How to...

gain compliance by gamification

Pitting employer or department against each other to compete for recognition and/or prizes is one method of changing traveller behaviour to improve compliance. Gillian Upton has the detail


GAMIFICATION IS THE NEW buzzword among those travel managers in the vanguard of finding solutions to change traveller behaviour, arguably one of the hardest challenges facing the industry today.

Borrowing from the consumer world, gamification creates competition between individual travellers, departments or functions within a company, challenging them all to be the most compliant.

The process is supported through incentives that give travellers or departments due recognition, a prize or points for their efforts. It’s an about turn from the days when the norm was to penalise travellers for bad behaviour.

In 2014 Carlson Wagonlit Travel launched its own gamification product and piloted it with several clients who took up the gauntlet to test the scheme, and achieved some dramatic results.

Read on for the detail of how one of the pilots significantly improved traveller compliance, which in turn translated into a sizeable saving on the company’s total travel spend.

STEP 1: THE RATIONALE. Why gamification? “All travellers are motivated by recognition, and gamification will increase employee engagement and loyalty. This was the main reason that our product came about,” explains Teemu Tuomarla, manager CWT Solutions Group, Nordics, who worked in conjunction with CWT Solutions Group Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Loyalty programmes are becoming more sophisticated and are using the data to personalise packages direct to the traveller and they are a threat to travel buyers,” he says. Historically, airline mileage programmes were based on miles flown, regardless of the price paid, but worryingly, they are now based on the price paid.

“Managed travel programmes have to start building loyalty towards their own programmes by making it fun,” says Tuomarla. He believes that gamification helps travellers break away from the loyalty to their favourite airline loyalty programme and switch that loyalty to their employers’ preferred suppliers

STEP 2: HOW IT WORKS. An initial high-level assessment of transactions and travel behaviour finds the travellers with the biggest potential to drive the programme and the pain points, which translates to which of 16 KPIs to choose between.

“Our assessment of travellers will show us which KPI to go for and then more points can be attributed to that, resulting in a reduced average ticket price,” says Tuomarla.

Typically, the most common KPIs used are to improve advance booking, cabin class chosen, restricted versus flexible tickets and preferred supplier selection. Tuomarla believes that improving advance booking times achieves the highest incremental savings.

STEP 3: THE COST. Partnered with US firm Aimia, CWT's gamification product is a fully-customised software programme, a fusion of technology that sits on the client portal, overlaid with human service through consultancy. The cost is a subscription fee per traveller, on a sliding scale dependent upon the number of travellers participating.

STEP 4: THE CHALLENGE. The challenge for many corporates is changing traveller behaviour to improve compliance levels. Most travel policies dictate the lowest fare, preferred hotels, online booking and 21-day advance purchase, and the corporate who piloted the product had issues with low adherence to advance booking – too many travellers booking long-haul business class only two days out, for example.

STEP 5: THE PILOT. One particular pilot company selected 100 travellers for the pilot and launched in phases. It employed an internal game, which set a certain target for each country and function on improving advance booking to meet the policy of 21 days out.

Travellers were given ten months to achieve the goal and a leaderboard was created to publicise who was winning and to help generate competition. Companies can choose whether to reward 'winners' with recognition or a physical prize.

STEP 6: THE RESULT. Pitting countries against each other worked extremely well in the pilot and each country became very competitive, continually checking figures on the leaderboard.

One of the pilot corporates achieved a double digit increase in advance purchase rates within the test period, which translated to a significant saving on the company's bottom line.

Companies can choose to publicise the least compliant countries, dependent upon company culture. There was a concern over losing impetus over a long game as individuals/countries realised that they didn’t stand a chance of winning. Shorter challenges – say, for three months – would create more engagement.

STEP 7: MAINTAINING MOMENTUM. The pilot corporate has since rolled out the game to 1,000 travellers. The challenge was extended to improve patronage of preferred hotels, of lowest fares and online bookings.

CWT has since rolled out the product to a number of companies who now incorporate some elements of gamification in their managed travel programme.

It may not suit every corporate, but gamification is proving that for those that are open to the idea, it can engage travellers for positive effect.