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How sentiment analysis will revolutionise measuring the cost of travel

Sentiment analysis, PTMG

Our Head of MI & Data Darren Williams believes that sentiment analysis will revolutionise how companies measure the true cost of travel. Before we get into how this can be achieved, let’s start by discussing sentiment analysis and its place in the travel industry. If applied in the right scenarios, sentiment analysis can yield a lot of benefit for TMCs and customers alike:

We look to behavioural analysis to understand the motivation behind an action, and then, once we understand that motivation, start to monitor the returns any adjustments to behaviours bring by typically tracking changes to spend and savings. 

So why is sentiment analysis important in understanding the total cost of business travel? As our research report shows, it is clear that business travellers have needs beyond just a room for a night. So, when we change a corporate policy that restricts the options available for our travellers, or restricts their travel abilities, there is often a correlating impact on morale. This impact on morale can manifest itself in many ways, such as tired or unprepared travellers, who arrive at meetings or events feeling frustrated. There is therefore a high likelihood that the reason for travel isn’t successful - that the sale isn’t closed, not all the meeting agenda was covered - meaning additional travel and meetings are needed, or poor business decisions are inadvertently made. 

All of these have an impact on cost - whether it’s lost sales, or additional travel. But we need to marry these risks with the opportunity for savings. This is why it’s important to understand the impact of policy changes on travellers, or even try to pre-empt how a change would be felt within the business. 

At Clarity, we are looking at how sentiment analysis can give us insight into how policy and business guidelines impacts the traveller. One of the key areas of focus for travel buyers for 2018 is how to spend less but retain quality; so customer, and more importantly, traveller feedback is vital. But guess what? Not all travellers want to fill in a survey. And if they do, we don’t always get the truth. More often, we get as little information as is necessary to complete the survey. 

So, it’s important that any traveller surveys that we do provide clearly explain how it will inform the overall travel policy, with relevant questions, such as: opinions on days in lieu in return for extensive business travel; the benefit of utilising properties with access to gyms; monitoring the amount and quality of sleep that travellers get when away on business; and feedback on type and class of travel, location of accommodation etc. We can then link this information back to the properties, carriers, times and seasonality of stays and get a clearer picture of traveller experience and sentiment, and use this data to help strike a balance between corporate spend and traveller satisfaction. 

We are looking into how we can also use sentiment analysis from a much wider base of users to help provide recommendations that, when taken in conjunction with that amount of traveller feedback, give a strong wide coverage of sentiment around a product or experience for example - by tapping into the power of social media. 

But this isn’t as simple as it sounds. I need to be able to filter out noise such as unrelated sentiment. I need to refine my learning model to make sure that positive sentiment isn’t being incorrectly analysed as negative sentiment and vice versa. I need to deal with a range of subjects, a range of products and a range of contexts, I need to blend the resulting data with customer feedback, transactional data and behavioural insight. 

But the results are worth it. If I can help a customer determine the best fit travel policy that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company, give the company the ability to see the impact and sentiment of the travellers behind that policy throughout the lifespan of the contract, and more importantly monitor what impact any policy changes have, then the net result can be a happy customer and a happy traveller. 

But we don’t need to stop there. If I take this data and then blend it with the customer’s benchmark data - sales targets for example - I can then track sales performance in line with, say, a change in hotel policy. I can also compare the savings made as a result of that policy change and correlate it back to the sales performance. Which means at some point in the future, I will be able to forecast the impact of a policy change - before I make the change. 

The bottom line is sentiment analysis is an essential component in measuring the total cost of travel in 2018. By embracing this, companies will be able to determine a best fit travel policy - one that takes into account the needs of the traveller as well as the company - which in turn can reduce costs, maintain quality and, by combining spend with return on investment, enable customers to measure the true cost of travel. 

To learn more about measuring the cost of travel, click here to read our full report Planes, Trains & Marginal Gains