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Travel 18th April 2018 - 5 min read

6 Behaviour Science Secrets for Travel Managers

By Joni Lindes

“If the policy makes an enemy of the people, then people will make an enemy of the policy,” said Irish statesman Edmund Burke. Enforcing any policy is frequently met with a traveller “going rogue” and doing whatever they want. Like it or not, simply telling somebody what to do does not always get the best results. It is often how you tell them. Introducing: the Science of Persuasion- inspired by Behaviour Science.

What is the Science of Persuasion?

Persuasion: you either have it or you don’t. Those who have it influence others around them and often achieve their business goals at a faster rate. Convinced it is due to mere talent we fool ourselves into thinking we can never achieve the same, right? Wrong. Persuasion is a science and we can learn it. People are overloaded with information and often need guidance in their everyday choices. Steve Martin’s bestselling book: Yes!: 60 secrets from the Science of Persuasion shows us how we can use behaviour science to our advantage. Whether you want to keep your travellers within policy, negotiate more successfully or draw your customers to your brand, there is so much the science of persuasion can teach us.

Influencing traveller behaviour can drive your travel programme. Influencing where travellers book and how they book can help negotiate better rates. Travellers, and people in general, are influenced by 6 key persuasion principles. These are:

1. Reciprocity

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” is an approach used for centuries. It works. People feel obliged to give back to others when they have received a similar sort of behaviour themselves. It is often why employees look after their boss’s interests if the boss shows they are looking out for their staff.

A study conducted in a restaurant found that giving a mint with the bill led to a 3% increase in tips. It seems like such a small gesture, yet had a tangible result. Upon receiving 2 mints, tips increased to 14%. When the waiter left the customers with one mint, stopped and came back saying “For you lovely people I will give you two mints,” tips increased to 23%.

What you give, and the way you give it can be very powerful. In travel, you can give extra benefits for booking listed hotels, for example. When giving, make sure to make travellers feel as if they deserve it. For example, you can state: “for your hard work and achievements, feel welcome to book business class with (insert preferred airline) on this trip. Reward programmes in flights, hotels and food etc are entirely based on this principle.

2. Scarcity

People want what they can’t have, but only if it is a unique product.

The principle of scarcity is not new. The diamond industry has used it extensively. Diamonds were rare before prospectors discovered a large crater in Kimberley, South Africa. De Beers- a group of mining companies that banded together- believed this vast supply of diamonds would make them more available- and therefore less expensive. They calculated how many Americans were expected to get married that year and only released the same number of diamonds into the market. De Beers controlled 90% of all diamonds and were able to keep them at the expensive price we know today.

In addition, De Beers marketed diamonds as a product synonymous with marriage- making it unique, rare and therefore worth the expensive price.

A limited supply plus a unique product drives up the price making us believe it is something extravagant or rewarding.

Stating a certain hotel will be taken off the supply chain list soon, for example, may prompt travellers to book it more often. You also may want to explain what makes it unique or special.

3. Authority

People are drawn to knowledgeable and credible experts. It is important to establish your credibility before you present a message. Pharmaceutical advertisements often use a doctor to endorse their medications.

A real-estate firm made use of this tactic when the receptionist stated her colleague’s credentials and experience before putting customers through. The result? A 20% rise in appointments and 15% rise in signed contracts.

These principles can be applied to a travel programme. Travellers, who are often senior members of staff, can be more receptive to information from a qualified and certified source. Encouraging others to state your experience before disclosing policy may help persuade even the most stubborn.

4. Consistency

We are very much tied to our commitments. Encouraging small, easily achievable actions may encourage larger, more significant actions later on. For example, a health care practice asked patients, instead of staff, to write their own appointments on cards. 18% more patients showed up to their appointments.

Travel managers can try this approach. Ask travellers for small actions first before asking for a major change. Getting a commitment to enforce the principles of the travel programme from travel approvers and budget holders can influence them to actively help you achieve your goals.

5. Liking

Perhaps the most obvious way of encouraging behaviour is getting a person to like you first before asking them anything. Liking is quite simple. We like people who also like us, are similar to us and cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

Two groups of MBA students were tasked with negotiating a deal. The one group aimed to reach a conclusion as soon as possible. 55% came to an agreement in this group. The other group was told to have some personal interaction first to establish some common ground. They achieved an agreement rate of 90%. These agreements were typically worth 80% more to each party.

If you engage with your travellers first on a common ground they are more likely to listen to you and take your recommendations into account

6. Consensus

People feel more comfortable following the actions of others. It is not hard to believe that a hotel aiming to get guests to reuse their towels increased compliance simply by telling them other guest were re-using their towels. This campaign was more effective than stating any environmental benefits. The hotel claimed, in their messaging, that 75% guests re-used their towels during their stay. This resulted in a 26% rise in compliance. When they changed the statement to “75% of our guests in this room reuse their towels during their stay,” the compliance rate rose by a further 7%.

These small tricks made a large difference by themselves. Imagine combining them all into your travel programme management. Let’s take it a step further and use data analytics to identify similar travellers by demographics and behaviour, making sure the right message hits the right ears. PredictX’s Behavioural Science for Travel does just that.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
5 min read

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