Vinegar vs. Honey

You’ve run the numbers, you’ve cut the deals, you’ve created the perfect travel program for your company. Now how do you get all your employees to obey the rules?

It's a tough question, whether you’re trying to boost online adoption, advance purchase, preferred supplier use, or some other element of a program. Your strategy will depend on your corporate culture and your C-Suite buy-in. But we’ve polled our Account Management team for their top-of-mind go-to ideas to encourage program compliance to get you started. These solutions run the gamut – some are more suitable for smaller programs; some work for hundreds of thousands of travelers.

And what it all boils down to is: do you believe you can catch more flies with honey? Or do you prefer the effective cleaning power of all-natural vinegar?

Be Sweet to Your Travelers

Soft-sell ideas to encourage program compliance

1. Gamification

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and SNAP, the job’s a game!” - Mary Poppins

Be like Mary Poppins. Svetlana Levicheva, a Global Account Manager who oversees a handful of sprawling-networked larger accounts, suggested this idea. “Gamification is still big. Offer a reward or recognition to the department that achieves the highest adoption.” This option can help build intradepartmental camaraderie, and can be an effective way to begin teaching new habits to your travelers. Because #PeerPressure

2. Advertising

Kim Nye, Account Manager for a health care company, prefers a more proactive method. Her account includes repeat travelers, contracted travelers, and conference attendees, so she works with her team to regularly disperse information about preferred vendors. Who should travelers book with, and what are the perks that come with selecting that vendor? Kim has information that is given to every new employee and every traveler who’ll book through and be reimbursed by the company, advertising preferred vendors and providing links and information to rewards programs.

3. Please Hold

It’s not easy to get peoples’ attention these days, and nobody likes to wait. Angie Westfall, Account Manager and resident data-crunching guru, kills two birds with one stone for some of her accounts. She updates the “hold music” on the agents’ line with a custom recording that advises travelers about preferred vendors and the option (or preference) to book online.

4. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

No, that’s not your 3-year-old; It’s your agent collecting data. Rochelle Graeff, longtime Account Manager, suggests using the power of WorldQC™ to set up scripts in the booking process. These scripts will cue the agent to ask a traveler for information to build travel data and (hehe) guilt the traveler. Booking less than 14 days in advance? You need to supply a reason. Not picking the lowest fare or a preferred airline? You need to supply a reason. Changing a reservation? Why? Reason codes don’t need to be restrictive, but they can help you learn your travelers’ behavior trends and preferences so that you can better optimize your program.

5. OBT Optimization

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” - Steve Jobs

Technology is a tool, so use it to make your life – and your travelers’ lives – easier. Account Manager Andy Tellers advises, “Sometimes policy enforcement gets pushback. You can optimize your online booking tool to prioritize compliant travel options, like preferred vendors or refundable tickets or completely removing Basic Economy Class fares."

6. Good Old Fashioned Bribery

It can be extremely effective to blatantly pander to your travelers’ baser instincts. Hold something shiny in front of them, and then tell them they get to hold the shiny thing if they obey. Classic quid pro quo, pre-school style. We’ve heard of rewards that run the gamut – from a traveler being able to redeem corporate soft dollars for a personal vacation, to getting a prime parking spot during the winter months.

They’re Employees, Not Children

No-nonsense solutions to enforcing program compliance

7. Top Three Via OBT

Tamara Chomnuk is a Global Account Manager who oversees large, multi-national accounts with huge travel footprints. She recommends her softest compliance-building tactic. “You should know your top three city pairs. Tell your travelers (and your agents) that all bookings made between your top three city pairs must be completed through the online booking tool. Your Concur OBT has cloning capabilities; Deem calls it ‘book again’. These built-in capabilities make it simple to book similar trips again and again and again.”

8. Hard-Stop Approvals

More in the vein of optimizing technology, enabling hard-stop approvals on non-compliant bookings is a tough but effective strategy. WorldApprovals™ can catch out-of-program bookings (for example, over a certain cost threshold) and require approval before they are ticketed.

Learn About WorldApprovals

9. Mandate

“The buck stops here.”
-Harry S. Truman

Mandate. It’s a scary word, but many of our travel managers use it. The most effective way to cut costs, track data, and ensure traveler safety, is to require travelers to book through your TMC in compliance with your (not random and not optional) travel policy. You’ve done your job to create an effective travel program, and they need to abide by it. You just need to make this crystal clear in as many ways as possible. And you'll need to be the tough guy.

10. Don’t Reimburse

Anne Probst, Account Manager for an investment firm, offered the toughest and most effective way to encourage program compliance: Don’t reimburse travelers who book outside of the program. We recommend having major C-Suite buy-in before enforcing this, and clearly defining who your VIP travelers are. You may even want to use some of the suggestions above to soften the blow and encourage voluntary compliance.

Start Simple

We tapped Mary Barbagallo, our Global Project Management Team Lead, who oversees implementations. This is a woman who knows her stuff, but is the nicest girl you’ll ever meet. Her advice? Start simple.

“Gain acceptance to the program first, particularly if you’re changing TMCs or your policy. You never want to make so many changes that your travelers feel their discomfort is because of the TMC. You’ll end up with less support and compliance.

“For example, if you never had a threshold for hotels and people were used to being able to book whatever they like, consider a higher-than-optimal threshold – maybe $250/night – and capture the reasons your travelers need higher rates. Then use the data to make informed decisions moving forward.”

So whether you prefer honey or vinegar to catch your flies, just remember how to boil a frog.

Have a suggestion for encouraging travel program compliance? Let us know in the comments below!

Chesley Turner

Written by Chesley Turner