TripActions is the leading, cloud-based corporate travel and expense management platform. Trusted by nearly 4,000 companies globally, TripActions empowers organizations with real-time data and insights to make business and travel policy decisions, paired with flexible T&E management tools that enable organizations to ensure the health and safety of traveling employees while controlling costs and saving money. TripActions delivers consumer-like ease-of-use with powerful personalization, unrivaled inventory choice, 24/7 travel agents and streamlined travel payments that users love.
As you might have guessed, as the COVID pandemic continued to rise, TripActions saw a dramatic increase in travel-related questions regarding the outbreak. These questions ranged anywhere from how to ensure the safety of travellers while they're on the road, to the financial impacts, refunds and cost control around travel changes and cancellations. But as the pandemic continued to develop, TripActions was getting asked more general COVID-related questions, and even though they didn't have the answers to all of them, they looked to deliver a solution: The TripActions Community—an open forum that leverages content, insights and best practices from its users to drive peer-to-peer engagement, sharing and learning.
I'd like to share with you how TripActions responded to the increase in COVID-related questions—and I'd like to share their story because they responded in an admirable way that garnered my utmost respect. To tell their story, I had the opportunity to chat with Meagen Eisenberg, TripActions Chief Marketing Officer and Greg Perotto, the VP of Global Corporate Marketing.
What I found most admirable about their response was the fact that they went beyond delivering services to their customers; they responded on a human level, and opened a community to the general public to discuss any COVID-related questions, even if it had nothing to do with TripActions. During these trying times, we need the people in organizations to step-up and be there for other people, and that's exactly what TripActions did. Their efforts have provided a place where people can collaborate, share their concerns, ask questions and feel more connected—it's this type of support that will help us all get through these difficult times.
A Human Response
As the COVID pandemic continued to develop, TripActions noticed that the types of questions they were asked also began to change. As Greg explains, "the entire tone of our customers had changed, and it was obvious that COVID was what a lot of people had questions about, and we knew it was important to ask and get answers to these questions." While TripActions could certainly address questions regarding best practices and the ramifications of cancelled trips, they began to see an increase in questions that they didn't necessarily have the answers to, such as where the latest testing centers were located.
As Meagen explains, "While we could talk a lot about duty of care and business travel continuity, we couldn't talk to all of [those other types of questions]." She continues, "So we wanted to create a space where we could bring in our suppliers, the hotel companies, the airlines, etc., to answer these questions." It was important for Meagen, Greg, and the entire team at TripActions to provide answers to not only their customers, but everyone looking for support. At that point, they knew that an online community forum would be the best place to bring people together -- including travel managers, finance, operations, and risk managers, as well as industry partners and suppliers -- to ask these sorts of questions, and get meaningful answers from trusted sources.
Not only that, but they wanted to get it up and running as soon as possible; and although they had never had an online community before, they wasted no time in their search for the perfect vendor.
TripActions Journey to Vanilla
The number one thing on their list was getting a vendor who could have a community up and running right away. To Meagen, this meant finding a vendor who they could immediately identify and understand the product offerings, quickly see use cases and most importantly, develop a partnership—one that they could work with quickly and effortlessly to get the community up and running in a very short period of time.
"We wanted to be able to look at the vendor website, learn what the product does right away, be able to quickly compare our requirements with the platform offerings, see customer examples and find out whether the vendor could get the community up right away," said Meagen. "Of all the vendors that we looked at, [Vanilla] was on it right away, and was willing to work with us fast. We flew through the procurement process, including legal, within 24 hours, and in no time the community was up and running."
One thing that helped TripActions get their community up and running so quickly, however, was the fact that everyone in their company and their stakeholders were 100% on board and ready to assist in any way necessary. "We were able to curate our content and get it posted so quickly because our partners and suppliers were more than willing to jump in and contribute," says Meagen. She continues, "The entire company came together; the tech team jumped on it, the web team, the content team, marketing, our CSMs….everyone worked to quickly get it launched, and it was quite amazing to see how fast you can execute on something. From our employees to our customers, partners and suppliers, we’re all in this together and the community that grew out of our in-person connections was nothing short of amazing."
Community Beyond Community to Stay Connected
TripActions also understands the importance of staying connected during these difficult times, when most people are working from home. To that end, TripActions wanted to not only create this online community space for people to gather and ask questions, but they also wanted to create a "community beyond the community."
To Greg, this meant providing people with a number of different options to stay connected, and the community was just one part of this. He notes, "The community is a place for folks to come together, but for us, the community goes beyond just the online forum—we're also doing things like hosting virtual office hours for those who have a stake in business travel and ensuring that their employees are safe and secure." He continues, "We also launched #PassThePlane to engage the community in a more light-hearted paper airplane challenge that would further bring us all together and inspire hope while remaining apart. And so, it's a community beyond just social networks, its community beyond just office hours—we're bringing all of those things together so that there are multiple ways for all of us to stay connected and continue through these hard times together, as a community."
What I liked most about TripActions' decision to procure a community was the fact that they looked to do so for the sole purpose of providing a space for people to discuss COVID-related questions, even if it had nothing to do with their business. That shows that the people behind the business care about humanity, and wanted to create an open space where anyone concerned about travel and the virus can ask questions and get answers. To me, that shows that TripActions is choosing to put humanity first, and is doing what they can to empower global citizens with accessible peer-sourced knowledge. It’s living their vision of the power of in-person connections to move people, ideas and businesses forward.