I’ve always been interested in the “real-time” difference between booking travel through a managed system versus an unmanaged system. As experts in the travel management business, we have helped our clients save money – between 10-20% in their travel and entertainment expenses – through the use of managed travel. What we’ve also come to expect is the time savings, through employee productivity, that’s realized when working in a managed travel system.
Sometimes it’s difficult for managers to see this productivity loss. Understandable - especially if you’re focused on making sure dollars are saved, and your travelers are in the right place at the right time. So what if your travelers book their own travel, as long as they keep the customer happy? Is it really that big of an issue? Yes. The loss in productivity when employees make their own travel plans can be significant.
When you work with a travel management company (TMC) the time it takes to manage your travel is significantly reduced. With a dedicated travel partner, automated reporting systems and full access to travel experts, it would seem like everyone should use a travel management company. But, employees aren’t always willing to work with a TMC – they enjoy the perceived savings of booking travel on their own, and may assume that their personal travel perks won’t benefit from using the company’s system.
Let’s go through the travel planning lifecycle. Through each step, we’ll show you the potential for inefficiencies, and where utilizing a managed travel system and/or TMC can help.
The first step in booking travel is taking time to research the travel options, including airfare, best/worst flight times, hotel reservations and car rental. Even the most savvy of travelers will look at (at minimum) three to four web sites, and spend at least 15 minutes on each site. Comparing prices, itineraries, possible upgrades and all the other options can take an inordinate amount of time. In a managed travel system, the best options are available first, and most likely include the best prices based on negotiated supplier deals. And, when you work with a TMC, their experts have already done the research and have all options available at their fingertips.
Next in your travel lifecyle is the need for authorization. In a managed system, this can be done immediately since all itinerary options and travel choices have been pre-approved by the TMC or travel manager. When employees look outside the system, they need to make a special effort to gain authorization for their travel. Finding and hoping to receive a response to authorization in a timely manner, and assuming it’s then approved can take between a few hours to a couple of days.
Research is done, authorization is received, and now it’s time to book the trip. Employees now need to revisit each site, re-enter their profile information, gather the necessary credit card information and book the trip. In a managed system, booking can be a simple phone call to your TMC contact, or a quick click in your online booking system. Using a managed system for this step alone can save employees valuable time.
The Change…and then change again
It’s inevitable that at some point in your road warriors’ travel schedule, things will change. There’s an executive who’s been called away to another meeting, or a weather incident that delays or cancels flights. Maybe your client isn’t prepared for your presentation and suddenly needs an extra week before you can visit. When you use a managed travel system, a quick phone call to your TMC addresses the changes in your travel plans, and appropriately reschedules flights, hotels and car rentals as needed, allowing your employees to focus on making sure they’re ready when customers need them.
So far we’ve talked mostly about the value of saving your employees time by using a managed travel system. This point brings us back to saving money. Many times we’ve seen clients who have booked a part of their travel plan – we’ll use an airline ticket in this example – and then weren’t able to use the ticket due to change in travel. Their ticket goes unused for the moment, and there is no cancellation allowance or rebooking option. This can be incredibly costly for an organization. Many times in a managed travel system, options for re-using a ticket or re-booking without a cancellation fee are already built into negotiated supplier contracts. When flight or hotel bookings need to be changed or cancelled, you can be confident that these adjustments are being made with little or no cost to your business.
Technology has made our lives easier in the travel industry with electronic receipt options and the ability to pay in advance, via your mobile phone, for virtually anything. Even so, employees still need to be sure that travel and entertainment expenses are reported in a timely and accurate way to ensure both traveler reimbursement and an up-to-date travel budget. In an unmanaged travel system, employees are responsible for collecting, organizing and processing payments in a timely and efficient manner – simple, right? Not when they have a long “to do” list, especially after an important meeting with an overseas client. With a managed travel system, the processing of travel payments is automatic. Credit cards are pre-approved, protocols are in place to alert travelers of spending limits and most likely, all of this can be done through your mobile device. This makes for happy travelers and an especially happy CFO.
Last and most importantly is the reporting function that comes with a managed travel system. If you work with a TMC, they have the ability to track and report on all travelers wherever they are. This is critical in the case of an emergency at home, weather conditions, potential safety issues or a simple change in the client’s schedule. When your road warriors are unmanaged and crisis occurs, valuable time and energy is wasted trying to locate and secure your travelers.
Time equals money, and great travel management saves you both. Make sure your managed travel plan addresses, explains and delivers benefits that increase productivity in the entire lifecycle.