By Craig Fichtelberg, AmTrav
There’s not much business travel happening right now due to the pandemic, which makes this a great time to take a fresh look at your company’s travel program.
As regions open up and travel managers restart their programs, it makes sense to do so with an eye toward maximizing productivity on business trips.
Improving productivity means increasing output, i.e., value, as a percentage of input, i.e., costs. So, what would a productivity‐focused travel program reset look like?
The first step is to take a closer look at costs.
At many companies, there’s no transparency into the cost of unused airline tickets and charges for basic services like ticket changes, tracking travelers and accessing after‐hours support. When companies incur unnecessary costs like these, input is higher.
On the output side, employees who encounter multiple hassles during business travel are likely to be less productive when they’re on the road.
If you create a program that eases the way for traveling employees, they’ll deliver more value by being more productive, which improves output.
Keep in mind that improving productivity in a travel program (or any other operation) is all about reducing input while increasing output.
Here are five ways to achieve that in your travel program:
Make data‐driven decisions about in person vs. video call meetings
Meeting by video isn’t the same as meeting face‐to‐face, but over the course of the pandemic, video calls have proved they can be an effective way of doing business in many scenarios.
The question going forward is which meetings can be handled by video and which require in‐person meetings. It’s time to systematically generate data to find an answer.
To create a data‐driven travel program, rank past trips on a 5‐point scale from most to least successful according to the outcome. Then, when travel resumes, use video calls to replace travel for the lowest ranked categories of meetings, and focus your travel budget on trips that are more likely to produce higher returns.
Keep monitoring the results, evaluating outcomes and ranking them in terms of productivity on the same five‐point scale so you can continue to invest in the most productive trips.
This approach allows you to follow the data and make adjustments as needed to keep travel productivity high.
Maximize traveler satisfaction
Achieving better business results requires travelers with the energy and support they need to be productive. That means companies need to treat traveling employees like valuable assets.
Booking employees on red‐eye flights or expecting them to work in cramped coach airplane seating might reduce a line item on an expense budget, but it won’t result in productive, energized employees.
Providing employees with travel amenities like minimal connecting flights, priority seating, airline club access and 24/7 assistance to manage disruptions and flight changes is a better approach.
This reduces traveler stress and boosts productivity, and continuously measuring traveler satisfaction with standard surveys produces more data that can be monitored via a dashboard to continuously improve the program.
Consider a monthly subscription fee program to simplify travel
If you work with a traditional travel agent to handle your program, you’ll typically be charged for each transaction. The expenses can add up quickly because there’s a charge for everything: booking fees, charges to change a flight, fees for after‐hours service, extra costs for booking international flights and more.
As travel increases, so do the number of fees. Sometimes companies even book travel outside the partner agreement to try to reduce expenses.
This approach doesn’t make sense if your employees travel frequently.
A subscription fee‐based partnership gives you access to comprehensive travel services for one fee. In most cases, the more trips your employees take, the less it costs per trip.
That eliminates the temptation to book outside the partnership to keep fees down, which means traveling employees always have access to the full range of services, which improves their productivity.
A simpler process with predictable costs also enhances travel manager productivity by reducing management hassles.
Address the unused tickets issue by tracking them and encouraging credit use
The pandemic slowed business travel to a crawl, leaving companies with an enormous amount of unused tickets. But even before COVID‐19, unused tickets were a problem. They’re hard to track, but to cut costs, you’ll need a centralized tracking system and a systematic way to remind travelers about unused credits so they can be applied before they expire.
Since rogue travelers typically book their travel through multiple websites, it’s easy to lose track of what unused ticket was booked where.
The best solution is a reporting system that provides a summary, including unused ticket totals and expiration dates.
Fewer unused tickets reduce the input required for the travel program, which contributes to better productivity.
Implement safety measures to reduce risks
Travel managers always keep employee safety in mind, but the pandemic added new risks to consider. Ensuring employees are safe and productive requires extra measures, like keeping an eye on outbreaks and blocking travel to regions that are COVID‐19 hotspots.
It’s also a good idea to be able to ensure employees are staying at facilities that meet safety and cleanliness standards.
Another safety measure to keep in mind: make sure you can reach travelers at any time with updates as conditions evolve.
Few sectors felt the impact of COVID‐19 as acutely as the travel industry, but now is the time to rethink your approach to employee travel.
Whether you manage it in‐house or partner with a travel expert, a proactive strategy that uses data to control costs (reducing inputs) and focuses on enhancing traveler productivity to drive better business results (increasing outputs) can revitalize your program, making it more productive than ever before.