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TRAVEL MANAGEMENT TOOL USER FRIENDLINESS
HUMAN INTERVENTION IN ARTIFICIAL
SAVINGS REALIZED & POTENTIAL TO SCALE
Sports video technology startup Hudl has booked
trips using Concur and a local travel management
company since 2014. With their three-year contract nearing its end, Hudl wanted a replacement
that would better suit the startup’s techy and Millennial culture. Hudl event and travel coordinator
Brandon Gries told BTN associate editor JoAnn
DeLuna why he was sold on a chatbot solution
after only a 10-minute demo.
Q You began looking for a new solution this summer. Were you specifically looking for a chatbot platform?
Brandon Gries: Not specifically a chatbot, but
that did help. TripActions reached out [to
me] prior to the Global Business Travel Association convention in Boston. One of the
founders gave me a quick 10-minute demo of
the app. We made that move pretty quickly
and started using TripActions in August.
Q Just like that?
Gries: Our other solution was outdated and not
very user friendly, especially with our company
being a tech company. Our average employee
age is around 30 with lots of people just out of
college. A group of employees refused to book
on Concur: They had tried it once and got an error or it was too slow or they [simply] didn’t like
it. I needed a tool that was more user friendly
that our employees would like and easily adopt.
I could tell from the 10 minutes that [the chatbot platform] looked way better and easier.
Q What did you like about the Concur/TMC service platform, and does the chatbot
fulfill those aspects?
Gries: I thought maybe TripActions was too good
to be true, so I wanted to make sure that all the
other boxes were checked. The actual support
we had through our previous travel agent was
really good. Also, all the reporting. On Concur,
I could get the information I needed, but it did
not look very nice and was sometimes difficult
to pull. Reporting on TripActions is a lot cleaner
and easier to pull up. Concur and our former
travel agent did a pretty good job of making sure
our travelers were aware of the passport and
visa requirements. TripActions does that, [too].
Q TripActions says its bots proactively con- tact travelers with instructions and tutorial links when they sign up and later if they
run into booking trouble but that it’s not just a
bot solution. When do humans get involved?
Gries: Sometimes the first response will be automated, and once [the conversation] gets more
detailed, more difficult, that’s where a live person steps in. A traveler can type, “My flight got
delayed. Can I get other options?” Then a live
TripActions person would jump on. Probably
the two most [common] use cases are changing
and canceling a reservation. [Additionally,] as a
travel manager, I once reran a report a couple of
times because I was trying to look for something
specific. Something triggered [TripActions] that
I was struggling and the bot sent me a message
asking if I needed more help.
Q How has the trip search and booking process changed since you adopted the
Gries: It doesn’t take our travelers as long to
book a single trip anymore. Adoption has been
a big improvement, as well. [With our prior
tools], adoption was about 65 percent to 70
percent, and now we’re at about 85 percent
to 90 percent. We’re going to have a lot more
complete data. TripActions also pulls in a better overall inventory from [Expedia] and Priceline [subsidiaries] than what we were getting
[through the traditional TMC]. European travel is still a little bit of a challenge, [but] TripActions now has a separate European product
that pulls in more low-cost airlines.
Q Have you seen savings?
Gries: TripActions’ incentive program gives
[travelers] a ballpark idea of what the average
price should be, and travelers can get rewards
if they book cheaper. We’ve had a lot of hotel
costs under $100 a night, which previously I
[rarely] saw. Our average ticket cost in 2016
was $615; in 2017, we’re right around $400
[for the months we’ve used the chatbot]. That
does not factor in the money we’re spending
on those incentive rewards that the company
pays, but even factoring those in, I’m sure that
our overall spend has still improved.
Q Have your travelers experienced any an- noyances with the automated chatbot?
Gries: None of our travelers have voice frustrations in that way. Nobody has specified
whether they think or know it’s a bot in the
beginning because the conversations and messaging come across as very personal.
Q Hudl is a fast-growing company. Do you think this solution can scale with you?
Gries: I’m pretty confident that they’re going
to be able to remain the solution to us for a
while, even if we continue to grow.
Can Chatbot Travel Solutions Respond to the
Demands of Small & Midsize Enterprises?