Using behavioural science principles can improve travel policy compliance and change travellers’ behaviour, delegates heard at the GBTA convention in Boston.  
 
Ashley Whillans, a professor at Harvard Business School, said people’s instinctive decision-making could be influenced by a framework of criteria summarised by the acronym EAST – Easy, attractive, social, timely:

·      Making it ‘easy’ for users can include default mechanisms – Whillans gave the example of a UK initiative to use auto-enrolment for work pension schemes that led to $11 billion savings for the government.

·      The ‘attractive’ element can include rewards and incentives, as well as messaging that is engaging, interesting and personalised.

·      ‘Social’ refers to the influence that can be exerted by focusing on social norms such as pointing out what decisions peers are making. Whillans gave another UK example; a letter from the NHS to Birmingham doctors saying that 80 per cent of doctors were prescribing fewer antibiotics led to a $23 million saving. She added: “Social norms are a really powerful way of helping customers engage in what you’re wanting to do.”

·      ‘Timely’ messages can prompt travellers at the optimal time to take action.
 
Google’s lead travel buyer Mike Tangney said that his travel policy reflected some of the EAST framework elements: the company’s travel savings reward scheme incentivised travellers, while Google’s trip price caps encompass the ‘social norms’ factor by “showing what ‘reasonable’ looks like”.

While Google’s policy of allowing travellers to book via their preferred channels and methods made it easy for them, as does its new staff booking tool that features red and green lights for hotels showing where the traveller will save ‘reward’ points and where he or she will spend them. 
 
Dan Ruch is CEO and founder of Rocketrip, which provides savings reward scheme software for corporate travel programmes.

He said the idea for his company came from looking at the “loyalty economy” in hospitality, and seeing the “power of points, which can make you act in ridiculous ways” – Ruch saw an opportunity to bring this power to influence into the corporate travel sector.

Ruch added that cash-based rewards were the most powerful incentive when asking travellers to make savings beyond what the travel policy allows.

He said that Rocketrip reflects the ‘easy’ factor in Whillans’ EAST framework by “inserting” into a company’s processes so that travellers don’t have to change the way they book.  

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