It wasn’t that long ago, but it’s easy to forget how frighteningly fast events were unfolding in late February and early March of 2020 as federal, state and local governments began implementing lockdowns to protect their citizens from the spread of coronavirus.
“That was the moment for me where I thought, ‘OK, we are going to drastically have to change our mindset and the way we're operating here," said Nina Herold, Chief Product and Operations Officer of TripActions.
TripActions makes corporate travel and expense management software and could see, in real time, how many people using their service were currently traveling to places where outbreaks were occurring. This was critical information for TripActions’ customers: finance leaders and travel, HR, operations and risk managers who were busy trying to keep up with where their employees were and how to keep them away from places where the disease was spreading quickly.
Within 48 hours, Herold’s team had developed sophisticated dashboards to help their customers keep their employees safe. By telling customers where their employees were, had been, or planned to be in relation to the rapidly spreading disease, the dashboards, coupled with the industry leader’s modern, flexible technology, helped travel leaders react quickly, formulate a response and adapt as needed based on each situation.
Meanwhile, TripActions’ marketing department was hard at work. They rallied together to update their website, messaging, hundreds of customer emails, and more in order to be more useful for customers and to reflect an approach that thoughtfully addressed their needs during the crisis. They created new materials for their sales and customer success teams to work off of that would address the entirely new set of challenges enterprises and their travelers would face.
In the end, a complete rework of their site, messaging, and sales operations took 5 very long days to complete, including the weekend.
How did TripActions have the confidence to make such sudden and drastic changes to the way they ran their business? They built a culture around agility and being attentive, and curious, about customer solving customer pain points.
“As a startup, we’re used to reacting quickly, being very agile, and trying to see around corners,” Herold said. “We’re always going to pivot to what we know our customers are going to need.”
Before getting started, the first people TripActions contacted was its customer advisory board, who the company turns to for quick feedback, beta testing or to help understand the needs of their greater customer base.
“In a situation like this, where we don't have the time to do the user research or beta testing, we can actually just get our customers in a room with our product managers, designers, and engineers,” Herold said. “We can run a few things by them and see if it resonates, make sure it would be helpful and develop really quickly.”
Feedback from the board helped give them the confidence to move forward, and results from a SurveyMonkey survey sent to their customers gave them further validation they were on the right track.
“The thing customers in our survey said would make them most comfortable getting back to business travel was putting in place strategies and travel policies based on the spread of the virus,” Herold said. “It was clear that we were barking up the right tree and that this was something that would make both travelers and travel managers feel more comfortable.”
Some of the TripActions features that resulted from customer feedback include:
- Real-time COVID-19 reproduction numbers, CDC ratings and any local government restrictions presented in both the Admin Dashboard and the booking search results to help travel managers and travelers assess the safety of travel
- Automated unused tickets and waivers in the booking flow to help enterprises ensure no travel budget is left on the table on their path to business recovery
- Deeper policy controls to protect traveling employees while controlling costs, like the ability to restrict travel by continent, country and city.
It hasn’t all been easy for TripActions, which has also tightened its belt, laid off valued team members, and later secured additional funding to help weather the storm and invest in critical areas like Product to further support customers. Despite that, it’s still been able to add more than 265 new customers during a time when business travel has all but halted.
“I think there’s plenty of companies that didn’t react as quickly and won’t be in as good a situation as TripActions coming out of this,” Eisenberg said. “But we’re going to get through this because we’re customer oriented, we listen to their feedback and quickly act on it.”