As demand for personalised experiences and autonomy creeps into our professional lives, Axita Bhalsod, vice president of analytics and data science of Egencia, discusses how data is the key to tapping into how your employees want to travel
Guest Post: Why business travellers matter too
The pent-up desire to travel after the pandemic and the increasing levels of disruption, have caused an industry shift – travellers want more control over how and when they travel, even if it is for work.
Everyone is unique, but in similar ways
Through the Egencia B2B travel tech management platform, we are starting to see our customers use employee feedback data to offer more personalised corporate travel programmes. Business trips are not vacations, but in a tumultuous hiring market employers need to ensure their teams are thoughtfully engaged with their jobs beyond when they’re sat at their desks.
If someone loves to travel for work and doesn't feel like they're on the road enough, you’re at risk of losing that employee. Similarly, if someone is finding travelling stressful and overwhelming, they might leave for a more home-based role. You need to be able to identify these two very different perspectives and cater for them both – and data from historical journeys and feedback can help achieve this.
Analysing this data, which is often in the form of thousands of lines of unstructured data such as emails and chat content, is now possible with the use of AI and predictive analytics. AI lets you cluster different data sets to start building a comprehensive view of who your business travellers are and what they care about. For example, someone who goes back and forth to the same city for day trips across the year will have different needs than someone who travels every month to different cities and stays for multiple nights even though they would both be deemed road warriors.
Businesses know that travel is enjoyable for some but influences employee stress and fatigue for others, however without clear metrics it's hard to know what changes might help. We therefore designed the Wellbeing Dashboard to give customers the data they need to design a wellbeing-conscious travel policy.
A new way of doing things in a new world
In addition to identifying the types of business travellers in your organisation, you also need to understand their travel preferences. For example, since the pandemic, 86% of travel actions (e.g. booking, changing schedules, approving requests etc.) taken by our customers have been done online through the Egencia platforms rather than offline with an agent.
As well as making it easier for business travellers to control their own trips, businesses can meet the new expectations of their travellers by using live and historical booking and feedback data to make three key changes:
- Identify how painful or enjoyable the booking process is for a business trip is by scrutinising their experience while planning and participating in a trip. Egencia’s data lake is 100% owned by us (which is quite unusual in the sector) and we get feedback from travellers at multiple touchpoints. Using AI and machine learning to carry out cognitive sentiment analysis of this feedback loop gives our customers unique, actionable insights into any high and low points they can choose to dial up or address.
- Offer inventory which is changeable or cancellable. AI can considerably reduce the time spent searching for hotels and flights which can be easily changed, something we know is important since everyone got used to COVID disruption. 86% of the properties available to book through our platform have rate plans with a 24h or less cancellation policy.
- Avoid the headaches of travel disruption. AI allows us to do this at scale in seconds by clustering historical data with third party data such as weather patterns, to see where disruption is likely to occur. And if it does, having the functionality to give travellers live updates, automatically cancel, and rebook their flight or hotel, and having 24/7 access to a travel counsellor who knows your customers, all go a long way to smoothing the bumpy road of a disrupted journey.
Understanding your business travellers is critical to ensure you don’t lose vital talent across the business, and data analysis and AI can help us understand the more human side of our travelers and improve their experience. On the face of it, it is a complex landscape of data and insights, but tapping into the data capability of your TMC offers a real opportunity to gain a competitive edge and can often be done in just a few clicks.