There's a dirty little secret about corporate booking tools -- road warriors think they are clunky and a majority do their searching on more agile consumer sites before completing their reservations in the prescribed company booking tool.
In fact, Short's Travel Management, a Waterloo, Iowa, travel management company doing about $200 million in annual air sales and with clients ranging from the NCAA to Louisiana State University, found that 64.9% of its business travel users research flights and hotels on consumer sites before booking with Short's.
So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, as the saying goes, and that's what Short's has done with its new Bookit tool, which launches today.
Customers of Short's can use the Bookit tool after searching for flights using ITA Software's Matrix or OntheFly mobile app; Kayak's website or mobile apps; or Hipmunk's mobile apps -- actually any search engine which enables you to email your preferred itinerary.
They email their flight choice to email@example.com and, and within a couple of minutes or so, the Short's system automatically emails them back with that booking option and a few others that fall within corporate policy.
The alternative flight options may provide better options within policy, carriers such as Southwest Airlines that the consumer search sites don't search, costs savings or time-saving itineraries.
Short's says travelers then click Bookit within the return email to select their flight choice; continue to select seats, verify their frequent flyer number, and add hotel or car; and then click again to confirm their purchase in the Short's recently rolled out online booking tool, STO 3.0.
David LeCompte, CEO of Short's, says the travel management company's development of the completely automated -- there is no human intervention on the Short's end -- Bookit tool recognizes the dominant way business travelers shop for flights and concedes that Kayak and the evolving Google Flight Search have the upper hand in search and spend millions on its fine-tuning.
"Let's tap into that," LeCompte says. "Let them handle the search."
"We aren't going to be able to touch that [Google Flight Search] with a ten-foot pole so let's capitalize on that," LeCompte adds.
So, Bookit enables employees of Short's clients to search for flights in the ways they are accustomed to and then they can book their itineraries in the Short's online booking tool in compliance with company policy and taking advantage of applicable discounts, the management of unused tickets, all with the reporting captured for the company's back-office systems, LeCompte says.
So what happens then if road warriors find and email flights that violate corporate policy?
LeCompte says that decision is left up to the client: some companies may prohibit it, others will flag it and still others might give the green light to book the flight out of policy, he says.
Short's has been testing BookIt prior to today's launch and hopes to get the email response time to less than a minute, LeCompte says. Adding hotel shopping and booking to the mix is part of the gameplan, too.
So how difficult was it to develop Bookit?
LeCompte says 85% of the coding was incorporated into the launch of the Short's STO 3.0 online booking tool and much of the remainder of the work entailed determining how to parse the emails and other options.
There was a lot of work in this workaround and now Short's will be monitoring the up-take.