Business trips: pains and gains
A recent survey of 587 German business travellers, carried out by YouGov Germany on behalf of CityLoop, paints a clear picture: 52 percent of employees and decision makers travelling on business cite late and unreliable modes of transport as their biggest annoyance, while 34 percent cite incomplete information in the event of delays as a further inconvenience.
There are many possible reasons for delays, cancellations, and other nasty surprises. Given that they have to accommodate millions of passengers, it would certainly be wrong to condemn rail and air transport companies, whose unreliability issues seem to be in the media on an almost daily basis. But, with traffic jams in cities and on motorways driving is not usually a pleasure, either, not even for business. Each mode of transport has its own reasons for existing, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
The business traveller, however, is typically faced with the problem of having to use a chain of mobility options to get from A to B: a car to the train station, then a train to the airport, a long-haul flight, and finally a rental car, driver, train, or taxi cab.
This is what both shorter and longer business trips typically look like. And even if, in a perfect world, each individual link within the transport chain were perfectly reliable, a trip could still turn into a nuisance and an inefficient waste of time. Another result of the study was that almost one third of interviewees complained about inconvenient connections at airports and long-distance train stations, and failure to coordinate the timetables of the various different means of transport.
This is also an annoyance for companies because an employee who barely manages to catch his or her flight or long-distance train is neither relaxed nor able to use the feeder journey for work or rest. In light of the current legal and political discussions as to whether travel time should be classified as working time, this may, in fact, soon become the focus of more attention than the ticket price.
Only a business trip that is worth the money from an economic and financial point of view, i.e. a trip during which the employee was able to be productive on the company’s behalf and had adequate time to relax, can fulfil these growing expectations. A day in the office lost, plus the added stress of travelling, often for the purpose of just a brief face-to-face meeting, places a burden on the company and its employees. After all, neither work nor countless emails are going to take care of themselves.
Source: Survey YouGov/CityLoop
It should come as no surprise, then, that 29 percent of the business travellers surveyed also complained about missing or unreliable wireless connections – an important requirement if you want to be efficient on the road. Low-cost tickets at so-called “no-frills” fees may please the company’s controller; employees, however, may be worried about the cost of the beverages they have to pay for out of their own pockets. 19 percent of survey participants complained about these costs, making this one of the top 6 biggest annoyances for business travellers. The full list of inconveniences is long. Reason enough to work on a solution and take a closer look at the factors that increase travel convenience and ensure a significantly more pleasant business trip!
Source: Survey YouGov/CityLoop
The Internet has become an integral part of our professional lives and, despite increasingly generous mobile data plans for smartphones, one particular passenger request came as no surprise: free, reliable wireless connections for laptops, tablet computers, etc. (40 percent of those surveyed mentioned this)! It’s 2019 and, from an international perspective especially, we feel this should be a given on all means of transport.
In addition, 38 percent of travellers surveyed requested more comfortable seating. Most larger companies have been paying more attention to their office chairs and desks for occupational health reasons, but such considerations frequently fall victim to cutbacks during business trips. Given that business trips can often take an entire day, or even several days, this requirement is certainly not a luxury.
29 percent of employees travelling on business prefer modes of transport which allow their employers to settle the costs directly. This reflects their experiences of lengthy travel expense reports and of having to collect receipts to be filed under expenses later.
Any convenient feature that can facilitate this process represents a welcome alternative to fading thermal paper receipts, and to receipts that make a guesswork out of expenses and won’t withstand serious scrutiny by the tax office. Unfortunately, such practices are still going on today, and not just on international business trips.
Next on the list of top 6 services requested, with 28% of the votes each, were prompt and transparent information about delays; the option of selecting and reserving the seat of your choice; and, last but not least, friendly staff. The wish list reflecting favourable factors was long, too; the study allowed multiple answers to be selected.
New mobility options, especially from the sharing and pooling economy, are vying for the custom of business travellers. They both complement well-established modes of transport, and are in competition with them. In an ideal world, these new options will solve problems and increase service efforts across the entire industry.
In big cities, i.e. for short journeys, a dense transport network already exists, and there is a wide spectrum of offers readily available, ranging from local public transport to taxi cabs. A number of start-up companies and transport innovations are now in competition with taxi cabs, buses, coaches, and trains. People are also experimenting with ever more mobility concepts: car sharing and electromobility in the city, in particular. And, for long journeys, high-speed ICE trains and aeroplanes continue to be part of daily life for most business travellers.
But what about mid-range distances? These feeder journeys between corporations and hotspots, such as major airports and long-distance train stations, may be the key to improving the business travel experience. Many companies that require frequent business travel – from mid-sized enterprises to major corporations – have headquarters located outside the big cities. For employees, this often means undertaking a tedious journey requiring a number of transfers between different modes of transport, just to reach the departure point of their long-haul connection.
Looking at the results of the recent study cited above, one thing is clear: the only way to reduce the incidence of the most common annoyances and frustrations and meet companies’ and employees’ requests for both efficient and pleasant business trips in a holistic way is to re-define medium-distance journeys and make them more business friendly.