Travel helps SMB’s grow their business and strengthen relationships, but organizing a business’ travel program can be time consuming. Tasks like coordinating with the project director, booking travel for employees, confirming reservations and managing details create a super long travel management to-do list. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Sabre recently released “The Travel Manager 2020” study that states the top three most time consuming activities for a travel manager include: managing contracts with suppliers (61%), analyzing travel data to track performance (57%) and communicating and educating stakeholders (56%). In a nutshell, corporate travel management is a big initiative that can make or break your organization.
Even though the economy continues to improve, businesses are still hesitant to invest large sums of money into increasing their workforce. Top talent is difficult to find and hiring additional staff to work in the travel management department is usually not an option. So what should a business do? An approach we’ve seen work time and time again is for SMB’s to take advantage of partnering with a travel management company (TMC.) For many businesses, this strategic move is their travel program’s lifeline.
A value-centric travel management program leads organizations to utilize the right resources that fully support the travel program; and in turn, appropriately manages the travel and expense line item within their budget. Travel management companies provide piece-of-mind for travelers and bring coordination to a system of travel anarchy. How? Through savings, support, productivity and control.
Corporate Travel Savings
When SMB’s work with a Travel Management Company, the travel and expense line item for your business can be reduced by 10-20%. That’s great news but what are the secrets that TMCs attribute to these significant savings? Here’s what a TMC’s focus on corporate travel management success entails:
- Providing a completely unbiased rate search tool, that includes a comprehensive list of all fares available to travelers. When travelers have all of the options, they make educated decisions on best value.
- Negotiating discounts with travel suppliers. Working in partnership with suppliers to gain the best value for both can save thousands, but as stated above, this is a very time-consuming task for travel managers. When you work with a TMC, time and money are saved.
- The travel policy is clear about how and with which vendors’ employees should travel. When an effective travel and expense policy is developed and communicated, dollars are saved and road warriors understand the value that comes from staying within policy parameters.
- There is an established process to manage the exceptions that occur outside of policy. If a traveler needs to go outside of the policy, thresholds on price have already been established and the process for approving this choice is clearly mapped out.
One myth of working with a TMC is that it will take more time than usual to communicate. Travelers may think- “If I book through the TMC, I’ll have to call and talk with someone about my reservation and I simply don’t have time to talk on the phone today. Can’t I just book this through my regular web site and be done?” In reality, working with a TMC provides the best of both worlds – online booking and help from a live person if you need it.
In fact, TMCs support the organization’s established travel and expense policy by ensuring all of the appropriate vendors are included, the right policies are in place and they provide a level of security by knowing exactly where people are at all times in case emergency help is needed. One of my previous blog posts spoke about handling travel disruptions – from weather concerns to a potential terrorist attack and every conceivable situation in between. They are mitigated with the support from a great TMC.
“I don’t want to work –I just want to book my travel and go home” - Maybe that’s extreme, but the loss of productivity that results without the use of a TMC – both for travel managers and the travelling employee can be significant. A recent survey done by the I.B.M. Institute for Business Value Analysis found that almost 40% of business travelers spent at least two hours shopping and booking their airline travel. That doesn’t include making hotel reservations, changing car rental companies or reconciling all expenses after a trip. Wouldn’t you rather have your employee spending two hours working on their next big idea or preparing for the client presentation instead of booking their travel?
Travel Data = Control
As mentioned, travel managers have stated that analyzing travel data to track performance consumes a lot of their time. When working with a TMC, the opportunities and options for handling data are seemingly endless. Information can be aggregated regarding average ticket prices, trip cost summaries, tickets that are exchanged or voided, the number of employees calling in vs. booking online, etc. A great TMC will work with the travel manager to develop a system that includes all valuable travel- related information for your business. This can be utilized to streamline a number of different processes, including the ability to reconcile and allocate expenses or produce disruption reports.
More importantly, TMCs can provide benchmark data to help organizations determine how they are doing compared to others, allowing travel managers to track performance of the travel program and adjust accordingly to achieve the best results.
Use Your Lifeline
As the person who manages travel in your business, can you relate to these examples of ways that a TMC can have a significant impact on your travel program, but also your business overall? If you said “yes,” it sounds like you’re ready to maximize the value of your corporate travel program. Download this whitepaper to learn more about how a strategic travel management solution can benefit your organization.