Savvy business leaders know it’s not just about having access to data at their travel manager’s fingertips that’s important—it’s about deciphering business travel data, like business travel spending, a company’s travel policy compliance, as well as miscellaneous corporate travel expenses and travel costs to pinpoint a story. The story might reveal ways to further optimise a business travel programme, or it may uncover a roadblock that requires creative thinking to solve it. Either way, corporate travel data is key to furthering a successful business travel programme. Automated data collection and reporting have become more sophisticated in recent years—and this means customers have higher expectations about what information they receive, and how they apply the learnings to their travel programme in an evolving business travel industry. According to Deloitte, ‘To make the strongest data-driven decisions, you will need to analyse more than just the obvious data’.
There’s also an expectation that it should be accessible by all, meaning that it’s not necessary for a data analyst to hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to understanding business travel data. Travel managers should be empowered by the data to make informed decisions about their corporate travel programme—from air-travel-approved vendors to analysing departmental travel budgets, to something as simple as understanding the average business travel trip cost—and not be intimidated by facts and figures that are difficult to decipher. At Egencia, we’re committed to providing customers with the best platform, data and reporting that gives them what they need, when they need it.
The evolution of data and reporting in business travel
It’s no surprise that we have access to more data than ever before. The internet affords us the capability to connect, regardless of location. From booking travel on your desktop while in person at the office, or connecting to public WiFi at a coffee shop, to checking into your flight while on the road during a corporate trip—or rescheduling a missed connection while flying at 30,000 feet during a business trip—it’s easy to keep in touch virtually. Each of these interactions—and those completed offline, such as a phone call to customer service—offers an opportunity to learn.
For example, we recently embarked on a journey to transform our data platform to improve the technology customers know and love. Over the last two years specifically, we’ve been hard at work rethinking the traditional data management approach. Our goals are to:
- Establish a more robust data platform that delivers quality data in a timely manner.
- Bring forth more dynamic insights with richer datasets—beyond just bookings.
It’s a work in progress to reach a new level of data maturity. However, customers are already seeing benefits that include:
- Getting insights more quickly: booking event reporting is available for any product (airfare, rail, hotel and car hire), anywhere in the world, within an hour of booking.
- Continuous improvement of the product: we’re fuelling stronger machine learning models because we’re providing a richer dataset for artificial intelligence (AI) to make informed decisions.
- Better data quality: changes to the platform and process reduce the time and cost of addressing data concerns.
- Authority over the data: users can be more agile and self-sufficient when adding or changing data that matters most.
Unfortunately, not all travel management companies can offer their travel managers these benefits. Many organisations rely on third-party companies that own their tech stack, so it’s not possible to see all the business travel data. This isn’t ideal because companies will have limited authority over what data is captured and made available to them. At Egencia, our tech stack is entirely ours and data management is done in house.
So, what does this mean for corporate travel managers?
Give meaning to the data to improve the customer experience
Because we have access to great business travel data, we’ve seen a significant shift in client expectations for an increasingly automated and personalised experience. As business travellers experience these services in other areas of life (online retail, intentional advertisements, etc.), and the benefits they bring, they look to business travel providers to do the same. To meet these expectations, travel management companies have to adopt a data programme that unlocks the potential for personalisation and automation to meet these emerging industry trends.
Companies that own the tech stack—like Egencia—have full autonomy over data management across the entire business travel experience, and can deliver on emerging client needs. Making the most out of the latest machine learning technologies enables us to analyse large volumes of data to identify patterns and insights that inform our recommendations and solutions.
From there, we can provide customised travel solutions for each individual client. For example, we can employ ‘what if’ scenario modelling that uses data to look at what the impact of a given change might look like on a customer’s business travel programme. The scenario could be: if we increase policy compliance by 5 percent, what impact could this have on savings for the travel programme, and what are key opportunities that could drive an increase in policy compliance?
The data can tell a different story whichever way you slice it. So, it’s important to have clear goals for your travel programme. Whether focusing on corporate travel policy compliance, cost savings, sustainability, duty of care or a different initiative, having a result in mind will help you stay on track when digging through insights and recommendations for the programme. The best part is that the opportunities are endless with the right—and robust—data.
You can expect to see more in this space as we continue to enhance the product and invest in key areas, such as data science. Check out the video below to hear from Mark Hollyhead, President at Egencia and Chief Product Officer at American Express Global Business Travel, to learn about the tech and data driving innovation, and what’s important for the business travel industry at large.