When business people travel – especially on a consistent basis – odds are they will run into irregular operations…or what we like to call travel disruptions. Travel disruptions encompass a number of different possibilities: from travelers having a heart attack or being involved in a car accident while on the road, to weather issues both major and minor, to serious incidents like terrorist threats. There are a wide range of items that can affect your travelers, both directly and indirectly. Many times we have systems in place to handle “disruptions” for those in the office that we see every day; but does your business have the same systems in place to handle these challenges for your travelers? And more importantly, are there travel policies in place to stay ahead of these possible issues?
It’s important to completely consider and define these operations practices in your travel policy for those employees who are consistently on the road. The following five concepts should be considered, monitored and built back into your travel policy as needed. If you haven’t talked this through, take a look at our How to Create an Effective Travel and Expense Policy Workbook – there’s a specific section for you to identify the travel policy requirements, systems and justifications for you and your business to be well covered.
- Prepare the system
The best first step is to prepare the team of people and systems that will support your corporate travelers This support team should include members from your human resource and legal departments; representative road warriors; someone who represents your business’ insurance product to explain what is and is not covered under the organization’s insurance policy; and anyone else with a vested interest in company travel. Once gathered, the group should go through the following:
- Possible scenarios or real situations where people have gotten into trouble with disruption.
- Travel disruption examples and how they did or could impact the business and the people involved
- Set overall objectives to be sure that travel processes are in place to take care of what could possibly happen
- Show these objectives to a risk mitigation company such as iJET and/or your travel management company (TMC) and talk with them about what systems they have in place to help, opportunities that are available and cost of service.
This detailed preparation ensures all possible challenges are addressed.
- Pre-trip advice
To deliver great support, travelers need to know what to expect whether traveling domestically or internationally. Being aware and careful of what a traveler may encounter while on the road not only produces a safer trip, but gives your travelers peace-of-mind while traveling. Both TMCs and risk mitigation services can give a dossier of what travelers should consider in certain locations: for example, potential health concerns, where to go for medical support, areas to avoid while in a certain location or other events and/or issues that might affect your road warriors.
- Develop a data collection system
Do you know where all of your travelers are – right now – if there is an emergency? This is one reason why consolidated travel is so popular, especially for large organizations. The ability for businesses to know exactly where travelers are is vitally important in this day and age, and companies want to appropriately support them while traveling. Including all travel information in once place is the best way to monitor travelers, and when you book all of your travel through your TMC, they have ways to aggregate all of the data for reference.
An extension of that is utilizing travel itinerary management app that allows travelers to collect all of their travel information (whether through a TMC or not) in one location for the travel manager to access. For example, the travel manager will be able to see that you’re at a conference in Bombay, booked at the hotel through the conference registration and that you have reservations at the hotel restaurant or are participating in another prearranged event. More sophisticated systems have GPS tracking technology that not only provide mapping tools for travelers, but have the ability to “turn on” tracking so your travel managers know specifically where you are.
Each organization needs to understand what they want to accomplish through travel data collection, and evaluate their tolerance for these opportunities.
- 24/7 support
When your employees travel, they need to know what is required of them in case of a disruption or emergency. At the same time, your business travel staff, TMC, vendors and/or customers also need to help define the process of what to do in various instances. Who is contacted first if a traveler is sick while on the road? What if weather or other challenges arise? This system should be developed to work around-the-clock, 24/7 and then clearly communicated as to who is responsible during different times of the day. Whether or not this is a major concern depends on the needs of your business.
This is a critical piece of preparation for businesses and travelers. And while some may consider this a “no-brainer” when they travel, I’m still surprised by the number of corporate travelers who aren’t quite sure who they should contact in certain situations.
Are the cell phone numbers of each and every traveler and staff member available, and is it clear who is to be contacted for specific situations? Are the customers and suppliers phone numbers available? If something does happen, do travelers know what to do? This leads to an additional important point in communication: escalation. If a situation becomes critical, what communication protocols are in place? It’s one thing to be delayed by a snowstorm; it’s a completely different situation if one of your employees is involved in a major car accident and ends up in the hospital. When do things need to be escalated to different executives, to the legal team, insurance agency, or the client that was involved in the travel? These details need to be clarified and practiced with the team, or something may be missed while traveling.
The greatest hope of corporate travelers is that their trip will happen without any incident or travel disruption. All businesses wish for the same, but inevitably, travel disruption or irregular operations may occur. By following the above concepts and engaging with your TMC in preparing for travel issues, the likelihood of travel disruptions leading to larger business disruptions is much more unlikely.