BSI ‘Bucks’ Downward Industry Trend in Online Booking Adoption
09 February 2009
Trevor Elswood, Group Managing Director, BSI, assesses the vital requirements for a successful self booking tool for www.ABTN.co.uk:
When talking about the subject of online adoption, it is important to first look at the aims and objectives of the business, and therefore the reasons for building an online booking tool in the first place. The motivation behind creating and implementing an online self-booking tool is ultimately a joint one - to reduce transaction costs and, through user behavioural guilt, cost savings for corporations and agencies, minimising incremental resource costs and optimising margin.
However, online tools come in different guises and hold many shortcomings for the corporations looking to ensure optimum user acceptance and business cost control.
When BSI went about its investment and implementation of its self booking technology, there needed to be a clear understanding of what both procurement and the end user sought from the booking tool. As expected there were market gaps identified by the generic travel portal online booking tool providers. Procurement managers also articulated a lack of system flexibility and a sense of ‘reduced’ policy control and functionality in comparison to voice booking processes.
However, key to their thinking was the concern of adoption by their internal customer user communities. It was in this area that there was the largest gap between demand and technology supply. The users were driven by the desire for system and process simplicity, as observed in the best of class public web site designs. They sought reliable and personalised information and wanted a supported online booking service.
Therefore, simply creating the ability to book online was not enough, as driving adoption levels was the key to ensuring the original aims were met.
With this in mind, BSI has invested heavily in its online capabilities and developments since the inception in 2004 of its online booking tool. The process flows of voice booking environments needed to be replicated in the online world and include payment solutions (bill back), policy configuration such as pre trip authorisation, rate caps and preferred programme compliance.
As so much emphasis in the online world is driven by behavioural guilt the need to track user buying habits was a vital ingredient, with the desire to record what the user observed, declined and eventually booked. Taking on the users needs, BSI aspired to pack as much value as possible into the tool for the benefit of the end-user. The idea was always to create a hub of personalised and valuable information including taxi fares, distance calculator, local amenities and property facilities, and ‘property comments’ akin to ‘rate my stay’. The key to success was to make these as broad as possible, in order to meet customer demand, whilst also meeting procurement aspirations. This type of strategy leads to the need for continual investments and modifications to support ongoing adoption, by improving the booker experience.
Despite the current industry downturn, the adoption of BSIDirect™ by BSI clients has also increased by 13.7% compared to this time last year demonstrating that online adoption is not taking a down turn as has been suggested, and why should it? The only reasons why adoption should fall in a downturn is if user confidence is dented with lower prices visible from other channels, or procurement not seeing a return on investment from online implementation costs.
BSI has focused intently on its distribution connections so that web rates from hotels and third party sites
are all visible to its users, and with free online implementation, delivered through its dedicated account
management, return on Investment calculations are clearly compelling to the procurement world.
The success of online adoption is ultimately down to the direct education and communication to the booker. The team focus should be on communication campaigns including teaser emails to the booker community; 1-2-1 online training and road-shows/seminars covering policy compliance and traveller profile management as well as bookings, amendments and cancellations, and e-clinics and web casts.
It is important that any online booking tool is simple, providing an intuitive user experience, which therefore drives adoption as the booking channel of choice, and reduces wasted management time in communication and issue resolution.
A corporate online tool should, ideally, be developed with similar user principles as the leisure consumer model making it user-friendly but also able to incorporate the industry’s most sophisticated policy rules, which can be activated at customer-level. This then enables the client to evolve the policy over time and drive operational and financial aspirations. Reduced distribution costs are the result of multiple distribution channels, allowing heightened visibility of room availability, and access to greater and more in-depth content and property information.
42% of BSI’s bookings are currently made online (online adoption amongst BSI user communities – i.e., customers set up to use BSIDirect – is up to 79%) and although this is partly thanks to in-house e-migration teams we also have a series of internal technologies, which makes our teams’ jobs easier when it comes to working with our clients and gaining their support for using an online system.
Key to successful bookings tools is the provision of real-time availability at best price without a reliance on Global Distribution Systems content (GDS), so should include negotiated room allocations and free-sale agreements, XML connectivity with hotel groups’ central reservation systems, as well as third party websites.
A good self booking tool should feed from a strong content platform with a supplier extranet that gives small, independent hotels and other suppliers the opportunity to offer availability and best price through desk-top systems access, so as to avoid the prohibitively costly GDS booking channels.
The specialist hotel booking tools are fast becoming a natural fit to those businesses looking to deliver leading adoption and strong hotel rate control, which is why the leading specialist systems have been integrated with travel portals such as KDS and GetThere®.
With the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill into the UK, it is even more important that time saving and effective systems are implemented and continually modified. Procurement and travel management professionals are developing an even stronger sense of traveller care following the introduction of such legislation last year.
BSI has launched its in-house managed security reporting solution that enables online traveller tracking and traveller proximity reporting to alert incidents. This uniquely addresses the security tracking of meeting delegates and group travellers as well as individual travellers.