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

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

Your travelers are getting more tech savvy all the time. Many are now accustomed to the sites they use in their personal life 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. Travelers 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 traveler 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

Personalization should make the booking process easier. Travelers want to see a lot choice when it comes to booking hotels and transport, but as the content increases personalization 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 travelers less but more relevant options. Booking a hotel might then become a case of suggesting four hotels which you know match the traveler’s needs, preferences and booking pattern as well as being either below the rate cap or in the corporate hotel program.
If you know their most frequent destinations, you should be able to pick up the information to book their favorite 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 travelers and help them make a confident choice quickly.

It’s a win-win. Having preferences embedded in traveler profiles means travelers 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

Travelers 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 traveler experience and encourage compliance. A safe way is to make your travelers 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 personalization in a corporate travel program 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 personalization, you will need technology to understand the context around user behavior as it happens – e.g. a technology that understands that a travelers searches for a destination every week and based on that information give the traveler 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 travelers as individuals with different needs and tastes rather than all the same will improve their travel experiences and encourage compliant behavior which will save you time and the company money.