With proper care and feeding your online booking tool can be a powerful asset for program compliance and traveler satisfaction
By David Smith, BTE Think Tank
Over time my online booking tool content strategy continues to evolve to keep pace with the capabilities of the tools, the vendor products offered, enhancements to travel policy, and the need to communicate better with the users. All of those things are ever-changing, and developments in one area can affect all the others.
At a high level that means reviewing the booking site quarterly, with lots of tweaking in between. My goal is to stay on top of what the OBT can do to guide the traveler, not just to make the best pricing decision, but to make choices that will help the employee be most successful on the trip. I review reporting on our top routes and destinations, engaging with vendors who can best supply products to meet our corporate needs and goals.
For example, if a preferred airline has changed their schedules or pricing on a principal route, obviously there has to be a change in how it may be weighted in the booking tool. It may even call for a change to the market share agreed upon with the carrier.
A regular check can also turn up anomalies like non-preferred hotels rate-squatting, non-refundable rates showing up, or unsafe locations sneaking their way in to the OBT where you don’t want them. I meet with our booking tool reps frequently to see how their enhancements can guide the user to the right decision, to avoid the dreaded “YOUR SELECTION IS OUT OF POLICY” message – especially when the only reason is because the right content wasn’t available to select in the first place.
I always try to make agreements with vendors who have something to offer the traveler personally which he or she cannot get when booking outside my travel program. I’m happy to see corporate travel vendors finally embracing this kind of incentive because it helps drive value to my program.
Having these opportunities won’t do any good if the traveler doesn’t know about them. Therefore it’s critical to use all the messaging capabilities available in your OBT to help the traveler discover these opportunities and make the most of them – and when they do, it helps you meet your program goals as well.
The last thing to consider is the look and messaging in your OBT; it has to be kept fresh and current. If the site hasn’t been updated with new content, offers, important communication regularly, the user becomes accustomed to the same old thing and is less likely to engage in the process. Remember, when you are doing your own personal shopping online, the sites you frequent always have new ads and products to catch your attention. A corporate travel site should mimic that experience