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How travel managers can help drive travel performance

October 13, 2017
Simon Ferguson
Simon Ferguson

Long gone are the days when video conferencing was expected to replace business travel. With the world’s employers spending a cool $3bn on business travel a day. It’s not only still a necessity for almost three quarters of all companies, its common for travel to be a company’s second largest overhead after wages.

With conservative estimates suggesting staff travel expenses account for around 10% of total company budgets, shouldn’t we take a step back from time to time and see how we can improve the experience and get better value for every $ spent?

Travelers are more knowledgeable and tech-savvy. They will readily adopt and embrace any technology that offers them a better, smoother and more personalised travel experience. Travel managers are under increasing pressure to satisfy these traveller requirements while still delivering against the company travel objectives. Finding ways to maximize the return on trip for the business while monitoring and eliminating unnecessary travel costs can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line. So, what is travel performance and how can travel managers drive travel performance while controlling costs to maximise the return on a business trip?

Improving the business travel experience while maximising the return on trip in terms of productivity

While the modern business traveller does not belong to one particular age group, a new generation is pushing new habits and priorities. Millennials have already become some of the most frequent of business travellers and are pushing for mobile technology and greater flexibility in the world of business travel. Helping to bring about “bleisure” travel. With their demands and expectations, millennials are definitively changing what companies should expect from their traveling employees and demand from their organisation as an employee what they would expect as a consumer.

Adding personal travel to business travel also adds value to work assignments – which means that bleisure could help improve the travel experience while increasing employee satisfaction and engagement without additional business costs. Fixing travel from the presentation to a palace or from a meeting to the mountains is becoming a more regular occurrence.

Enabling the business traveller to self-manage aspects of their own travel plans

Employees spend much of their travel time staring at their smartphones, so travel managers must capitalise this by ensuring travellers can self-manage their trip using mobile apps. If companies want to stand out from their competitors and meet the needs of the experience-led traveller, it is crucial that travel managers improve the traveller experience.

Enabling employees to build their travel plans, have live agent chat and real-time alerts, helps them stay connected while reducing call durations to TMCs. This boosts performance through automation, helping to realize significant cost savings associated with TMC fees. But, the traveller needs to understand the resources available. Businesses should have a clear policy in place around preferred suppliers and booking channels. Embracing this ‘experience culture’ presents a streamlined opportunity for travel managers to engage travelling employees in customised programmes and for companies to implement policies that take advantage of travellers being connected to encourage productivity.

Achieving savings that include getting the best value

Convenience is one of the most-often cited reasons why business travellers book outside policy.

With a smartphone in their pockets 24/7, there are many booking channels available at the tips of their fingers. Leading to an increase in out of policy bookings. Non-compliant bookings, also referred to as ‘leakage’, cost thousands of dollars every year, representing one of the biggest challenges in today’s corporate travel world. Causing a blowout in corporate travel costs and inefficiencies through wasted time and resources.

The traditional corporate travel process mainly focuses on the booking element rather than the entire end-to-end travel experience. It ignores a range of vital elements, including policy, approval, messaging, communication and duty of care. So an advanced travel management platform is vital. A seamless end-to-end corporate travel platform including; pre-trip communication, booking, authorisation, messaging, booking, cost-centre allocation etc. can all provide the right tools to empower the traveller to plan their travel. It also gives the right level of freedom to choose whilst prioritizing options according to policy.

Enabling everything to stay 100% within the platform regardless of whether self-service, agent service or a mix of the two allows the TMC service model to evolve and change from the old Online / Offline view. Efficiencies gained can be translated into lower TMC fees and savings for the corporation.

Exploiting integrated payment models to reduce time spent on reconciliation

Efficient global payments and the expenses and risks associated with foreign exchange payments remain a major challenge for many travel managers, potentially impacting their ability to cut costs.

GBTA’s Travel Manager 2020 report suggests “66% of travel managers expect alternative forms of payment technology to become a higher priority in the next 3-5 years.”

Virtual payments, which provide automated reconciliation and greater control, compliance and security, is another growth area for travel managers to consider. Each card has a virtually obtained number and includes an expiry date and CCV. Employees can only charge expenses to these cards for a specific date range. Once expired, booking data is automatically reconciled. Virtual cards also reduce time spent on reconciliation, are universally accepted and dramatically reduce the chances of fraud or cards being stolen or lost.

Like many other industries ‘disrupted’ in recent years, the changing face of corporate travel presents many challenges for travel managers, but they also present opportunities. A seamless end-to-end corporate travel platform with a range of app-powered workflows for the “experience-first” traveller is the future of corporate travel.

With more travel choice, improved travel intelligence and better travel experiences travel managers can help drive travel performance while making savings through efficiencies.