to see the savings.”
Understand travelers’ behavior. Require travelers to give a reason when they book outside the online tool or otherwise step outside of policy. You can make it simple for them by offering a menu of “reason codes” for them to choose from. Use these codes and your travel management company’s data to understand why travelers aren’t booking online. Then address those issues to ramp up adoption.
Address noncompliance. Are areas of your company just not getting with the OBT program? Create reports that clearly show how noncompliance is hurting their bottom line. “For example, if one of your departments isn’t using the tool, give the head of the department easy-to-understand charts that demonstrate how much savings he’s losing—money that could be spent on resources that would benefit his team,” Perez says. “Depending on your company culture, you might generate regular department-by-department reports for your executive team that show the best and worst OBT adopters.”
OBT success stories
GlaxoSmithKline France asked BCD Travel for a user-friendly online tool that would let the pharmaceutical and health care company’s travelers plan and book their own trips within travel policy guideline, but with room for flexibility. BCD implemented a single-point-of-entry online booking tool that allowed travelers to search for information, make reservations and save trip notes. The result: Overall OBT adoption jumped to 84% in just three months.
BCD client Ingram Micro Europe wanted to reduce travel costs by boosting employees’ online bookings. BCD implemented an online tool customized to fit the global technology supplier’s travel compliance rules. In addition, BCD established a process for regularly assessing travel patterns and employee use of the tool. The result: A few months after OBT implementation, Ingram Micro’s online booking rates reached 95%, and the company cut travel booking service fees by a remarkable 78%.
A BCD client and major supplier to automobile manufacturers wanted to implement an online booking tool as part of a global consolidation. BCD’s global account manager worked alongside the German company’s travel manager to ensure the mission was communicated to travelers and the tool was implemented seamlessly market to market. The result: A globally aligned online strategy and an OBT adoption rate of more than 80% in most countries. The client now has better visibility into total travel spend.