Corporate travel policy compliance is the Holy Grail for travel managers and can prove to be elusive. But it’s essential to vendor negotiations, duty of care, accurate travel reports, and a half dozen other key considerations. We have assembled the following truths to assist you in this quest. As a corporate travel agency, here’s what we see time and time again.
Every Company Has a Different Travel Management Story
There are many factors that differ between companies and dictate what the ideal travel platform should be. These include:
- Size of spend
- Number and types of business travelers
- Recent history with previous travel suppliers
- Travel profile (international vs. domestic, key city pairs)
- Airlines that match the travel profile
- Corporate culture and attitude of senior management
Making sure you have built the optimal platform is the first and most important step in having a corporate travel management program that delivers full compliance from your travelers. Whether your current program has been in place for years, or it’s the result of multiple travel managers over the course of as many years, there’s a good chance it could benefit from a new look with objective eyes.
Take an inventory of each and every primary factor which needs to be addressed.
- Do you have a lot of VIP travelers who might benefit from a special service desk?
- Are your travelers going into dangerous locations making Duty of Care a top priority?
- Are your travelers spending too much time booking travel online instead of doing their job?
- Do you have enough spend to get a primary contract with an airline or should you be racking up benefits with multiple airline loyalty programs?
- Where are you losing money, and which booking behaviors are driving non-compliance?
There may be multiple areas in your corporate travel policy where things aren’t working as well as they should or used to work in the past. And speaking of the past, make sure you haven’t brought over once-successful techniques from a previous employer that don’t work as well with your new company. It’s easy to just assume the old standby move will repeat to the same degree of effectiveness as before. You could be fixing things that aren’t broken, which sometimes means you’re actually breaking other things in the process! When in doubt ask someone who will know…which brings us to the second truth.
If You Don’t Know Why Travelers are Unhappy, Ask Them
Rampant non-compliance is usually a sign that travelers are unhappy with some aspect of your company’s corporate travel management program. Ask a few key travelers what they think and if you feel a deeper dive is needed, fire up Survey Monkey and get a broad consensus from your traveling public. This move might even help build morale as the folks on the road get the sense that the company is concerned with their happiness and open to suggestions about how to improve the process of booking travel.
The results from a well-written survey (make sure you give the travelers plenty of opportunities to address different areas of your program) should give you a road map to improve travel compliance across the board as you find out the specific difficulties travelers are facing in the field. This knowledge will help you contend with the basic conflict at the heart of most travel management issues…
Saving Money vs Keeping Travelers Happy – Finding the Win/Win
The eternal conflict between these two goals has gotten a lot of ink lately in the corporate travel press and rightfully so. The classic goal of managed travel has been to cut travel costs for the company, as travel is one of the primary ways a company can deliver substantial savings to its bottom line. However, a new paradigm has emerged in the last decade which says your new focus should be making sure the key drivers of business growth (road warriors) are performing at top efficiency and most importantly, avoiding traveler’s fatigue.
We believe these goals are not mutually exclusive. You can change traveler behavior to bring about savings while at the same time building traveler-centric perks into your program. The key is knowing when to do each. And while it’s tempting to just draw a line at traveler status, giving VIPs and key travelers a looser, friendlier travel policy, this approach can engender resentment among rank-and-file travelers and leave a lot of money on the table when VIPs do things that they shouldn’t really do.
A case in point: Advance Booking Requirements. Since VIPs may have more meetings, they also may have last-minute changes happen more frequently. That doesn’t mean a more relaxed policy for this group is the best way to encourage in-policy bookings. There should still be an incentive to book early and in line with the business travel policy. A more effective way to foster good practices by VIPs is a gamification program like Rocketrip, where the traveler, regardless of status, takes part in sharing cost savings. This makes the booking process more consistent, keeping travel booking where it should be most of the time, and on those occasions when the unavoidable last-minute schedule change means a higher-priced ticket, everyone shares in the loss.
What you also wind up doing is finding a set of instances where travel policy exemptions are allowed, not just for VIPs, but for everyone. If someone is on a long-haul flight, allow an upgrade to the next highest class. If someone has a late Friday meeting, allow a bleisure day on Saturday, where the traveler gets in a little sightseeing or R&R at the hotel before heading back. Pressure-relief valves like this can make a big difference in traveler satisfaction.
Expense Reports & Integrated Travel Management – A Big Opportunity
When the expense reporting tool is directly tied to the online booking tool, the compliance rate is always better. The ease of pulling together expense reports, usually a tedious process for employees and your finance team is much simpler with this integration. When e-receipts are being collected automatically (even from taxis!) and restaurant receipts can be quickly added via your phone, pulling together expense reports is much easier. This is a big inducement to use a standard booking channel. As a result, employees are more likely to stay compliant with the travel budget & the expense policy.
Now, we know this can be tricky for travel managers when your company’s financial and accounting personnel may be attached to a different ledger program that prevents changing the expense reporting tool to something compatible with your online booking tool. Similarly, we see cases where a program like TripIt is actually enabling travelers to book off the program without any negative consequences, pulling over itineraries and receipts just like the native program would. Contending with challenges like this often requires careful negotiations with other departments in your company to get your travel program where all your spend is being reported accurately and all your travel costs can be reviewed on a real-time basis.
And finally, we want to mention the truth that many travel managers don’t want to hear…
You Can Have 100% Travel Policy Compliance If You Insist on It
Requiring program compliance for reimbursement is a simple solution we rarely get to implement. In those cases where a company was brave enough to actually require their employees to follow policy guidelines or pay for their own travel, we found a few stragglers complained a few times and then it was all smooth sailing. If you’re going to try it, be firm in implementation but lenient for the first few months allowing everyone time to adjust to the new reality.
You can start by creating approval workflows for employees to book outside the program, then adjust later as exemption requests become less common. Make sure your senior management team is on board for the change. They can lead by example and are crucial to a successful launch. After this adjustment period, no one will question the policy, especially new hires.
You should also be certain that there are plenty of positive traveler benefits built into your new policy, otherwise, it might seem like your travel policy is too draconian.
With the tight labor market, it has become common practice for prospective employees to want to look at a company’s travel policy before deciding to join the team. Make sure they like what they see, and you will have done the best job possible!
Your New Favorite Travel Management Company
If these compliance considerations start getting overwhelming, rely on us at Teplis Travel. We are a women-owned travel agency in Atlanta that is excited to be your future travel partner. We specialize in corporate travel consulting and management, travel expense management, and a range of other business travel services. We can assist with creating an effective travel policy that includes a well-rounded compliance program, and ultimately improve your employee’s travel experience and save your company time and money!