Travel

Road Warriors Need More Than Tech to Succeed

The stresses of business travel have at least been alleviated in part by collaboration technologies, video conferencing, and virtual connectivity. Those innovations certainly bring stresses of their own, and businesspersons utilizing them must ensure that the Customer Experience is maintained and improved, even when the customer is never seen in person. This has been made easier by artificial intelligence, which makes automated transactions friendlier and more human than ever; and big data insights that give remote customer agents much greater ability to know their customer than was ever before possible.

Even with technological advances though, face-to-face meetings and business travel remain a reality of the corporate world. A video conference may relieve some of the stress associated with those business trips, but road warriors across all industries still face high-stress levels constantly as they face unexpected delays, unfriendly TSA agents, and lack of Wi-Fi in destinations across the world.

Russell Hannon, an “ultra-economical travel expert” who uses lean principles to travel cheaply, is the author of “Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less.” This road warrior expresses worries over customs, and in traveling to foreign countries to speak and hold book signings, Russell says, “I often fly on the day prior to my engagements and always stress about what will happen if Customs does not allow me to go through and how that would impact my business if I were to fail to appear at a pre-arranged event for that reason. I try to obtain the necessary visa prior to committing to any engagements, which can sometimes be as much as nine months in advance. I also refrain from bringing any commercial goods with me while traveling by having the local events procure and manage inventory of my books where they also collect payment.”

Business travelers may be a little spoiled when it comes to fast and readily accessible Internet access and are often disappointed when traveling overseas and finding spotty connections when they absolutely need to connect with the home office. Felipe Vasconcelos, the owner of Elastic Band Co., says “The most stressful part of business travel is finding reliable Wi-Fi to conduct business away from the office. Some of the most frustrating moments I can remember from the past couple of years has been not being able to send out critical emails because of terrible Internet connection while traveling (I’m looking at you, Morocco!).”

For Ken Masatrandrea, COO for Preferred Hotels & Resorts (who has accumulated an incredible 550,000 miles in 2016 alone), stress comes from the unexpected. “For me, the most stressful part of business travel is unexpected delays and cancellations,” said Ken. “My business trips involve complex itineraries, such as my most recent business trip that took me to Africa, UAE, and Europe with transfers and connections during a two-week span. Planning these connections to work with my schedule is difficult enough, so when one part of my trip gets interrupted, it can be extremely challenging to get back on track and not miss any of my commitments. As an example, I was in Berlin during the March 10 train strike, so I had to book the Deutsche Bahn train to Frankfurt at the last minute and flew directly to Los Angeles to ensure I arrived on schedule. The fact that I’m always in different time zones, mostly in Europe, Africa, and Asia, being able to connect with someone in my office is critical to maintaining communications with clients and other associates.”

Dorothy Dowling, SVP, and CMO for Best Western Hotels & Resorts is a road warrior who spends nearly 200 days a year traveling the world for business. According to Dorothy, “Unexpected travel issues – which we have all experienced – can disrupt travel plans and sometimes require quick planning to ensure business trip objectives can be met. Whether that is a flight delay or cancellation, or a unique situation such as the recent ground operators strike in Berlin, Germany, these situations can wreak havoc on already hectic schedules. Being an experienced traveler certainly, helps in navigating these kinds of travel disruptions—knowing what and when to make changes in your itinerary allows for better recovery of business outcomes.”

“Business travel is often one of the most difficult aspects of corporate life,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at hotel price comparison platform HotelsCombined. “We may not always be able to avoid the frustrations and stresses of business travel, but our research has found that those who suffer from job-related burnout often actually turn to travel to rejuvenate. In our research, 39 percent of Americans who traveled alone in the last twelve months did so because they felt burned out at work, and needed time alone to rejuvenate.”

The stresses of business travel take its toll not only on the road warriors of corporate America, but also on the corporations themselves, which must strike a balance between getting the job done, and pushing travel to the point where diminishing returns apply. The balance can be found in maintaining face-to-face contact through travel when necessary or when it may be part of developing a relationship with a new prospect and utilizing newer collaboration technology to facilitate quicker connections without having to leave the office. And when those harried road warriors do get burned out after too many days on the road, there’s nothing like a little “hair of the dog” in the form of a personal trip with no business obligations to avoid burnout.

 
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Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer and PR counsel to several Internet startups. He has been widely published on subjects relating to customer-facing technology, fintech, cloud computing and crowdsourcing. He lives in South Bend, Indiana with his wife Charoenkwan and their Boston Terrier, "Ling Ba."

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