What do business travellers really value?

By Nicole Adonis, GM FCM Travel Solutions

While most companies focus on bottom-line costs, the easiest to measure and understand, value will determine the health and well-being of a company in the long term. However, value is harder to measure and to understand.

According to a recent report by Bain & Company, an international management consultancy firm, most managers evaluate products and services on price and value. The report shows value is divided into four different categories and value can be either functional, emotional, life-changing and/or have social impact. What each consumer finds valuable depends not only on their personal preferences but the context in which the product or service is used.

Business travellers are not unlike standard consumers. Although they consider price when booking business travel arrangements, travellers will go rogue if they can find a choice outside travel policy stipulations that better meets their needs or an option that they perceive to be of more value.

The question is, what do business travellers deem valuable?

Guided by feedback from its Client Advisory Group, FCM Travel Solutions develops new concepts and features that offer value to business travellers by addressing their common pain points.

When 80% of travel managers showed interest in analysis around the effects of travel to their travellers, FCM used traveller analytics to benchmark the impact of travel on an employee.

The TMC gauged booking class preferences, flight times, low-cost carrier usage, single flight legs, travel over weekends and other metrics. FCM took the research a step further by considering what the cost increase implications would be on the company’s travel programme if new ideas around travellers’ welfare were implemented.

Often, Account Managers are asked to model specific programme enhancements that would make travellers happier and be valuable to them, for example, moving flights from economy to premium economy on heavily-travelled routes, the cost of a minimum standard of nightly hotel rates and improvements to car rental programmes.

FCM found that, in some instances, changing an element of the policy to give travellers greater allowances resulted in higher traveller satisfaction and created great value for business travellers, while cost increases to the programme were minimal.

FCM’s solution makes policy simulation easy, allowing clients to see what cost impact and traveller enhancement in a hypothetical scenario would entail. If these changes to the programme would be positive, it can then be implemented.

Around-the-clock support is another factor that ranges high on the list of traveller values. A study conducted by the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) found that business travel is often perceived to be lonely and impersonal, inconvenient and stressful. Other factors such as the business traveller’s personal circumstances, their level of travel experience, familiarity with the destination, the complexity of their travel itinerary or nature of the business trip may intensify the results.

The study concluded that the business traveller’s priority when travelling is to know that someone is available 24/7 to make it as painless, hassle-free and stress-free as possible.

Although the assistance of a human travel expert remains a non-negotiable, new user-friendly technology such as chatbots can help ease traveller friction further by giving business travellers real-time advice and in-trip suggestions around the clock. Whether it’s trying to find the best flight, the most convenient hotel or just knowing where to have dinner in a new city, a chatbot can go a long way in providing business travellers with the frictionless experience they crave.

Knowing what travelling employees value should be a company’s top priority, whether considering travel policy or another aspect of the business. Cost-cutting may save a company in the short term, but short-term thinking can result in long-term friction.