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In a new data-driven era, profiling is crucial

Marine Bergeron, Director EMEA at CWT Solutions Group, tells Nick Easen why traveller profiling is important in an age when data, analytics and consumerisation are coming to the fore. 

Can you explain what traveller profiling is and why it can help travel managers?

It’s a methodology we use to segment travelling executives into groups. We consider certain criteria, such as spending patterns, human resource data or travel behaviour. If you want to understand a problem you need to create both a macro and a micro picture. We use three sets of data: information from us, the travel management company; expense data from the traveller; and HR data from the client. With that data we can profile traveller types to give the buyers more understanding about what kind of traveller types the company has. This allows managers to understand why certain profile groups aren’t in policy, and others are. By profiling we can also address issues in certain groups and create targeted communications, rather than blanket emails. It’s so much more effective when you make your messages specific for your different traveller audiences.

You talk about “certain profile groups” – how do you create these? And are they different for every customer?

It depends on the criteria we use based on our three categories of data. However, it often makes sense to look at the same criteria: trip frequency or behaviour KPIs, such as whether they book in advance or air fare type; or HR-related, such as job needs or constraints. Our CWT Travel Consolidator brings the information sources together and uses algorithms to analyse the data. We can then provide – or put together – certain groupings. But only by working with travel managers can we understand the significance of the data we collect. For instance, luxury companies put more weight on status and titles when it comes to travel spend.

More and more companies are putting a personalised offer at the centre – Amazon for example.  What is CWT learning from this approach?

Travel is a really complex environment with an ecosystem of players. A retail company controls all points along the customer journey and the data it collects. We are far from in a consolidated market situation. We have similar goals, though – customising and personalising services as much as possible, based on traveller profiling. For example, a company that is able to segment travellers correctly based on their needs and constraints will be able to customise their travel policy to make their employees more productive, as well as attract new talent.

Are there challenges in creating a stronger customer-centric approach?

Data sharing in this post-GDPR [the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation] era is an issue, especially in Europe. You can use travel data, but with some limitations. Marrying it with personal information is an issue, yet this is the data that could add the most value. Our challenge is to show that this is done for the benefits of all parties: savings for the company and benefits for travelling staff. So everybody wins in the end. Also, it will allow corporations to create travel policies that keep employees engaged and attract talent. For instance, the big multinational tech giants do this well already.

Analysis of traveller data can help identify trends, assist with policies and compliance. How can buyers ensure data is correctly used?

The first thing is it can involve the agreement of many departments. If you want to use finance or HR data, for instance, you need approval and sign-off. Secondly, you also need travel consulting experts to make sense of the data properly and then drive the analysis. This can involve combining multiple data sources, selecting relevant profiling criteria and benchmarking travel behaviour KPIs. If you have this sorted out you can make sensible recommendations. It is imperative that you know the companies well and how they operate in daily life.

How can companies ensure their travel programme is used as a retention and attraction tool for potential candidates and not turn them away to a competitor?

Adapting your travel programme to your traveller needs is crucial for its success. Therefore, really try to understand their habits. It’s not about: if you’re compliant, you’re good; if you’re not, it’s bad. Additionally, promote the benefits of a travel programme and share happy traveller stories. Some multinational companies, especially in technology, have difficulties in attracting talent. An attractive travel programme can make a difference in the recruitment process and serve as a nice fringe benefit.

“Travel is a really complex environment with an ecosystem of players”

Marine Bergeron is Director EMEA at CWT Solutions Group, which gives expert advice and insights in order to improve processes and efficiencies – ultimately helping businesses save money.

This article was originally written by Nick Easen for the 2019 Summer edition of Connect Magazine.

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