Friday 16 February 2018

GUEST BLOG: How sentiment analysis will revolutionise how companies measure the true cost of travel


Why is sentiment analysis important in understanding the total cost of business travel? 

If we look at our recently conducted Planes, Trains and Marginal Gains report, it is clear that business travellers have needs outside of a room for a night. So when we change a corporate policy that restricts the options available for our travellers, or restricts their travel abilities, there is often a correlating impact on morale. This impact on morale can manifest itself in many ways, such as tired or unprepared travellers, who arrive at meetings or events feeling frustrated. There is therefore a high likelihood that the reason for travel isn’t successful - that the sale isn’t closed, not all the meeting agenda was covered - meaning additional travel and meetings are needed, or poor business decisions are inadvertently made.

All of these have an impact on cost – whether it’s lost sales, or additional travel. But we need to marry these risks with the opportunity for savings. This is why it’s important to understand the impact of policy changes on travellers, or even try to pre-empt how a change would be felt within the business.

At Clarity, we are looking at how sentiment analysis can give us insight into how policy and business guidelines actually impacts the traveller. One of the key areas of focus for travel buyers for 2018 is how to spend less but retain quality, and so customer, and more importantly, traveller feedback is vital. But guess what? Not all travellers want to fill in a survey. And if they do, we don’t always get the truth. More often, we get as little information as is necessary to complete the survey. 

So, it’s important that any traveller surveys that we do provide clearly explain how it will inform the overall travel policy, with relevant questions, such as: opinions on days in lieu in return for extensive business travel; the benefit of utilising properties with access to gyms; monitoring the amount and quality of sleep that travellers get when away on business; and feedback on type and class of travel, location of accommodation etc. We can then link this information back to the properties, carriers, times and seasonality of stays and get a clearer picture of traveller experience and sentiment, and use this data to help strike a balance between corporate spend and traveller satisfaction.

We are also looking into how we can also use sentiment analysis from a much wider base of users to help provide recommendations that, when taken in conjunction with that amount of traveller feedback, give a strong wide coverage of sentiment around a product or experience for example - by tapping into the power of social media.

But this isn’t as simple as it sounds. For example, I need to be able to filter out noise such as unrelated sentiment. However the results are worth it. If I can help a customer determine the best fit travel policy that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company, give the company the ability to see the impact and sentiment of the travellers behind that policy throughout the lifespan of the contract, and more importantly monitor what impact any policy changes have, then the net result can be a happy customer and a happy traveller.

The bottom line is sentiment analysis is an essential component in measuring the total cost of travel in 2018. By embracing this, companies will be able to determine a best fit travel policy - one that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company - which in turn can reduce costs, maintain quality and, by combining spend with return on investment, enable customers to measure the true cost of travel.

This blog was written by Darren Williams, Head of Management Information and Data, at Clarity. He will be on stand B520 at the Business Travel Show demonstrating the new approaches Clarity is taking to measure the true cost of travel. To secure a one-on-one meeting at the show call 0800 731 1627.

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