Whether you’re a travel manager or HR staff member tasked to book flights and hotels and plan employee itineraries, managing a team’s business trips can quickly turn into chaos.
There are so many things to keep track of, including, but by no means limited to, preferred airlines and hotels, staff and client meals, travel insurance, conflicting schedules, cancellations, hundreds of emails and texts, and negotiations with different providers.
Not to mention there will always be the fragile balancing act of ensuring employees stay safe and comfortable while on the road and keeping their corporate travel costs down. It’s no surprise that today’s travel managers often find themselves stretched thin across a variety of responsibilities.
Of course, there’s always the option of outsourcing to a travel management company (TMC)—something most large multinational companies do. But TMCs also come with their own problems: high rates that may be prohibitive to SMEs, customer service issues, and less control over the organisation’s travel systems.
Corporate travel solutions to the rescue
Thankfully, the advent of the Internet and business travel management tools has provided corporate travel managers with a wide range of solutions that allow them to shift their attention from tactical to strategic. These tools free up time to focus on more pressing matters and get more critical work done.
Why every business manager needs a workflow
But there’s a catch. The effectiveness of a corporate travel management solution depends on how well business travel managers can organise tasks and priorities. If you don’t have a core workflow that allows you to be productive, the use of any corporate travel solution is likely to only complicate your work instead of simplifying it.
In other words, every business travel manager needs a solid workflow before adopting any sort of travel management platform. Here’s a quick look at what you need to develop your own workflow.
Knowledge of the organisation’s priorities and employee preferences
As you collect and analyse enough data, you’ll eventually understand the kind of business travel problems your company needs to solve. From here, it becomes easier to identify both your organisation’s priorities and employees’ preferences. These will ultimately depend on your specific business travel issues, the size of the company and available resources, and the amount of business travel done on a yearly basis, among other things.
As the person tasked to manage travel in your organisation, do you know what the company is seeking to accomplish by sending employees out on the road? If not, talk to your leadership about the benchmarks, milestones, and goals where business travel management plays a key role.
To put it simply, taking the organisation’s perspective on business travel management requires an understanding of how travel improves the business as a whole. This knowledge will help you make informed travel management decisions.
Go back to collecting and analysing data, but this time, focus on the travel habits and preferences of employees. How many employees travel by plane, and of that number, how many are willing to fly on a low-cost carrier? How many hotel rooms are booked each year? Where do employees prefer to stay in frequent destinations? How do they prefer to track their travel expense?
Knowing these things makes it easier to keep frequent travellers in your company comfortable and secure on the road. The happier they are while travelling on business, the less likely they’ll come to you for last-minute cancellations and complaints, which means less money spent and fewer incident reports filed.
How Travelstop can help: Travel managers who need a system for consolidating and tracking employee information can use a travel management solution like Travelstop to remember employee information such as names, passport numbers, and personal preferences among others, as well as get visibility on who is traveling to which destination, ensuring rapid communication in the event of emergencies and other incidents. This allows travel managers to book transport and hotels for employees in minutes, saving time while still having full control of everyone’s business trips.
In contrast, a manual system would have travel managers having to email or text employees back and forth, patching them with travel agents for each booking, and having to manually email employees and agents trip details.
A policy or system for monitoring travel spending
Some employees will tell you that they’re fine paying upfront for their own business trips, which may seem convenient at first, but can quickly get messy. As a business travel manager, the safer setup is to handle everything, including payments to your preferred suppliers, on their behalf, whether it’s paying upfront with the corporate credit card or with monthly invoices.
But many employees also crave flexibility in their travels. And let’s face it, they’re either unaware of all your policy’s bylaws or likely to end up making some little mistake in the future. And what if they book a flight or a hotel that is outside of your company's travel policy?
How Travelstop can help: You can use a tool like Travelstop to set up a travel policy that will automatically flag flight or hotel bookings that are outside the limits of the policy you have in place. Our tool will allow you to set your policy based on rules such as:
Advance booking: The number of days employees have to book their flights and hotels in advance
Class: Default cabin or hotel class employees can book
Budget: Allocating budgets for flight and hotel bookings
This setup affords employees with the autonomy to make bookings based on their preferences and charge their travel expenses to the company (provided they stay within policy). And from a management perspective, a tool like Travelstop gives you the convenience of paying a single invoice to a vendor every month, resulting in better compliance, more savings, and more data insights from having your employees’ travel data in one package.
Other ways travel managers can use Travelstop
While there are several other things that go into the workflow of a business travel manager, the elements mentioned above will arguably make up the bulk of your workload. Once you have your workflow’s foundation down pat, you can then look at how a travel management platform like Travelstop can be used to support your processes through:
- Data-driven insights
- Real-time visibility of employees’ whereabouts
- Single vendor payments
- Automated expense reports
- Flexible budgeting
- Intuitive self-serve systems
Remember, when you know what your workflow needs are, it becomes easier to figure out how to best use a tool like Travelstop and become a more efficient and effective travel manager.