An online booking tool can add value to your business’ travel program and increase efficiencies for your business travelers. Different options for a customizable tool are available, most notably from Concur and GetThere.
When selecting and instituting an online booking tool, working with a travel management company (TMC) makes a tremendous difference in the overall success of your travel program. Online travel companies like Concur can and do offer small and medium sized businesses the ability to customize their online booking tool, but they still need to refer booking preferences to a TMC that executes the reservations. In this situation, travel managers are asked to decide which pieces of the online booking tool puzzle they would like included, and the online travel agency executes – oftentimes without guidance or expert advice on which tools work best for their company. These businesses are missing out. Working directly with a TMC provides experts in the travel industry who take the time, listen to the needs of each individual business, and then work with the travel manager to develop the best online booking solution.
What are the best customization options for your business? And how do you know which tools will give you the results that you and your road warriors expect?
We’ve found the following 11 customizable options (specific to travel, not expenses) have the most impact on simplifying the booking process for both business travelers and those who work closely with them.
1. Project or department codes
A specific coding system can be put in place to inform travelers, managers and the finance department which project or department is utilizing the most travel. Codes can be developed by project, by department or both depending on the needs of the business.
2. Airline purchasing thresholds
Thresholds on airline ticket pricing can be instituted so traveling employees are alerted if their booking options are outside of the travel policy requirements, or if additional approval is needed. In addition, exceptions can be included for special situations with the ability for travelers to document their reason for the exception. Exceptions can also be made based on specific people…does your CEO need to follow policy when booking airfare?
3. Airline class of service
Again, options can be set-up for seating depending on a number of variables. Is business class acceptable all the time, or only on overseas flights? When is first class appropriate? Proactively including these customizable options can prevent miscommunication about flight arrangements.
4. Hotel thresholds
If a hotel booking is over a pre-determined price, the system can prompt for additional approval. Maximum reimbursable hotel rates can also be entered into the system.
5. Car rental types
Information regarding the types of cars that can be rented, and the dollar amount spent, including a maximum daily rate on car rentals can be included.
6. Preferred supplier relationships
Your online booking tool can indicate which preferred suppliers should be used, and can be displayed most prominently when employees are looking at their itinerary. Options can exclude non-refundable hotel rates as well.
7. Comparable discounts
This customization is perfect for those road warriors who think they can “get a better deal” when they book on their own. The online booking tool can calculate the appropriate discount and display it competitively against whatever else is out there.
8. Travel arranger capability
Many times there is one person who either occasionally makes reservations, or is responsible for making all the reservations. Your online booking tool can be customized to open up this option for one or two specific travel arrangers.
This is also beneficial if you have guests traveling on your behalf, such as a contractor, interviewee or consultant. The travel arrangers can simply set-up travel arrangements in advance.
9. Payment types
Both corporate and personal credit card information can be securely pre-programmed into the system, including criteria that allows for the right card to be used at the appropriate time.
10. Pre-trip approval
If one of your road warriors tries to make a reservation that doesn’t have the proper authorization, or is outside of policy, your online booking tool can be preset to automatically approve or deny a request for different reasons.
11. Least logical fare criteria
With your online booking tool, you can actually change how the system displays fares to include what may or may not be a better alternative. For example – in your online booking airfare options, you’ve set a threshold for airfare to be no more than $500 per ticket. But what if this option has multiple stops? Or leaves from the airport that is not preferred (because of location or air traffic) by that particular traveler? With an online booking tool, you have the option to change the mechanism by which the system determines the best airfare based on certain criteria. This provides true customization for each business traveler.
Customization is another key benefit when using an online booking tool. Your online booking tool should have the ability to link back to your company’s travel policy or to your reporting system creating a cohesive, straightforward system that looks and feels like it’s a part of your organization.
These are the main points to consider when customizing your online booking tool, and we hope that pointing these leads to even more questions or ideas on how to make your business’ travel process more efficient. At MacNair Travel Management, we encourage an in-depth discussion of best ideas and best practices for an online booking tool based on the needs of each individual business. It’s critical to be sure that the TMC that you’re working with has the knowledge and capabilities to develop the best tool that fits your business.