Last year, Russ Klein, the CEO of the American Marketing Association (AMA) wrote an interesting article specifically extending the concept known as “willful suspension of disbelief” from works of art and science fiction to business innovation.
Loosely defined as our ability to avoid critical thinking when examining something surreal for the sake of enjoyment, he presents a compelling argument that without the human ability to suspend disbelief, business innovation would not occur because new business models require similar cognitive ability.
The neuro-science behind this goes a bit over my head but it makes sense that suspending disbelief tends to work best when there is some modicum of truth or tangibility tied to the unbelievable narrative. And not everyone has the ability to do it. This is why some people actually don’t like Star Wars (crazy, right?), why some people are early adopters with technology, and why some people are risk takers.
Do you remember when the corporate travel industry started talking about online booking tools? How would this work? There’s no way a computer can do what an agent can do so it will definitely fail. People want the human interaction after all and corporates simply won’t accept this new way of doing business. Right? Wrong. This type of example in the corporate travel industry goes on and on.
In my recent blog, A Crystal Ball and a Glass of Wine, I predicted that we are due for our next transformative change in the travel industry and that it wouldn’t be another booking engine. I stick by that statement. A willful suspension of disbelief is the fuel of a visionary and in my mind visionary thinking doesn’t result in just a better mousetrap.
I’m not sure if CapTrav is that next big thing or not, but since we added Danny Hood, one of the foremost corporate travel visionaries in the industry, to our Executive Team, I couldn’t help but think about the opportunity in front of us within the context of this fascinating article.
Perhaps for some, the business model we have created with CapTrav may require some suspension of disbelief. It did for our team for a long while. But with a solid year of operations and millions of spend having run through our system, the reality of what we’ve done is now more fact than fiction.
We Can’t Predict the Future
The article’s author posits that while we can’t predict the future, we can predict futures – suspending disbelief is the only way this can occur. What follows is innovation:
CapTrav is a Super PNR
If we can capture every travel related booking source and reservation detail no matter where the traveler booked and normalize the data, we could accomplish what no one else in the industry has. All of the mega TMC’s raced toward this exact goal in the late 1990’s when the industry started to see GDS content fragmentation and literally spent millions trying to figure this out. No one could do it.
Ultimately, better agent desktop tools, third party integration solutions, and better airline/GDS deals quelled the fear of lost content. Third party itinerary management software also tried it but the central flaw was that these solutions caused users to forward travel confirmation emails, a user behavior requirement that wasn’t acceptable relative to our company vision. And Concur is still trying to solve the problem with TripLink but still doesn’t capture most suppliers, is expense focused making it difficult for travel professionals to reconcile important data, and is costly.
CapTrav has solved the Super PNR issue and has done so in a timely way. Today, the industry is seeing content fragmentation again in the form of NDC and this time the model appears here to stay. It’s also a time in history where the demographics of our traveling population are starting to switch from Gen X to Millennials who are more likely to “go on their own” if they are not awed by the technology they are supposed to use. If we consider that most corporate travel programs suffer from 30-50% program leakage, it may be safe to assume that at least part of this reason is due to underwhelming technology or process options.
CapTrav Supplements Risk Programs
Companies scrambled to locate their travelers when hearing the news on September 11, 2001, after the Boston bombing, and so many other events that cause risk programs to provide critical and timely traveler booking data. For those travelers who didn’t book through their agency of record, the employer had no way of tracking these people. The result was a failure in corporate duty of care programs, exposure to legal ramifications, and a breach of corporate ethics responsibility. CapTrav wanted to solve this problem.
The corporate travel industry as a whole continues to push program compliance. This is the answer to ensure risk programs are robust. But the reality doesn’t match the strategy. Even with today’s COVID-19 pandemic, most studies including a recent BTN study I shared on LinkedIn show that only about half of surveyed respondents say they will do much about tightening agency compliance through policy change. Still, the vast majority of industry insiders insist compliance will win the day. Even now, at the height of the pandemic in the United States I see no data to support the notion that we will see a significant uptick in TMC compliance.
Capturing off-channel booking data is the answer. When considering corporate travel program “leakage”, hotel leakage is the most prevalent. The hotel room is also where travelers tend to be – more so than in the air or in a car. By gathering this data, we have solved a problem that has been both pervasive in the industry and one that very few have even attempted to solve.
CapTrav Levels the Playing Field for Automated Expense
From the time Concur announced seamless booking tool to expense integration, clients across virtually every industry asked the same question: “Does Concur Travel integrate with my expense tool?”
CapTrav does not believe that a corporate travel booking engine should drive the purchasing decision of a corporate expense tool or vice versa. But, given that a significant volume of expense data is travel related, the general thinking among corporates is around how best to match booking engine technology with expense technology. The central issue with this thinking is that the vast majority of TMC’s use Concur Travel as its primary (or only) booking engine. The result is that companies can get forced into using technology (both expense and travel) that may or may not fit its needs. And if a company has a specific desire for a specific booking tool, it must ensure that its TMC works with that particular booking tool and has the experience with it to ensure optimization. This can be challenging at best.
CapTrav envisions an opportunity for clients to use any booking engine it desires or no booking engine at all for that matter when considering use of an automated expense solution. We envision being able to use CapTrav to automatically populate any expense solution. The key is having access to all data no matter the booking source and having the right data to optimize the client’s program. CapTrav has solved this central issue.
Use any booking engine. Use any expense tool. Use Concur Travel. Why can’t we auto-populate a third-party expense tool with Concur Travel bookings?
CapTrav Optimizes Supplier Deals
As with most things, GDS content fragmentation is about money. Aside from distribution fees and TMC performance incentives, naysayers can argue that fragmentation is more about consumer choice. Airlines and hotels have more opportunity to differentiate themselves and build brand loyalty when consumers purchase direct. In both cases, the critical factor to consider here is that suppliers prefer its client’s book direct.
As a result, suppliers are generally willing to consider extending TMC channel only deals to “all channel” deals as it not only directly benefits them but also matches their corporate marketing strategies – more website/mobile app stickiness equals more brand loyalty and no one is more brand loyal than Millennials who now make up a significant amount of the workforce and are starting to become decision makers in organizations.
CapTrav Helps TMC’s be Better TMC’s
CapTrav was started because we believe that leakage is the single biggest problem facing corporate travel programs. When travelers book outside of its TMC of record, optimization breaks down across the entire corporate travel supply chain. In large part, TMC’s really can’t do much about it. In most cases, they can’t measure leakage, report on it, or assign any kind of lost opportunity metric.
By utilizing the off-channel booking data CapTrav can provide, TMC’s have the ability to charge clients to capture, report, and leverage these bookings through better supplier deals and a more holistic risk management program. Depending on the client, optimizing all spend no matter the booking source can provide a compelling return on investment, one that in some cases yields a financial gain for both the TMC and the client.
A Future Worth Predicting
10 years ago, I couldn’t imagine there could be a way to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing corporate travel with a single technology solution. Only a few years ago, CapTrav still wouldn’t have the technology available to be able to accomplish much of what we can today. And yet, there are still many things we want to do as we consider possible futures.
Luckily, we have a lot of talent on our team with a history of visionary thinking eager to help clients optimize their investment in travel, the industry recover, and to keep travelers safer. We believe that’s a future worth predicting and one that doesn’t require a suspension of disbelief.