The Netflix effect in business travel: How personalisation helps save cost and time

As a travel manager, you know that there are two customers in corporate travel: the company and the traveller and a successful travel programme means both are happy. Personalisation can help make it happen.

Your travellers are getting more tech savvy all the time. Many are now accustomed to the sites they use in their personal life holding information about them and knowing their preferences and they expect the same convenience from the sites they use for work. Companies like Netflix are experts at understanding an individual’s preferences. What is expected in someone’s personal life, can often surpass what a company’s travel policy allows and a company’s corporate travel technology offers. Travellers turn into consumers that seek to go beyond the generic booking experience, to one that truly engages their individual needs.

Different work-related databases already hold elements of personal data. For example, the Passenger Name Record in the Global Distribution System (GDS PNR) or your Travel Management Company’s booking tool will contain personal information such as passport number, country and expiry date and airline frequent flyer profiles hold meal and seat preferences when a traveller books a trip. But going beyond that and looking at the context of an individual’s booking pattern, is where the magic happens.

The right choice vs too much choice

Personalisation should make the booking process easier. Travellers want to see a lot choice when it comes to booking hotels and transport, but as the content increases personalisation is important so that the customer is not overwhelmed. In a corporate environment, this can come down to savings in productivity and, of course, money – how much time and money can be saved by giving travellers less but more relevant options. Booking a hotel might then become a case of suggesting four hotels which you know match the traveller’s needs, preferences and booking pattern as well as being either below the rate cap or in the corporate hotel programme.
If you know their most frequent destinations, you should be able to pick up the information to book their favourite property quickly. Or if your employees stay regularly in a specific hotel near your office or off site, your booking site should indicate this for new travellers and help them make a confident choice quickly.

It’s a win-win. Having preferences embedded in traveller profiles means travellers will have quick and easy access to what they want and the company has compliance – and savings. You might ask that if there is such an obvious win-win, what could be obstacles to consider?

Finding a balance between sharing data and privacy

Travellers will share more personal information if they can see a benefit but this has to be balanced with the need to respect privacy and comply with any existing regulations about holding personal data. For example, knowing someone’s religion might help with special meal requests but it also could lead to charges of collecting data for more sinister reasons and in many cases would be against the law. The laws governing what can and what cannot be done vary from country to country and can’t be changed by a company. However, there are no impediments to you having technology tools which will improve the traveller experience and encourage compliance. A safe way is to make your travellers aware of the benefits of adding data to your online booking tools, but leave the final decision of how much they would like to share to them.

Having the right tools in place

Whilst the willingness to increase personalisation in a corporate travel programme is important, you will also need the right technology in place to do so. Setting up custom policies for different user groups is already used broadly. Or using filters to adapt your search for flights is available through online TMCs. For true personalisation, you will need technology to understand the context around user behaviour as it happens – e.g. a technology that understands that a travellers searches for a destination every week and based on that information give the traveller relevant booking options. A user experience like that through online tools or apps can increase compliance and saves time and money.

The bottom line

As a travel manager you know that travel management should be about more than a one-size-fits-all booking process. Treating a company’s business travellers as individuals with different needs and tastes rather than all the same will improve their travel experiences and encourage compliant behaviour which will save you time and the company money.