Personalization has been a feature of the consumer market for years now, and it's finally becoming more important within commercial offerings. In the business travel space, personalized options have the power to improve policy compliance, increase traveler satisfaction and engagement metrics, and influence the way travelers book air, ground transportation and lodging.
Personalization impacts the travel program in many ways
Personalization isn’t limited to any specific part of the travel program. In fact, tailored solutions impact travel programs in many key ways.
Business travelers book outside company policy for many reasons, and it is possible for employees to want travel options that aren't readily available to them through authorized channels. If corporate-approved booking tools don't allow travelers to gain extra bonus points through their preferred loyalty programs, for example, they may end up using a third-party tool so they can. Travel managers can leverage personalization options to reduce the rate of off-policy bookings. For example, say travelers routinely book hotels outside the established policy to stay closer to their meeting venues. The traveler arranger could make a note in each traveler's profile, indicating the maximum distance from a meeting location each traveler prefers.
Personalization must address current bottlenecks within the existing travel program. Here's an example: Let's say an employee has stayed at the same hotel for the past 10 trips to a city. On the next trip, a different hotel costs $20 less. Is it worth it to change the traveler's routine to save $20? Or is the money worth it to keep the traveler happy? Creating a rules-based system that takes into account traveler preferences can ensure employees receive personalized experiences when appropriate. In this case, the travel manager could establish a rule that the employee will stay in his or her preferred hotel, unless it costs more than a certain percentage above an established threshold.
To be truly effective, personalization efforts must be transparent. Privacy is a major concern for travelers and personalization solutions may force them to give up more information than they are comfortable with. Also, now that GDPR is in effect, data protection and privacy is more important than ever. The more transparent your efforts are, the less likely travelers will be surprised by a privacy concern. Travel managers should communicate to travelers how their information will be used and who will have access to it.
Personalization from vendors
Increasingly, travel suppliers are offering their own personalization solutions. Airlines and hotel brands are developing new solutions for business travelers based on what they've learned from the consumer space.
Earlier in 2018, Delta announced it had added a communication tool to its Delta Edge suite, giving travel managers the power to add their company name to messaging pushed to corporate travelers. Meanwhile, travelers will receive notification when they have complimentary access to preferred seating and priority boarding options. Beginning in November, Delta will also offer personal websites detailing available benefits to its corporate partners, which buyers can use to inform travelers of amenities available when booking through Delta.
Similarly, United Airlines is developing a new app that will help its employees to provide personalized experiences to customers. The app could allow flight attendants to see exactly who is located in each seat and what their in-flight preferences are.
Various hotel brands are partnering with Amazon to include Alexa personal assistants in rooms. Integrating with existing amenities and services, this new offering gives guests the ability to interact with concierge services via voice. For instance, if a guest needs new towels, he or she can ask Alexa rather than phoning the front desk. As Alexa learns new skills, the digital assistant may be able to give travelers personalized recommendations for nearby restaurants and local points of interest.
Likewise, hotel brands are taking personalization into their own hands. For example, Hilton is beginning to offer customers the ability to skip the front-desk check-in with a new app. The app allows users to unlock their room door with their smartphone. Additional features, such as requests for in-room exercise equipment are also made possible through the app.
Personalization options are likely to become more ubiquitous as technology costs come down and traveler expectations shift. Travel managers who partner with a travel management company can find tailored solutions that address their unique needs. One of the ways technology is enabling more personalization is through AI. Want to learn more about the role of AI in business travel management? Check out our Navigator blog post: