If you’re spending 50-75% of your budget on internal travel initiatives, you’d like to think it’s paying off. And you definitely want employees to be happy with your travel management approach.
But LinkedIn’s experience shows there’s always room for improvement in traveler engagement. And when travelers are engaged, managing corporate travel program demand is easier. Here’s how we helped the business networking site save money and improve employee satisfaction in just 18 months.
LinkedIn: Company and travel culture
LinkedIn has around 8,000 employees who take regular trips to more than 18 different countries. Its travel program is around five years old, and the company spends about $41 million on travel each year. But Leslie Hadden, LinkedIn’s Global Travel and Event Operations Manager, says a few issues stopped the program from being really effective.
Misunderstanding travel program and policy
LinkedIn has a “non-mandate culture” where employees take ownership of their actions. So, while there is a travel policy, it’s basically just a guide.
Many travelers and travel arrangers didn’t fully understand the policy or the travel program. It wasn’t always clear which suppliers travelers should use. When travelers used their own alternatives, that cost the company more.
Another issue was communication. Within the company, there wasn’t much consistency in travel messaging. So, people planning trips often didn’t know the best ways to manage travel and missed out on the benefits they could get.
Not knowing travelers
With the company in growth mode, and new employees joining all the time, LinkedIn didn’t have a current picture of who their travelers were. This made it hard to get the right information about travel to the right people at the right time.
Lack of satisfaction
Overall, that meant many of LinkedIn’s travelers weren’t happy with the company’s managed travel program. The company’s internal satisfaction survey revealed that:
- only 64% of travelers were satisfied or very satisfied with the program
- 13% were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied
Clearly, something had to change. And that’s where Advito came in. In our experience, traveler engagement is one of the best strategies to improve corporate travel program demand management.
In working with us, LinkedIn knew they had to:
- integrate communications
- develop messaging that helped engage and inform travelers
- make it clear what the travel policy was so travelers could make appropriate choices
- use new tools to unify travelers, including social and mobile tools
Here’s how that worked.
How LinkedIn got to know its travelers
One of the most important parts of any travel management program is understanding who your travelers are, why they travel and what information, services and amenities they need. LinkedIn used a survey to start getting this information.
Once the survey data was in, the company dug deeper into the initial insights with focus groups. Those helped LinkedIn get clear about the different employee segments.
Suppliers also sat in on the focus groups so they had a better understanding of LinkedIn’s travelers. “Segregating the groups and really listening gave us a very good understanding of our travelers,” said Leslie Hadden.
They learned that 44% of LinkedIn travelers are in sales, products and services who travel often and care about their budget. But in addition to the road warriors, there are travel arrangers, new travelers, executives and people in the finance department who have an interest in travel.
And they learned that travelers were interested in exploring new accommodation and travel options, like AirBnB and Uber, when they were on the road.
Improving traveler engagement
With improved understanding of who their travelers were and what they needed, the company got to work to address the key issues.
The company created the Travelin brand to unify internal communication about travel. Via this brand, LinkedIn used mobile, digital, virtual and social media technologies to deliver consistent messages before, during and after trips.
Based on the survey data, LinkedIn also created social communities for its different internal traveler segments via the inSider platform. This allowed travel demand managers to deliver more targeted messaging to each community, and allowed those communities to communicate with each other.
Next, LinkedIn made its Bookin travel booking tool easier to use. The updated tool delivered in-app messages about travel strategy throughout the booking process, helping travelers to make the right decisions. Satisfaction in that tool increased by 13%.
Within a few months, the new traveler engagement program was already paying off. The stats showed an 8-point improvement to 72% in satisfied or very satisfied employees.
And by the 18-month mark, the benefits of the new traveler behavior management strategy were even clearer. The number of employees reporting being satisfied or very satisfied was up 20 points to 84%, while those reporting being unsatisfied or very unsatisfied was down to just 4%.
Lessons from the LinkedIn experience
The LinkedIn experience has several lessons for traveler engagement programs.
Know your travelers
It’s clear that the more you know about your travelers, the better you can meet their goals. Segmentation allowed LinkedIn to use digital marketing effectively to deliver targeted messaging about:
- accommodation alternatives
- lower airfares
- additional incentives
This also benefited the company. Our data shows that even when you share travel incentives with your employees, you can reduce your travel costs by 12%.
Second, it pays to communicate clearly. That includes your travel policy, and education about options and preferred suppliers. The digital marketing tools available now make that easy. It also makes employees feel confident in making better decisions about travel.
The bottom line? LinkedIn wanted to enable employees to make the best decisions. Keeping them informed and keeping communication channels open achieved this. Sharing and openness builds trust – and that’s what makes for a traveler engagement solution.
“People are starting to really love our program. They’re noticing that we’re communicating with them and connecting with them,” says Leslie Hadden. “My goal is to make travelers happier and more productive on the road and traveler engagement is at the heart of that.”