Despite huge growth in travel planning technology – from booking engines, to flight comparison sites, to expense-tracking apps and more – it seems one of the key trends in business travel in 2019 will be…wait for it…the human touch.
While it’s true that travel apps are making planning increasingly user-friendly, especially in the consumer travel field, when it comes to business travel, several different issues are at play.
Last-minute meetings, spur-of-the-moment plan changes and the need for flexibility make business travel an entirely different beast to leisure travel, and while business travellers have typically embraced technology to make their booking, check-in and transport plans run smoothly, there’s a definite need to balance the technology with genuine, hands-on human service.
This is because the needs of corporate travellers are constantly changing, and smart business travel organisations should focus on striking a balance between providing automation when it’s convenient; and switching to in-person service when required – however, determining the difference is a major part of the challenge.
At Goldman Group, we’ve seen growing demand for a ‘return to humanity,’ with frequent business travellers weary and frustrated by robotic customer service agents, bag checks and automated emails advising of flight delays and cancellations.
In fact, a recent study found that even so-called ‘super travellers’ – the tech-savvy group who are early adopters of all the latest tech travel tools, just want to be helped by a ‘human’ when unforeseen issues arise, as tackling certain issues on a mobile device can be incredibly frustrating – and highly time-consuming.
Our clients constantly tell us that dealing with an experienced agent offers advantages tech-based travel tools can’t compete with, such as room upgrades, late check-out and complimentary breakfasts. In fact, 58% of respondents in the Goldman Group’s Australian Luxury Traveller 2019 survey stated that a face-to-face travel advisor is their preferred method of booking.
In addition to this, a 2018 report on business travel found that more than 80% of corporate travellers felt they were left to fend for themselves when something went wrong, with only 12% stating they are comfortable with using an automated service when ‘having problems’ with their trip. Alarmingly, just 8% stated that their travel advisor proactively reached out when plans changed unexpectedly, with ‘lack of in-the-moment support’ mentioned as a key issue for business travellers.
If this is the current state of play in the industry – then we must do better. An employee who is distracted, stressed, frustrated and wasting time trying to re-arrange travel isn’t an employee performing at their best, and the subsequent business costs, both actual and in terms of morale are significant.
Now I can’t speak for other travel groups, but at Goldman we’ve always strongly believed in the power of the personal touch for our clients. Whether that’s coordinating on-board ‘care package’ gifts for clients on long-haul flights with inclusions such as face mist and champagne – something we recently did for a company group flying to a conference in Chicago – or just always ensuring we are available in the moment when issues arise to provide a speedy solution. Our service begins with travel planning but doesn’t end until the client has returned home from their trip and walked through their front door at home. We believe in a full end-to-end service – whatever that may entail, and that is something an app can’t provide!
- 10 Business Travel Trends for 2019, Skift and TripActions
Goldman Group The Australian Luxury Traveller 2019
2018 State of Business Travel Report, TripActions