Making your travel process efficient requires organization and communication. You want to have a standard travel policy in place, with preferred vendors, so employees know whom to use when booking travel arrangements.
You also want to develop a partnership with a travel management company and establish clear communication about how you want your travel to be handled so you can achieve the maximum cost savings.
“Having an efficient workflow process makes life easier for the people handling your expenses and makes your reporting more accurate,” says Lynn Pfeiffer, the executive director of operations at Professional Travel Inc. “You cannot accurately gauge and measure your travel costs without a travel policy and efficient process.”
Smart Business spoke with Pfeiffer about how to establish the partnership with a travel management company and how to develop a solid travel policy.
How do you establish a partnership with your travel management company?
You should have a dedicated account manager from the travel management company to work with you. This person serves as the liaison between you and your company and helps direct a lot of the negotiations with regard to car, hotel and air. You should have one to three contacts in your organization meet regularly with that account manager.
You should also physically go and visit the travel management company’s office, so you can meet the individuals handling your travel account face to face, instead of only talking over the phone. Coming on-site and seeing the booking process helps you gain an understanding of what the agents are doing on their end and helps in developing that partnership. The only way that partnership can be communicated down to your employees is if you buy in to it, as well.
You’ll have the most successful program when it truly is a partnership, there’s trust, and you want it to be mutually beneficial for both parties. The relationship won’t work if you come in suspicious or thinking that the travel management company will overcharge you for services.
How do you develop a travel policy and what should be included in it?
You should base it on your company culture and what works best for you and your employees. Your account manager also needs to be direct with you about your total travel budget and expenditures so you can develop the best policy for your company. How stringent your policy will be depends on how much you want to save and where you want to cut costs.
It’s also important to have a policy that is mandated and enforced. This will ensure that you are only spending what is budgeted for travel. You choose one travel management company, and if your employees book travel outside that company, they will not be reimbursed for their expenses. If it’s not reimbursable, employees will not pay out of pocket for business travel expenses. That’s the best way to mandate the policy and ensure preferred vendor usage.
How often should you review your vendors?
Contracts are usually reviewed annually, but the negotiation process can start anywhere from two to three months prior to that renewal process. That gives you a chance to benchmark by your management and vendors reports and compare them to see where you’re making hurdles or where you’re not. It also gives you time to either improve or look for another vendor if the one you’re using is not successful in that particular area.
How should you communicate your travel policy to employees?
If you’re just rolling out a brand-new policy, you can introduce it during an orientation. But if it’s a new travel management company and a new policy, you can host seminars to give employees an opportunity to give feedback and ask questions about the change. Seminars are helpful at clearly communicating what’s expected during this partnership and the need for a travel policy. It also gives you an opportunity to give all the reasons for the change and squelch concerns from those who may not agree with the change right from the start. Your travel management company also needs to be a part of these seminars, so employees can meet these people face to face.
How can you make the booking process more efficient?
You should develop a profile of each traveler prior to making a reservation. This profile will include all frequent-flier information for each airline and any individual or company corporate member discounts that can change your status. This information will automatically appear once that reservation has been made, instead of having to manually enter it every time the traveler books a trip.
What are the benefits of making your workflow travel process more efficient?
When you don’t have a travel policy, you’ll want to do what’s most beneficial and convenient for you personally. That usually doesn’t translate into a cost savings for the company.
Having a policy translates to a safer travel environment. If your travelers are doing their own bookings and not using preferred vendors, you don’t know where they are and cannot reach them in case of an emergency. You’re able to reach employees easier when everyone is in the same system.