Many corporate management teams aren’t aware that they are paying too much for their travel, and getting too little with regard to service and features. Many agencies charge companies more than they do individuals, rightly assuming that the person booking the travel is neither the one doing the travelling, nor the one doling out the money for it.
Yet travel expenses are, for many companies, a major portion of the annual budget. Add to this the potential fuss and hassle of booking travel, conforming to company travel guidelines, and recording expenses easily and properly, and travel can become a heavy burden to a company – or a costly, ignored one.
There is good news. Business travel companies have recently undergone a kind of renaissance, with the application of new technology and improvements in human-driven service, corporate travel management solutions have become more streamlined, providing better travel experiences for you and your employees, and they’re doing so at rates that can save your company a lot of unnecessary expense.
Determine your company’s travel needs
Not all corporate travel management solutions are the same, because each of the companies they serve are different and have different needs. Even a high-quality, well-reviewed and reliable travel management team may not be the best fit for your needs.
Step one, then, is to determine what your needs really are, so that you know what to look for when you are vetting your potential travel management provider.
How much do your employees travel?
Depending on your company’s size, the particular industry, and your company’s style of doing business, you may have occasional, sporadic travel needs, you may have teams of people moving around the globe all the time, or something in between.
Whatever your travel needs are, you need to have a solid understanding of them. Ask yourself some questions:
- How many of my employees will need to travel?
- How often will each employee need to travel?
- Do some travel often and others only once in a while?
Be ready with some data to back up these answers, so that talking over your travel management solution is a precise exercise, rather than a guessing game.
Do you have different luxury levels and perks?
A top executive doesn’t usually travel the same way an entry-level employee does.
Entry-level employees are often put up in economy rooms, taking economy flights, and may have smaller stipends for meals and other perks.
For certain other employees, it may be appropriate to book business or first-class flights and train tickets, suites instead of economy rooms, and more luxurious hire cars. After all, these individuals will be entertaining and interacting with higher-level execs and clients, and you’ll want these contacts to feel as if they are being appropriately taken care of.
Before discussing anything with a travel management solutions provider, know how many of each type of traveller you have. Many providers have specific profiles on each traveller, with guidelines and notes on what to book – and what not to.
Consider how you have been managing corporate travel
The way you’ve been handling your travel arrangements thus far can give excellent insight into what you need going forward. This is true of both the successes and the failures. Take stock of your efforts and their results.
How it’s been working
What do you like about the way you’ve been doing travel? Have you been letting employees book for themselves and you like washing your hands of that work?
Or do you have an employee who books things for everyone and keeps a close eye on expenditures for each?
Make a list of what you like about your past way of doing things.
How it hasn’t been working
Not everything you’ve been doing is satisfactory to you though, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Knowing what you don’t like about your current system can be a great way for a travel management team to zero in on your needs and preferences.
Sometimes a particular way of doing things is both good and bad. For example, if your employees book their own travel, and you like them having that experience, you might also dislike the lack of easy oversight.
Great! Tell that to your potential provider.
What you may need is a way for them to book their own trips, but with oversight built-in. Don’t place limits on what you want until you know for sure it isn’t possible. Dare to dream, and dream big. You can always trim it a bit later on if need be.
Come up with the ultimate corporate travel management solution. As you go through each of these steps, you’ll get a better and clearer view of your company’s needs. This is excellent, as you’ll start to have thoughts like ‘Wouldn’t it be great if…’. Don’t discount these musings; make a note of them.
Let yourself come up with the ultimate, perfect, gold-standard set of travel management solutions you can imagine.
Then determine limits
Once you know what your perfect set of services would look like, you can consider the feasibility of them. Almost anything is possible, but not everything is bang for the buck. The primary factor that limits the scope of a travel management solution is usually the cost, not the industry’s capability.
This is where your consideration changes its flavour a bit. You now have a good mental picture of what you’ve been doing. You know how it has been working. You even know what your ultimate service would look like.
Now it’s time to place your needs in order of importance, so that you don’t cut out an important feature during negotiations. One of the best ways to do this is to know what problem each service would solve.
A good service should solve as many of these problems as possible.
List the problems, then explain the travel management solution. Here are a few of the major things many companies need to overcome.
Travel plans must conform to company policy
Your corporate travel management provider must have the capacity to know and conform to your company’s travel policy.
If you have a travel management solutions provider who will ensure compliance to your policies, then you can have employees request their own travel plans directly to that agency, all the while knowing that things are as they should be, because the agency is monitoring according to your rules – and has a vested interest in doing so accurately.
Expense reports need to be accurate and user-friendly
Accuracy is also important when it comes to expense reports – but so is user-friendliness!
As company management, you’ll want to ensure that people are getting what they need and are being fairly reimbursed for it. You’ll also want to know that expense accounts are not being abused or misused.
Likewise, your employees will want something easy, intuitive, and fair.
A good travel management solution can mean transparency of use and authorisation, and a clean, easy and effective transfer of information and funds, often using an app.
It is important that travel itineraries are clear and well-planned. Traditional itineraries are difficult in this respect, as they are static lists requiring manual updating and redistribution to key parties.
An up-to-date corporate travel management provider will offer real-time itineraries that show delays, cancellations and other changes automatically, instantly, and to all necessary parties.
Location of travellers
Likewise, corporate travel management companies are increasingly tapping into the power of mobile apps, allowing a company to keep track of the location of an employee at all times during travel.
This service can be shut off of course, but is very useful during actual transit or when employees are entering higher-risk areas. In some situations, locating and assisting the traveller in the case of an emergency might be greatly aided by clear and instant knowledge of his or her current location.
Not all problems are obvious up-front, and some problems occur that have never happened to you before. To deal with these issues it is important to ensure the reliable and constant availability of customer service.
Especially when it comes to global travel, there is no such thing as ‘office hours,’ so make sure the service is 24/7, and that you have access to a real person on the other end of the line.
Part of this support may occur during the initial discussions; does the travel management provider suggest some potential problems to plan for? That kind of thinking can be valuable – after all, this is a travel management expert you’re hiring!
Compare your self-assessment to what’s on offer
Once you have a solid grasp of your company’s needs, ideal services, budget, and have prioritised your problems and needs, you can consider travel management solutions side-by-side.
You’ll be less likely to get distracted by flashy features that you don’t need, or that might not work well, and you’ll be more likely to wind up with a travel management solution that’s perfect for your business travel needs.