Driving policy compliance and generating savings are among the biggest challenges for travel managers. But building the best business travel program will never be enough if your travelers don’t buy it. To reach your objectives, you may have thought about implementing gamification and incentivization. But can rewarding good (compliant) behavior deliver you the cost and compliance outcomes that you are looking for?
Let’s start with definitions:
- Gamification is the adaptation of a task so that it takes on the form of a game
- Incentivization is the act of providing incentives to make something more attractive
Common incentivization programs include carrots to reward travelers with financial compensation, vouchers or gifts for booking the cheaper travel option.
In May 2018, Teresa Matheson, managing director at Egencia in Australia, participated in a panel at GBTA, on the topic “Beating the Rebels using Gamification.” But are your business travelers rebels that need to be disciplined? Do they even know they are rebels or is it because they cannot find an answer to their needs in your travel program? Before choosing the carrot, think about what your travelers really want to eat.
Have you ever thought of all consequences to incentivization?
Productivity: Traveling for business is tiring. Don’t you think traveling in good conditions (access to a business lounge, direct flights) can help business travelers be efficient while on the go?
Safety and security: Traveling cheap can lead to risky behaviors and situations like booking a hotel in an unsafe area or traveling at night in some cities. Would you risk that for your travelers?
Fairness: Not all your employees travel. How will you justify that some colleagues earn a lot more money because they do? And how do you reward the travel arrangers?
Tax: Rewards count as taxable income. Who pays that tax? How is it calculated? Who does the calculation?
Data relevance: Savings are not only about the difference between two prices. Do you know the cost of one hour spent looking for the best price instead of working? Have you anticipated the additional expenses (ground transportation, breakfasts) and the surcharge for last-minute flight changes? Could you face an increasing number of unnecessary business trips?
Image and HR: Your travel policy reflects your HR positioning and can be a good selling point for new recruits. Is a policy encouraging savings over comfort and safety what you want to promote?
Durability: Gamification and incentivization are not one-shot campaigns. Once launched, how will you move back to a more traditional situation? Will your rebels adhere to this policy in the long term or will you face opportunistic behaviors instead?
What is it you want to make more attractive with incentivization in your travel program?
1) Your booking tool: Your TMC should set you up for success
> Ensure you’ve got a booking tool that works for your travelers
Sixty-six percent of business travelers would like to book or manage travel across any device — they look for multi-device and user-friendly solutions to find the info they need when they need it. If your current TMC doesn’t provide you with this level of technology, can it? If not, incentivization won’t last and it will never be scalable to all your travelers.
> Ensure you’ve got access to a solid inventory and competitive rates
Maverick buying can also be the consequence of travelers not finding a specific hotel or finding cheaper elsewhere. Have you benchmarked your TMC’s supply with other service providers? Have you shared the information of a missing hotel with your account manager? There might be an explanation there.
Regarding the pricing, dare to compare prices. Do you know if your TMC offers negotiated rates including valuable services for your business travelers (breakfast, free Wi-Fi, flexibility or free cancellation policy)? Have you ever thought about negotiating rates with some hotels or airlines? Raise the point with your TMC and see how they can help.
> Ensure your travelers personalize their profile
Window seats, discount memberships, and loyalty points are recurrent and important topics for business travelers and their arrangers. You should make sure they can access and personalize their profile to add all their travel preferences and loyalty cards.
2) Your travel policy: Make sure it still fits your organization
Non-compliance can also reflect that your travel policy is outdated and does not fit your travelers’ needs nor your company’s culture. According to the 3rd edition of the Travel and Tech study (2016), only 38% of travelers say their policy meets their needs very well.
If your travel policy is what you want to make more attractive, start fresh and follow the trends. Think about allowing booking on mobile, including sharing economy (Uber, HomeAway), offer flexibility and personalization, and consider comfort. And don’t forget to onboard your travelers and your TMC for a travel policy review to make sure everyone has a vote. Then convince your executives by focusing on data to support your case.
Finally, communicate. Share and explain the importance of policy compliance. And if you still have undisciplined travelers, get in touch with your TMC to set up an approval process within your booking tool and make sure your travel policy is loaded there.
At Egencia, we believe that a fair travel policy supported by an innovative TMC, teams (account managers, travel consultants, developers) and technology is worth twice the value of any carrot.
Want to find out more about empowering employees with business travel? Read our white paper, What growth hackers know about business travel.