Travel Value & Perks
Who Says You Can’t Have Both?
By Michael Roney
After a couple of cool years, business travel is heating up again, with 57% of senior finance executives expecting to maintain or increase spending, according to the latest American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor. Yet this positive outlook comes with some caveats, as companies now are demanding solid return on investment for all trips.
The current climate means that, more than ever, value and productivity are must-have benefits for business travelers, whether they’re on the road for global organizations or for small to midsize companies. But what about comfort for all of those days away from family and friends—or even a little luxury?
Fortunately, travel value and perks are not mutually exclusive, thanks to increased competition for business travel budgets among providers. This is good news if you align and leverage the full matrix of programs, promotions and conveniences, including:
Enjoy Your ROI
Despite the infamous hassles with security and a la carte airline pricing, overall we’ve before never seen such a breadth of choice and opportunity for frequent business travelers. Ultimately, these customer-friendly innovations allow you to save time, increase your productivity, and—dare we say it—enjoy your trip while ensuring a solid return on your travel investment.
Strong travel return on investment requires getting ground transportation value. That includes making that quick getaway at the rental lot while ensuring that your costs reflect today’s business realities.
“Once travelers get off the plane, they have to be efficient in what the company needs them to do,” says Rob Connors, Assistant Vice President, National Car Rental. “They’ve already had a lot dictated to them throughout their business trip: what seat to sit in, which hotel room they’re getting, what time their meeting is the next day and so forth. So, we give our loyalty customers speed, ease and control of their choices.”
Giving New Meaning to “Express”
Connors certainly walks the talk. In just the past few months, National’s Emerald Club picked up a National Business Travel Association/Wall Street Journal Business Traveler Innovation Award, and SmarterTravel’s 2010 Editor’s Choice Award for Best Rental Car Loyalty Program. This recent recognition complements accolades received from TheStreet.com and other consumer satisfaction guideposts.
Why all the fuss? Consider the Emerald Club program, free and available in 56 cities nationwide. Here, National takes “express pick-up” and kicks it up a couple of notches, providing an entire aisle of available vehicles from which you literally choose the one you want to drive.
“The process starts by reserving a midsize car, but the Emerald Aisle will be stocked with midsize and above,” notes Connors. “If one day there’s an SUV on the Aisle and you choose to drive off in it, you’ll only pay the midsize rate. Club members get the double benefit of choosing their own vehicle and the enhanced value of the upgrade at no additional expense.”
Innovation Equals Value
Convenience like this stems from constant customer feedback, including National’s Service Quality index (NSQi), the results of which are measured and posted internally. “NSQi continually enhances the experiences of our travelers because our cities are so gung-ho on getting high scores,” Connors says. This same culture drives other National innovations:
Today’s business travel is demanding, but fortunately National is pushing the value envelope for hassled road warriors. “Our mantra here is that we’re going to bring intuition, ease and control to car rental,” says Connors. “Our research tells us what our customers want, so we provide it and are constantly going back down that path.”
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