Gamification is a trend which will enjoy great popularity in coming years. Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a leader in innovation in this sector, has long been studying how to implement gamification in travel management. Vincent Lebunetel, Vice President of Corporate Innovation and an expert in applying gaming techniques to travel, says there are many benefits a gamification program brings to corporate travel and talks about all the work that CWT Solutions Group, the consulting arm of CWT, is doing to implement this new trend.
CWT: Vincent, according to the Travel Management Priorities for 2014 report released in late January, 15% of travel managers are considering introducing gaming techniques in their program this year and 43% are unaware of the benefits of gamification, which reveals an area of significant opportunity. In our CWT Vision publication in December 2013, we talked about how to apply gamification to travel management. What are the next steps? How CWT is preparing to help customers apply this technique?
VL: We are conducting a pilot program with three clients and we are already planning the implementation of our gamification product in more client companies. We are very optimistic because we there is a great expectation about this topic: Our customers are showing great interest in increasing compliance with travel policy among their travelers. We are ready to use the techniques of play as a new formula to boost compliance and, therefore, savings.
CWT: Has CWT Solutions Group worked with experts in this field?
VL: Yes, we worked with one of the world’s leaders on gamification and loyalty. It is not offering games without a goal. We are using the game as a means to improve compliance and help travelers to take not only the right decision, but the best decision possible. By this I mean that a traveler can meet your company’s policy if, for example, they choose a hotel that is within the program of your company, but is that the best option? It’s possible they could opt for another hotel in their program with a lower rate. We seek to go further and help travelers not only to comply with the policy but to make the most appropriate decision.
CWT: There are some voices that question gamification, saying they don’t see why one would reward travelers for doing something that, presumably, they ought to do. What is your view on that?
VL: It depends on how you design the game! There are, and there will be, as many games (and therefore many reward programs) as there are companies. Here we must not lose sight of our objective: to continue to help our clients achieve greater savings while increasing travelers’ loyalty to their travel policy! We see gamification as a new method to generate savings as we have found that it is increasingly difficult to get results with traditional methods. Ultimately, gaming is a novel way to involve the travelers with the objective of saving their companies and, in most cases, the rewards are not even financially related.CWT: So according to you, the main benefit of introducing gamification in a travel program is the possibility of targeting individuals. Are there any other benefits?
VL: Thanks to gamification, clients will have the ability to enhance the competitive spirit of their travelers because people do not normally like to be named and shamed, to be identified as the person that is not compliant to the policy. Games generate competition, something that drives everybody up. From our perspective, gaming is key to foster travelers’ loyalty and boost employees’ competitive nature. Gamification not only helps travelers to take the right decision, but also the best possible one.
CWT: From travelers taking the best possible decision I assume companies will see great benefit in the shape of savings, is that right?
VL: Yes, that is right but, once again, I think it is important to differentiate compliance from ‘super compliance.’ Strictly defined, compliance is about following the rules. For example, a city cap might state that travelers can spend up to 100 Euros in Barcelona. So, if they spend 100 Euros they will be compliant but, to be super compliant means that when offered three choices, one at 100, one at 90 and one at 80, they will take the hotel at 80. As a travel manager/buyer you want to reward this behavior.
CWT: Is it going to be easy to measure ROI so clients can see the benefits?
VL: Yes, once a client implements gamification, we will be able to measure results against their baseline.
CWT: How is the solution we are offering? Are we sending reports on a regular basis? Do we have a platform where travel managers can log in to see the evolution?
VL: Our product is not only about providing a platform. We offer indeed an Internet platform so that players can interact online and see their performance, managers can follow their team performance compared with other teams, etc. but the platform in itself is just an interface. What is very important is that we at CWT Solutions Group are helping clients to define the rules of the game, including the list of travelers who will participate. These rules will be different from one customer to the other. We are helping our clients to focus on a number of KPIs, five to eight maximum. Our consultants work alongside our clients to determine the most relevant KPIs to be used to reach client’s goal. Once they are implemented, there are a certain amount of points allocated to each behavior. For example, do travelers get more points for using a city cap or for using a preferred hotel? Why? This work is key as it sets the foundations that are more important than the platform itself.
CWT: Do you think the travel industry is ready to embrace this technique?
VL: Yes! I believe the industry will embrace gamification for at least three main reasons.
No. 1, customers are eager to find new solutions to improve savings while it becomes more and more difficult to mandate and, when you cannot mandate, you need to influence. There are two ways of influencing: either using coercion, or using positive reinforcement.
No. 2, we are aiding in the consumerization of our industry. We tend to apply what we use in our personal life. Gaming is no exception. We are using gaming more and more in our personal lives and we will be using it more and more into the business world, no doubt.
No. 3, although we are the first ones to introduce this and we want to be the TMC flagship for gamification, we can see some competitors reacting and embracing this trend.
CWT: Are there any success cases in the industry that have already proved the value of gamification?
VL: We’ve seen many examples of companies from various industries, such as airlines, car manufacturing, telecommunications companies leveraging gaming to reach various sets of goals (customer registration in promotional campaigns, training programs, employee engagement).
We’re now excited to open up the door of gamification to our clients and be at the front line of that change.