The Business Travel Magazine - - Compliance -

Tra­di­tion­ally when travel buy­ers have launched a drive to in­crease com­pli­ance, the num­ber one tool has been to wield the metaphor­i­cal stick – of­ten in the form of a man­dated pol­icy.

While this 'com­mand and con­trol' ap­proach was all the rage dur­ing the af­ter­math of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and en­su­ing re­ces­sion a decade ago, there has also been a grow­ing recog­ni­tion in re­cent years that a more sub­tle ap­proach to man­ag­ing trav­ellers’ be­hav­iour may ac­tu­ally bear more fruit.

Con­cepts such as be­havioural eco­nom­ics and 'nudge the­ory' have been around for a while – TMCS in­clud­ing BCD Travel and Capita Travel and Events are among the cor­po­rate travel spe­cial­ists try­ing to har­ness these tech­niques as a way of im­prov­ing travel man­age­ment.

The sub­ject also took cen­tre stage at this year’s Busi­ness Travel Show where Steve Martin, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of be­havioural change con­sul­tancy In­flu­ence at Work, de­liv­ered a key­note pre­sen­ta­tion on how the 'psy­chol­ogy of per­sua­sion' can be used to im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of travel pro­grammes.

Martin says that the tra­di­tional ways of encouraging trav­ellers to com­ply, such as ed­u­ca­tion and us­ing in­cen­tives, are “en­tirely valid but not with­out their prob­lems”.

He be­lieves busi­ness trav­ellers can of­ten suf­fer from “in­for­ma­tion over­load”, which means they may not pay suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion to mes­sages from the travel depart­ment, while in­cen­tive-based pro­grammes can work out to be ex­pen­sive, as well as “crowd­ing out in­trin­sic ways for peo­ple to be­have well in the first place,” he says.

Im­prov­ing com­pli­ance to travel pol­icy by ‘nudg­ing’ your trav­ellers into mak­ing the right de­ci­sions is one of the hottest top­ics in travel man­age­ment, writes

Martin in­stead sug­gests us­ing six “uni­ver­sal short­cuts” to in­flu­ence or “nudge” trav­eller be­hav­iour in the de­sired di­rec­tion. These con­cepts are: rec­i­proc­ity, scarcity, au­thor­ity, con­sis­tency, like­abil­ity and so­cial proof.

“These are six ad­di­tional tools to help de­liver the mes­sage in the most com­pelling and per­sua­sive way that go to the fun­da­men­tals of hu­man be­hav­iour,” says Martin.

He adds that us­ing penal­ties, such as pun­ish­ing em­ploy­ees who fail to fol­low pol­icy, can of­ten be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive by ac­tu­ally help­ing to in­crease the prob­lem.

“Pe­nal­is­ing be­hav­iour that’s un­de­sir­able just makes peo­ple want to do it more,” he says. “If peo­ple are al­ways turn­ing up late to meet­ings and you say that meet­ings are al­ways late, then the prob­lem will con­tinue. You are nor­mal­is­ing the very be­hav­iour you want to erad­i­cate. What you want to do is to nor­malise be­hav­iours that are de­sir­able.”

Martin uses the ex­am­ple of how HMRC in­creased the num­ber of peo­ple pay­ing tax on time by sim­ply in­sert­ing state­ments such as: “most peo­ple pay their tax on time” and “most peo­ple in your post­code have sub­mit­ted their tax re­turn”.

Prac­ti­cal steps

So that’s the the­ory, but what’s be­ing done in prac­tice to use be­havioural sci­ence to im­prove travel pro­grammes and poli­cies? Vis­ual guilt is one con­cept be­ing used to drive down the cost of trips by ask­ing trav­ellers to make the most suit­able book­ing de­ci­sion.

Danielle Martinez, Mar­ket­ing Co­or­di­na­tor at Good Travel Man­age­ment, says: “Us­ing vis­ual guilt within an on­line book­ing tool is an ef­fec­tive way of driv­ing ac­tual cost sav­ings, while also ask­ing a booker to re­con­sider their choices if they have not se­lected the low­est cost or op­tion within pol­icy.

“The warn­ing that their se­lec­tion is non­com­pli­ant along with a check­box ap­proval of the higher cost, and the added re­quire­ment to ex­plain why the higher price op­tion has been cho­sen, is a great way of in­flu­enc­ing book­ers to buy more cost ef­fec­tively with­out the need to have com­plex travel pol­icy rules.”

The trav­eller will “find it tough to over­spend be­cause their con­science won’t let them”, while any missed sav­ings will also be re­ported to the travel man­ager.

For­mer travel buyer Yvonne Moya, now a prin­ci­pal at con­sul­tancy Fes­tive Road, agrees that vis­ual guilt can be ef­fec­tive. “See­ing is be­liev­ing and as soon as they see a price dif­fer­ence dis­played, it might trig­ger a right de­ci­sion,” she says. “Your flight is €200 more ex­pen­sive and leaves just 20 min­utes later – do you re­ally want to book this ticket?”

This process does not just work at the point of sale but can be fol­lowed up by re­ports show­ing the lost sav­ings from book­ing more ex­pen­sive travel op­tions. The data can be fur­ther seg­mented by depart­ment within an or­gan­i­sa­tion to show which ones have the high­est lev­els of com­pli­ance.

An­other area where nudge the­ory is be­com­ing more preva­lent is for meet­ings and events – par­tic­u­larly for cor­po­rates' in­ter­nal travel needs. This has be­come a fo­cus for Capita Travel and Events un­der its Smarter Work­ing pro­gramme, which aims to cut down on un­nec­es­sary travel as well as mak­ing trips smarter and safer.

Trevor Elswood, the TMC’S Chief Com­mer­cial Of­fi­cer, says it is not just about fo­cus­ing on travel costs but look­ing at “the de­ci­sions that take place be­fore you start trav­el­ling”.

“When you’re send­ing peo­ple on train­ing cour­ses, you can pre-pop­u­late the ho­tel you want them to stay at,” he adds. “Peo­ple don’t need the choice, as long as they un­der­stand why that prop­erty has been cho­sen.”

He con­tin­ues: “We also have had clients who ha­bit­u­ally hold in­ter­nal monthly meet­ings but if you just change that to ev­ery six weeks in­stead you can re­duce the bud­get by 20%. It’s about think­ing dif­fer­ently and tech­nol­ogy can help with this.”

Get­ting the right mes­sage over to the right peo­ple at the right time is cru­cial. Steve Martin says: “Re­cep­tiv­ity de­pends on the per­sona you have, so use the dig­i­tal mes­sage that’s most likely to in­flu­ence that per­son. Use data to build these pro­files as they can be more ac­cu­rate than ask­ing peo­ple them­selves. The con­ver­gence of data and be­havioural sci­ence to do this seems to be a no brainer.”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion should also flow both ways to be suc­cess­ful, says Mar­cus Clarke from psy­chol­ogy web­site, psysci.co. “Em­ploy­ees are more likely to save money for a com­pany when they feel that their con­cerns can be raised and dealt with at any time. Mu­tual re­spect be­tween travel man­agers and em­ploy­ees is an im­por­tant fac­tor in min­imis­ing travel ex­penses,” he says.

Con­cepts like be­havioural sci­ence and nudge the­ory are not new but they are start­ing to have an in­creas­ing role in travel man­age­ment. These of­ten sub­tle tech­niques are not so much one big car­rot, but lots of lit­tle ones that can col­lec­tively make a big dif­fer­ence to a travel pro­gramme.

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