Why do buyers choose their booking tools?
According to the Business Travel News 2022 Online Booking Tool Guide, the top three reasons are: 1. User-friendliness, 2. Compatibility, 3. Customization.
That’s also a great summary of what we learned from Karoline Mayr from Get Travel Solutions, Wendy Prewitt of Areka Consulting and the esteemed travel manager panel at BTN’s recent “Sourcing a Booking Tool” workshop.
User-friendliness is key. As Karoline explained, business travelers (particularly the pesky younger ones – my comment, not hers) are used to the one-click experience of Amazon that they use every day, the consumer-grade that the Delta and United Airlines and Kayak apps deliver when they shop on for personal travel. Connecting the dots, Concur’s market share has dropped from 70% to 50%, maybe losing some ground to corporate booking tools that deliver faster booking with more choice for bookers, that deliver easier customization and clearer reporting for travel managers.
How do you know whether your booking tool is user-friendly? Ask your users – ask them what they want before you source a booking tool, ask them how they like it once they’re using it.
Compatibility is essential – compatibility with a company’s travel policies and approach to travel, compatibility with expense systems that integrate tightly with companies’ accounting and control systems. Wendy dug into compatibility, contrasting “open systems” – a booking tool that works with different TMCs or with different expense systems (like Deem or GetThere) – vs. “closed” or “all-in-one” that provide both booking and traveler service (like AmTrav!) or booking and expense (like Concur) in one package.
Connecting compatibility back to user-friendliness, lots of different users need compatibility. Travelers rely on compatibility to get consistent travel search results or itinerary records between different apps (a TMC app vs. a booking tool app vs. an airline or hotel app), travel managers and finance teams and expense providers rely on compatibility to get accurate, automatically-updated expenses and receipts from their travel tools into their expense and accounting systems (like AmTrav does with Emburse partners). Consistent, accurate data between tools is essential, otherwise you’ll spend thankless hours correcting data every week.
Finally customization. Karoline recommended a great way to learn the truth about a booking tool’s customization abilities (because, let’s be honest, every booking tool will say “yes we do!” when you ask about customization).
Ask for a demo!
Ask the booking tool to show you a live example – updating travel policies, integrating with different ERP, HR or expense systems, etc. – to prove that it’s real. This will help you determine whether the customization capability is real, or it's the dreaded “product development” – they may ask you to pay up and wait indefinitely if it’s “product development.” (Suffice to say you should use your best procurement skills to get that “product development” cost and timeline in writing before you sign a multi-year contract, with some painful penalties or an out clause if they can’t deliver an essential feature!)
Speaking of cost, cost is customizable as well until you sign a contract. There could be implementation fees, training fees, transaction fees, subscription fees, account management fees, pass-through fees, content fees. Make sure you understand the full costs and what those get you before you sign – and if it’s not clear, look for a simpler pricing offer.
Bonus learning #4: Carmen from Alight spoke to the value of hiring a consultant when sourcing a booking tool. The consultant can help you stay focused on your goal while also keeping an open mind – not falling in love with one provider – along with sharing their expertise and helping you ask the right questions.
Phew! That was a lot, just like picking the right booking tool is a big decision. It was a great afternoon with our friends and the BTN team, can’t wait to see you next time!