Collecting miles and points may threaten to lead your travellers off-policy. However, if used in the right way, loyalty schemes can be beneficial for businesses.
You may associate hotel, airline and ground transport reward schemes with tempting your employees to go rogue, and book their travel with their preferred companies to pool points for their individual gain. However, it’s worth considering that, if delivered in the correct way, these programmes can potentially boost travellers’ loyalty to your company travel policy.
‘If these schemes are used carefully and in conjunction with any managed programme, then they can deliver results in terms of compliance and supplier leverage,’ says Rob Haynes, programme management director for CWT. ‘Our agents work in tandem with the customer’s programme – we wouldn’t expect agents to recommend something that benefits an individual if it doesn’t support that travel programme, but if it’s harmonious and there are synergies, then it can be managed.’
If your travel programme is largely built around a particular supplier, then loyalty programmes can be used to reinforce the message that sticking with this supplier brings the best value.
CWT offers its own loyalty-style ‘deals’ that incentivise booking with a particular hotel, airline or car rental company through the TMC (travel management company). ‘Sometimes, we will work with a supplier with whom we can build some further added value to that programme for corporate customers,’ says Rob.
Larger companies may also be able to leverage the loyalty points earned by their travellers to make significant savings – something CWT’s agents can help them maximise. ‘We can advise on where we believe the points can be best used,’ says Rob. ‘For example, one of our customers has a business focus on Boston – we were able to illustrate the benefits they would clearly accrue by spending the points on that route, because the savings they’d be making would be greater than using them on short-haul journeys.’
CWT can also offer advice to clients on how to best distribute rewards obtained from company loyalty points – such as upgrades. ‘We can produce reports to show who travels frequently on certain routes, who we believe might benefit from that, but ultimately, it’s a company decision,’ Rob explains.
SMBs may not be large enough to negotiate corporate travel deals through their volume of spend alone, but they may be generating enough activity to benefit from a supplier’s company loyalty programme. BA On Business, Virgin Atlantic Flying Co, American Airlines Business Extra and Star Alliance Company Plus all allow businesses to pool their employees’ miles earned by their employees and redeem them on flights and upgrades, which can present huge savings.
Being able to collect loyalty points on their company travel not only gives employees access to perks they wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy, but can also improve the efficiency of their business trips. For example, Hertz Gold Plus reward members receive a number of benefits that would appeal to corporate travellers for free, none of which would be available to non-members.
‘We have specific prizes and rewards for our members,’ says Magda Newman CRM marketing manager for Hertz. So loyalty programmes could even reward your travellers with memorable incentives, or give them the means to entertain prospective clients.
Though reward schemes may pose the potential threat of maverick travel booking behaviour, they can also work to the opposite effect and help travellers recognise the value of their travel policy. ‘Whether an organisation can mandate the traveller is still a challenge, especially at higher levels of management,’ says Rob, ‘but loyalty programmes can be used strategically in that way as another tool in the travel managers’ armoury. It’s all about communication and incentivisation. If you’ve got the opportunity to communicate the added value to the traveller, it’ll prove to be an important component of any programme.’