Each year, new technologies give business travelers additional options and added capabilities to manage their travel in an easier, more time-efficient manner. 2015 saw the rise of Uber and Lyft for business travelers, and apps like TripIt and TripCase compelled us to become even more dependent on mobile technology. For business’ road warriors, this is great news – the ability to minimize travel disruptions and complete their travel obligations more quickly keeps travelers happy, and business growing.
In the travel management business, we are always implementing the latest and greatest technology to keep our customers in a successful position to manage their travel. At times, the variety of available technology can be overwhelming. When we talk with our customers, our first questions incite leadership thinking…where are you right now, and where would you like to go with regard to your travel program? Through this comprehensive assessment, the best tools and technologies can be used and developed to meet each business’ individual needs.
As experts in the travel management industry, we’ve compiled the following list of technologies and tools that can positively impact business travel in the next year.
GDS or Multiple GDS’s
Successfully managed travel includes the ability to offer the most airfare, hotel and car rental options at the best prices. A great TMC has a global distribution system (GDS) or multiple systems that draw all available options, from all vendors when needed. Our research has found that Sabre consistently gives the best outcomes – an independent study done by Fried & Partners found that Sabre finds the lowest fare 9% more often that Amadeus and 33% more often than Travelport, the other two major GDS systems. When talking with your TMC, be sure they are using the GDS system that will best meet your travel needs.
Web fare search technologies
The use of a GDS system is essential. Yet, there are fares that do not appear on the GDS system – at one time, Southwest Airlines did not make their fares available on GDS. But web fare search technology combined with your TMC’s GDS system ensures your travelers are seeing all of the fares available for their particular trip. A great TMC needs to prove that they have this technology and are leveraging it for all traveler needs – they should be able to provide you with a report on what percentage of their bookings are made on the web for their top 5-10 airlines.
Online booking tools
An online booking tool can add value to your business’ travel program and increase efficiencies for your travelers. When selecting a booking tool, work with your TMC to be sure it’s customized specifically to your organization’s travel policy. When completely integrated, having this system available will ensure that your policies are enforced while your travelers are making their arrangements, providing enhanced savings, productivity and control to your organization.
A profile is what holds each traveler’s personal information within the booking tool. Once entered, your profile is managed and applied to any and all trips that are booked through the online booking system. It’s important that your TMC share how they collect and use each traveler’s data and how its managed within the online booking system. How are profiles shared? What data is stored in the profile? How does the TMC handle staff versus non-staff profiles? Understanding the answers to these and other questions will let you know what will be managed by the traveler, and what will be managed by the TMC.
Policy enforcement technology
It’s so important that your business have an effective travel and expense policy. Once this policy is established, policy enforcement technology works to be sure it’s followed. Integrating this technology with your online booking system and your quality control software confirms policy enforcement for all of your business travelers. Ask your TMC about its capabilities in this area, and be sure it mirrors the needs of your business.
Automated pre-trip authorization
An essential time saver for both traveler and manager alike, this piece of technology provides a system of checks, balances and exceptions. A great TMC will have automated pre-trip authorization available giving the administrator/approver the information they need, including justifications for exceptions, and then allows them to approve or disapprove the booking. When working with a TMC, make sure you understand how they handle this technology, as well as call-in reservations.
Automated expense and reporting tools
In business, and especially with travel, time is precious. An automated expense system that merges data with an automated reporting tool is a critical time-saving piece for your business. Concur and GetThere integrate with data management applications from businesses such as DATABASICS to seamlessly collect expense data, organize the information and provide reports based on select criteria. These tools save time and ensures compliance, allowing you to better control expenses. Reports on everything from spend data to supplier information to unused ticket tracking to risk and activity management can be made available. A great TMC can provide integrated expense and reporting tools tailored to your specific business objectives.
Travel monitoring and disruption management
Travel disruptions can occur at any time, and without notice. But when you work with a great TMC, they can provide the technology to monitor potential disruptions and communicate change to travelers in a timely manner. Whether it’s a blizzard on the east coast or a strike at the plant you’re traveling to, information and the ability to update travel plans based on this information can save time and frustration for your travelers and your business. Be sure your TMC communicates which situations are handled and how this is done.
Every time an employee travels, they are exposed to a range of personal health, safety and security risks. At the same time, legal trends continue to shift and the burden of mitigating these risks falls on employers. Risk mitigation needs to be addressed by your organization overall, and your TMC should provide access to expert risk mitigation companies that can help in critical situations.
Most of us are already familiar with cloud-based technology. In the travel management industry, this allows our experts to be available 24/7/365 in case of an emergency and/or client need. The key question to ask when looking at your TMC’s cloud service is whether they can be available no matter what happens and no matter where in the world it happens.
With all the talk of online technology, it’s hard to imagine that telephony still holds a spot in the travel management arena. This is still a critical part of our business, and the technology available can ensure that you are receiving excellent, uninterrupted service from your TMC. Customized, dedicated paths should send your team to the lead contact at your TMC without delays. In addition, your TMC should provide detail on how they monitor their agent calls and client-facing personnel, giving you the best possible service.
Flight notifications and itinerary management
We talked about this piece of technology in a recent blog post reiterating how an itinerary management app helps travelers stay organized with all essential travel information collected in one place. Bookings can be pushed directly into apps such as TripIt or TripCase, giving travelers real-time messaging for things like flight delays, reservation numbers, TMC contact information and driving directions. Work with your TMC on which app integrates seamlessly with their booking technology.
Finally, all of the above technologies mentioned should have mobile app capability, giving your road warriors access to all of these tools whenever and wherever they may need it. Survey your road warriors on their mobile technology needs and question your TMC on what mobile capabilities are available for their booking and itinerary management apps.
We hope this list provides helpful information, direction and warrants back-and-forth conversation with your TMC as you secure the best technology and tools to fit your business goals. By leveraging the power of technology and a great TMC, you can see a 10-20% savings in your travel and expense line item. A great resolution for the new year!