The complete guide to corporate travel policies

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How to achieve travel policy compliance

submitting expenses within travel policy

Travel policy compliance is an incredibly complicated issue. Are employees blatantly disregarding your policy in order to enjoy pricier hotel rooms? Or are your employees purposefully booking on consumer travel sites instead of with your travel agency in an effort to fly with low-cost carriers and save you money?

Compliance problems can be caused by so many different factors:

  • Your policy document
  • Your approved booking tool, process, and/or vendor
  • Your company culture
  • Individual people and departments

Here are the top ways to improve travel policy compliance, no matter where the issues lie. 

When to review & update your policy

Maybe your compliance problem is a simple one. If your policy is completely outdated, it’s no wonder why your company can’t comply with it. 

Here are some common reasons why you may need to revise your policy document or update the settings on the automated travel policy in your booking tool. 

  • Significant change in company size
  • Significant change in company structure
  • Confusion among employees
  • Difficulty achieving 90% or higher policy compliance
  • Issues with financial tracking or managerial processes
  • Outdated budgets for routes and accommodation
  • Too many employees booking with something other than the company-approved tool

Updating your policy is a balancing act. Because it does involve multiple stakeholders, you don’t want to do it more than necessary. But it will need to adapt as your company grows and changes, so keep that in mind. 

Track compliance issues

You should note when and why people book out of policy and keep score. When using software that includes the above features, you’ll be able to track compliance issues automatically.

Tracking out-of-policy bookings will help you understand if it is your policy that is it fault, not simply your colleagues. By doing this you can discover what percentage of trips are out of policy, and start to locate the causes for compliance issues and trends.

For example, let’s say you find that while the company travel is only 70% compliant, the majority of compliance issues are for last-minute trips that are required to serve customers. In that case, you might just want to recategorize those trips and create a separate policy for them so they’re not skewing your data. Common out-of-policy bookings are:

  • Senior management opt for higher-quality accommodation
  • Client managers book late due to customers’ urgent needs
  • Sales need extra baggage allowance when attending events

However, if you find that certain teams or individuals are needlessly booking out of policy, then you know who to have a conversation with. 

Allow self-booking to improve travel policy compliance

If you don’t already have a booking tool that allows travelers to book for themselves within policy, you might want to consider it. When your policy is baked into the travel booking process, then travelers have the freedom to choose the itinerary and experience they want within budget.

Without self-booking, you’re more likely to have travelers who book outside of the approved tool or process.

For example, if you’re using a travel agency that requires employees to call their number to book a trip and share their preferences, not every employee is going to do this. Most people are used to booking their own trips for vacations. They’ll be frustrated at having to go back and forth with an agent over options, and might book for themselves anyways. But if you don’t have an approved too for self-booking, they’ll use a consumer website, making it very difficult for your admin team to track. 

Choose a travel software that is easy to use (support, UX, trip options)

Self-booking isn’t the only thing that travelers want. 

They’ll also ditch your business travel tool in favor of better UX or trip options. If you’re using travel software that is clunky, difficult to navigate, or otherwise annoying, travelers won’t use it to book their trip. Any trip that isn’t booked with your approved tool isn’t in compliance.

Instead of fighting against the tide, choose a travel tool that your employees love

When your employees book inside of one tool, it’s so much easier to handle your administrative and financial processes. Plus, you can collect data on travel spend and compliance so you can discover trends and issues instead of having to guess. 

In a business travel tool, look for…

  • Clean UX – Your business travel tool should make trip booking as easy as booking a vacation, but with tons of smart management features that businesses need.
  • Great travel inventory – To keep travelers booking in one place (for easy invoicing, tracking, and more), make sure the tool you choose has any flight or hotel you could find online. This means that travelers don’t have to go elsewhere to find what they want. 
  • 24/7 multichannel support – Consumer travel sites typically have no customer support, or very bad customer support. Take care of your travelers wherever they are at any time by choosing a tool that includes 24/7 support on multiple channels like live chat, email, and phone. 
  • Proactive trip support – Look for a tool whose support isn’t just there when you call them, but also goes the extra mile to reach out to you when there are any issues such as trip cancellations.
  • No redirects – Your business travel tool should never have any redirects in the booking process. 
  • No reimbursing – Employees shouldn’t have to pay for trips out of pocket. Choose a tool that consolidates travel into one invoice so administrators can pay it directly, and travelers don’t have to.
  • Built-in policies – The travel tool should let you preset travel policies, customize them by city, route, and department, and set-up approval workflows too.

Build policies inside the booking tool

You can improve policy compliance by creating an automatic travel policy that works at the time of booking to allow or bar travelers from booking certain trips.

To get better compliance results from your travel booking tool, consider customizing your built-in, automated policy for the following:

  • Teams or departments that travel frequently – Maybe your frequent travelers are allowed a different class of travel or a slightly higher amount per hotel.
  • Teams or departments that travel with little advance notice – For people or teams that often are required to travel with less-than-desirable advance notice, you might want to make a separate policy for them in your travel tool so that when they book something just 4 days away, it doesn’t get flagged as non-compliant. 
  • More expensive cities – There are certain cities where it’s almost impossible to get a decent hotel for $150 a night, or even $200. Setting up limits by city can make your policy more realistic, and thus more expensive.
  • More expensive routes – Similarly, some routes just always cost more, even when compared to routes of a similar length. You can make a higher maximum for these routes, so that the global maximum can stay where it is. 
  • Individuals with special allowances – Do your c-suite executives get to fly business class? Do people over 6 feet tall get to purchase extra legroom? Set these up by individual or group of travelers inside your business travel tool. 

The more accurately your automated policy reflects reality, the better job it can do to improve compliance around the clock with no micromanaging. 

In our next article, we’ll go into some more detail on automating your policies and approval workflows.