Corporate travel buyers are taking aim at the failure of most online booking tools to meet their needs. In a new survey fielded by the UK’s Institute of Travel Management, 45% of travel buyers said their corporate OBT wasn’t fit for purpose.
Historically, OBTs haven’t been well known for being innovative or user-friendly — that’s a key reason why we launched Zeno. What this new survey points to, though, is dissatisfaction with OBTs to meet the particular needs of business travel post-COVID.
Companies are looking for greater support and service from their travel management companies (TMCs) than they were before. A recent Global Business Travel Association study sponsored by Serko found that pre-pandemic only 9% of companies used a “high-touch” model where the booking process went through an agent instead of an online booking tool. Post-pandemic, that share jumped to 20% of companies using a high-touch model.
That elevated need for agent intervention is proving tricky for TMCs, which, like companies in other industries, are confronting labor shortages.
ITM CEO Scott Davies said “it could be argued that the online booking tool is more critical than ever” to bridge the gap between the needs of companies and the ability of TMCs to deliver enhanced service.
But that still leaves the gap in satisfaction for buyers between what they’d like their OBT to provide and what they’re actually getting from their technology partners. Here are three things buyers say they’ve got to have:
- New Distribution Capability (NDC) content.
The International Air Transport Association’s NDC content standards were created to open up more choices for travelers by providing airlines with greater retailing flexibility than what’s been possible through traditional distribution channels.
This flexibility and opportunity for choice are what buyers want — NDC content ranked among the top five capabilities buyers said they desired in their OBT. Yet, only one-quarter of respondents said they were satisfied with the NDC content available through their current tool.
- CO2 information and sustainability reports.
Travel programs were already trending toward greener decision-making prior to COVID-19. Now, with dire warnings from the IPCC and other environmental groups, as well as a rise in environmental pledges from companies around the globe, sustainability has never been more important to travel buyers.
In the survey, better CO2 information (by aircraft cabin, hotels, comparison of air to rail) and sustainability aspects/reports were both among the top five demands from buyers. Still, only half were satisfied with how their OBT performed in these areas.
- Better listening from OBT partners.
This may seem like a small ask — after all, the customer’s always right, right? Not so when it comes to most OBTs, according to ITM buyers.
Three-quarters of ITM’s 61 buyer respondents said they didn’t feel that their needs were being understood and proactively addressed by their technology partners. The ITM noted that this dissatisfaction also extended to a lack of empowerment and responsiveness from OBT providers.
The ITM said it fielded this survey as a way to help OBTs better meet the changing needs of clients.
At Zeno, we take customer priorities to heart. We’re not perfect…yet. But we have made it our focus to work dynamically with corporate travel programs to introduce new and innovative features and offerings, including around NDC and sustainability.
Want to learn more about the changing needs of travel programs post-COVID? Check out the full GBTA study, “The Return to Business Travel: A New Paradigm”.