If corporate travel management is part of your daily grind, then you probably receive dozens of emails a week with travel requests, questions about itineraries, issues booking flights, last-minute changes, cancellations, and a whole slew of scheduling complications, especially when it comes to group booking.
Rather than answer a million emails (and risk dropping the ball or missing out on seats because you couldn’t get to the email fast enough), why not move travel management outside of your email inbox altogether?
Why not track it—as in, see what trips need to be booked and finalized, which ones are ongoing, which have passed, which team members are traveling and when etc.
Turns out, there are better ways to manage business travel than with email. Read on for the 5 steps it takes to improve your travel management process.
1. Determine priorities for administrators, managers and travelers
Business travel is one of the most complex expenditures of any business. Each trip has different goals and purposes, and each person involved with the trip has different priorities.
- The business traveler wants an itinerary that doesn’t cause unnecessary sleep-loss, a comfortable room with WiFi, and maybe an extra day to explore a new city and turn a business trip into personal travel – a.k.a a “bleisure” trip.
- The office manager needs a travel policy that works, and a travel management solution that does not take too much time away from other tasks. They shouldn’t need to open hundreds of tabs or contact loads of travel consultants or agents just to book flights. Here’s a handy template.
- And finally, the finance manager needs instant access to all travel spend to be able to make budget decisions in real-time and optimize cost savings.
These priorities and concerns are a given. Depending on how your company travels, you may have additional factors to keep in mind. When making changes to your business travel management process, start by listing out all of these factors in detail.
We have a requirements template to get you started.
2. Use a booking platform that allows travelers to book for themselves
Taking care of your business travelers is key to a successful travel management program. If your team isn’t happy, then the process isn’t working.
One thing that travelers absolutely love is the ability to book for themselves, especially without having to double or triple check company policy. Why? Well, lots of reasons:
- No need to bother the office manager or travel manager for a simple booking procedure
- No need to write complicated emails or fill out forms with multiple itinerary options
- They can choose the itinerary they want and how they would like to travel (car rental, booking on different airlines, using a train etc.)
- They can choose the air travel providers and lodging they want, managing their own hotel bookings and flight tickets
- They can track their frequent flyer programs
- They can get all the benefits of an online booking platform tailored for business travel, while you get to make sure that they plan their trips within your company travel policy.
Ultimately, self-booking allows travelers to save their own time, their administrator’s time, and to get the options they want within the pre-determined travel budget.
Use a booking platform that allows travelers to book within policy automatically or to save desired trips that an administrator can then finalize if you need more control. This way, an office manager or travel manager can review, inside the platform, which requested bookings are incomplete. No more email!
3. Streamline your policies and approvals process
Of course, when you use a corporate travel booking platform, one main functionality you’ll want is to have the travel policy and approvals inside your tool to fit the way your organization travels. Here are some factors you’ll want to set and update as needed:
- Pricing guidelines based on the city of destination
- Travel insurance requirements
- Guidelines based on traveler group (such as team, office, or country)
- Required level of control (pre-approve all trips, no trips or just ones of a certain price/length)
- The person who is approving each traveler/team (the team lead, project lead, or travel manager?)
Some companies choose not to be strict at all, allowing every employee to book out of policy if they need to, and just let the admin know via notification. Then there are companies, mainly in traditional industries, that prohibit booking outside of policy, and in those cases, they have the admin book it for the traveler just like a travel agent.
You want your booking platform to encompass the full spectrum, so you can do what works for your company culture and unique travel needs.
The granularity of the travel policy and the flexibility of the approval workflow is super important for a travel program that works, and you need to find the best balance for your company, have the data to improve it and make sure your platform allows it smoothly.
It’s smart to regularly assess your travel policy using data picked up by your corporate booking tool, so you know how well your policy is being followed. If too many bookings are being requested outside of policy or if the nature of travel has drastically changed (say, a new office has opened), then you should make changes to both your written and your booking platform-based travel policy.
4. Help travelers access direct support
As a travel manager or office manager, you’ve undoubtedly received calls and emails outside of normal business hours from travelers who are experiencing problems during their trip. It could be lost confirmation numbers, the wrong room type… anything.
Being responsible for all of these incoming support problems doesn’t make travel management easy for you or for the travelers. They might hesitate to contact you and not get the help they need, or on the flip side, they could be frustrated if you don’t answer on a Sunday afternoon.
Giving business travelers direct access to a travel support team is a great way around that. One way that businesses often solve this is to work with a travel agency, but this doesn’t allow for the self-booking process and user experience that travelers love. Instead, it means they have to talk to a different middleman to book.
It is possible to outsource travel support without having to sacrifice self-booking. Use a booking platform that includes quality 24/7 support for every trip, and you (and your travelers) will breathe easier. Unfortunately, the vast majority of legacy corporate booking tools, travel agents, and travel management companies, all provide very low-quality customer support that has been outsourced. Look for a tool that has invested in training in-house support representatives who are available around the clock. Make sure that this contact information is readily available to all your travelers at all times.
5. Optimize your travel spend instantly, monthly, and quarterly
Because business travel is such a complex expense, it’s become very common for administrators and managers to have limited knowledge of its current costs.
A CFO or finance manager might know the exact travel expenses three months down the line, but knowing what’s going on today? Really tricky!
However, not knowing the current state of travel isn’t good.
The finance team can’t make immediate budgetary decisions and is always playing catch-up, trying to cut costs after the fact.
Any travel agent or TMC will send you monthly reports, but without the immediate ability to login and review spend, the finance team is always in the dark. Having immediate insight into travel can not only help the finance team track spend, but it can also help with reimbursement procedures, and can help them generate accurate and actionable expense reports that they can then use to lay the foundation for their future travel budget.
Of course, monthly and quarterly reviews of travel are still important. Finance and operations will want to review the impact and worth of various trips and the program as a whole.
Immediate visibility isn’t the only factor that allows for informed finance decisions. Granular data is important as well. Without being able to break spend out by project, team, office, etc., then any travel spend KPIs become impossible to manage.
Optimize your travel management process
TravelPerk includes all of these features—making it super easy to improve your travel management process, save administrative time, make travelers happy and review corporate travel spend on demand.
Sign up for TravelPerk to easily book and manage business travel in one place, to empower travelers with self-booking, and to get 24/7 support.
Going forward post-COVID
Global travel did take a serious hit in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As we go further down our road to recovery in 2021, it’s time to start thinking about travel management and the needs your company will have going forward.
Business travel is starting to make a comeback, it’ll just be a little different than it was before. Learn more about what traits we predict will mark business travel in a COVID and post-COVID world here.