Businesses are all about measurement today – and rightly so. If your brand doesn’t measure up to the competition or if sales goals are not being met, dollars are lost and those in charge are not happy. With the new year approaching, there’s a sense of “measurement excitement” in the air. As a business where travel is a big part of your overall strategy, is your travel and expense program delivering the results that it should be? Do you know if certain elements of your travel program should be changed and/or updated for 2016?
For a lot of businesses, they simply don’t know – many times it’s because they aren’t sure how or they’ve never been shown ways to effectively measure the travel and expense program. If you can’t measure, it’s tough to know if things are going well, or not so well.
We’ve found that there are key elements that define a well-crafted travel management program. Once these elements are noted, each company determines how to apply them specifically to their business plan, leveraging these items for better overall results. By talking through the following 10 key elements of your travel program, you should have a sense of whether your travel and expense program is delivering the results that you expect.
- Are preferred suppliers in place?
Negotiating discounts and/or benefits with travel vendors can have a significant impact on your bottom line, and it’s important that your preferred suppliers align with your overall objectives. Does the strategy you have in place for preferred suppliers meet your business objectives? Is the goal to be sure your travelers are comfortable? Do the free member benefits from preferred suppliers offset direct costs? Are there discounts received that impact the bottom line? Measuring these results specifically can give you a sense of the health of your travel program.
- Do you have a well-documented travel policy?
Your travel policy is the “go to” document for your business travelers, and therefore should offer specific value-based direction for your business travelers. Does it define the travel management process? Are there value thresholds and if so, a process in place for gaining approval outside of these thresholds? Does the policy offer direction while balancing the needs of both the organization and the traveler? Measurement becomes easier when your travel policy is clearly communicated and used.
- Is there travel management support?
As you know, traveling for business requires organization - time to focus and prepare. Whether you have an internal travel support system or work with a travel management company (TMC) that provides support, it’s imperative to measure effectiveness. Are reservations being handled appropriately? Do your travelers receive instant communication if there’s a weather-related issue that affects their itinerary? When calling customer support at your TMC, are the agents helpful and friendly? Having a dependable travel support team saves time and allows travelers to focus on their job, not their travel.
- Can you generate effective data to use in benchmarking travel and entertainment?
If you know what data you need to look for, this is a very effective way to measure whether or not your travel program is successful – by simply comparing the travel and expense data and asking whether or not it’s aligned with your business strategy. Data points such as total volume of travel and average transaction cost can give you immediate information about the results of your travel program. But what if you don’t know where to find this data? This brings me to my next point…
- Is your travel and expense data easily accessible?
Again, depending on how your business decides to manage travel, this may or may not be an easy question to answer. Do all of your travelers comply with and use your online booking system? If so, is this seamlessly integrated with your expense tracking software? When travelers book outside of the system, is the data lost? Are reports available that show valuable financial data that supports your business objectives? Travel and entertainment expenses are the second largest controllable cost in an organization. Available data to measure is essential in delivering positive results.
- Are your travelers adequately supported while on the road?
Unpredictability is the “norm” in our world today, and travelers need to be aware of what’s happening in the locations where they frequently travel. Is there a way for your TMC or travel management system to track where your travelers are at any time? If so, are protocols in place to provide emergency services if needed? Is there a risk mitigation service available? When these “what ifs” are discussed, both traveler and company feel supported.
- Is it easy to gain pre-trip approval?
Whether you’re working with a TMC, or have an internal travel management support team, the ease with which you road warriors to gain trip approval is critical – not only from a time management and compliance standpoint, but also to ensure you have satisfied travelers. Are specific thresholds in place, within your travel policy, that easily explain what is and is not approved through your company? Is this system automated? If there are exceptions needed, is it clearly understood how your travelers gain special approval? Is your TMC capable and willing to work with travelers on these exceptions? When your travelers’ special requests are positively considered, they are satisfied and more successful.
- Do you have a good relationship with your TMC?
Travel management companies can do so much more than simply booking flights. In fact, a great TMC should be performing above and beyond the expectations of your travelers. Does your TMC give exceptional support and direction? Are new opportunities brought forward and discussed? Is your TMC travel agent responsive to any and all needs of your travelers? Working with a TMC can reduce the overall travel and expense line item of your budget by 10-20%. This savings makes a tremendous difference – be sure you’re working with a great TMC.
- Effective online booking tool?
For some businesses, their online booking tool may be the employee’s first experience with the travel management system within your company. Will your online booking tool give a good first impression? Is it user-friendly? Does it include unbiased rate information? Is it mobile-friendly? Is the system integrated with your expense reporting tool? Ineffective technology can be incredibly frustrating for your travelers, and in turn, produce inconsistent results.
- Is your travel and entertainment program generating the best results?
The ultimate question…is your travel and expense program delivering the best results, based on your company’s strategic travel goals, at the lowest cost to you? Are you experiencing “measurement excitement” as you consider these 10 elements?
My hope is that you’ll download our travel management diagnostic scorecard and actually rate your travel program based on the above elements. Going through the scoring process gives measurable results by which you can move your travel program to a higher level. If your score is 75 out of 100, you’re able to clearly see where your strengths and weaknesses are and create appropriate goals based on this information…making your program even more efficient and directly affecting the bottom line.