Given the benefits, it is hardly surprising that more and more bookings are being made online, as noted by 70 percent of travel managers and 53 percent of travelers in companies that implement OBTs. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being a strong decrease and 10 being a strong increase), the average scores are 7.5 for travel managers and 6.7 for travelers. So how do these tools really affect an enterprise?
There are wide variations in online usage levels between different countries and industries, however. These variations are partly explained by external factors such as Internet usage and the economic context, as well as corporate culture:
- Internet usage: The extent to which a country’s population goes online impacts travelers’ readiness to use online tools, as well as the maturity of the service offering.
- Economic context. Companies tend to accelerate their online usage plans when under greater pressure to reduce costs, as has been the case over the past few years with due to the economic downturn.
- Corporate culture. In addition to being influenced by external factors such as the industry context, companies with the highest adoption rates tend to have one or more of the following internal attributes:
- Ability to change: the company usually adapts to change very easily.
- Self-enabling: a strong do-it-yourself culture, where employees typically do not use administrative assistants.
- Process performance: the company has a widely shared methodology to improve process performance, which is systematically measured and managed.
- E-culture: employees are technology-driven and many administrative tasks are completed online, particularly those related to procurement.
- Mandatory culture: decision-making is generally a top-down process.
Major differences in online booking performance in major companies
There are two types of performers: the “leaders” and the “laggards.” And among these two groups, there are four sub-groups of performers: “fast adopters” and “long runners” make up the leaders and “newcomers” and “stalled pioneers” make up the laggards.
Two key factors distinguishing between leaders and laggards:
- Speed: amount of time to reach current online adoption level (expressed in points of adoption per quarter).
- Time: since online booking implementation (expressed in years).
Speed was the key differentiator among the leaders, as it distinguished the fast adopters from the long runners. Time was the key differentiator among the laggards, as it distinguished the stalled pioneers from the newcomers.
Findings indicated that on average, adoption levels and speed varied by a factor of ~5 among the four sub-groups of performers:
- Online adoption levels ranged from 15 percent, for the newcomers to as high as 70 percent, for the long runners and fast adopters.
- In terms of speed, the overall average rate was at five points per quarter, varying from ~2 points for the stalled pioneers to ~11 points for the fast adopters.
Companies tend to combine a range of actions. There is no silver bullet. A holistic approach is what is needed.
Product and process: ongoing actions to ensure the booking process is user-friendly and efficient and that its functionalities are appropriate, accessible and visible on the company intranet; integration/automation of the booking process, including pre-trip and expense management workflows; and the evolution of the service configuration. Ensuring easy access to online booking tools and improving the efficiency of the booking process were perceived as highly effective against the risk of stalled low adoption, but interestingly, were not frequently used. Incorporating these relatively simple initiatives, however, could produce positive results. Findings indicated the tendency for those companies served by dedicated travel consultants to fall below average speed of adoption. The relationship between travel arrangers and their dedicated consultants was clearly a more difficult habit to break and therefore, slowed down online adoption.
Price differential: internal communications about differences in pricing between online and offline transactions. Although differentiated pricing was perceived as low in effectiveness, it was, nevertheless, commonly used. The key, as reflected in the case studies, lies in making travellers accountable for their travel expenditures
Push from management: actions to encourage bookers to use online tools, such as tracking non-online bookers; implementation of barriers to access business travel centers (BTCs), including voice prompts directing travelers to the booking tool; reducing service level agreements (SLAs); and mandates from management. Mandatory actions are perceived as the most effective, but were not widely used – perhaps, because of their negative implications and incompatibility with company culture. By contrast, tracking non-users was rated as quite effective and often used, offering an effective compromise for those companies seeking to rapidly enforce online booking.
Pull through training and incentives: actions favoring change, such as ongoing training, incentives and rewards; communications; statistical comparisons between business units/ divisions/departments; and appointment of champions or ambassadors within a company to promote online adoption. Training and communications were the most popular solutions to prepare bookers for online adoption and were perceived as critical to successful change management. Incentives were perceived as equally effective, but were not frequently used, perhaps because they were incompatible with company practice and involved additional cost.
Product & process
- Display of statistics
Choosing an online booking system:
While choosing an online booking systems, following steps are to be followed:
- Assess your needs: Put together a checklist covering the kinds of things you’d like the system to do for you.
- Ask for advice:Ask your regional tourism organization or local visitor information centre to recommend a system. Which system do they use? Are there any features you should absolutely get?
- Review each system:Once you’ve made a shortlist of suitable booking systems, compare each system in terms of cost, the level of support offered, and the reputation of the company.
- What equipment do I need? If you already have a computer and internet connection, you don’t need to buy any new hardware – all online booking systems can be run from your computer or directly online.
- You will also need to set up an online merchant facility so that credit card payments can be securely transferred to your bank account.