It’s understandable if a first time travel manager (or another employee tasked with the responsibility) was a bit daunted by the challenges of their job. Coming from a diverse range of backgrounds (onsite agent, online booking administrator, payroll, financial analyst) employees who take on this function may have some areas where additional research will be required to succeed. Which is fine, all jobs have a learning curve.
Here are a few thoughts on ways to make this challenge easier:
- Create an informal travel committee. Assemble a set of partners and mentors among the employees of your company who have the most to do with travel. They could be key executives (CFO, controller, shared services, HR) or just frequent travelers. Mix together C-level and rank-and-file employees to get a variety of experience, just make sure they all touch travel in some way. Start by sending around a set of questions requesting feedback on how well your firm’s travel program has been working, or not. If, or when, your travel program goes to review (all bigger programs are required to go out to bid every so number of years) you will need this team to help go through RFP responses.
- Do a deep dive on reporting. Look over every aspect of the financial health of your travel program. Questions to ask…Are we getting the best fares? Are travelers booking their trips in advance or are they waiting until the last moment? Are extra car insurance fees being added when they aren’t needed? Is everyone following policy, and how much does it cost when they don’t. You’ll be quizzed by your bosses soon enough about all these topics, so it’s best to get the answers ASAP.
- Talk to travelers. No one knows better how well a travel program works than the folks who have to use it. Are they happy with your online booking tool? How about their expense reports? Is the process hard or easy? Do they get reimbursed promptly? Especially talk to those travelers who constantly try to book out of policy or off program. What causes that behavior?
- Talk to your TMC Account Manager. Based on where you worked before this position you may or may not be familiar with this person. Either way it’s imperative to find out if you are getting the services you need from your travel management company. Find out how they view your current selection of supplier discounts and contracts. Are there possibly additional discounts out there which you aren’t getting? If your account is big, and multiple airline contracts are involved, what’s their negotiation strategy for maximizing the yield on these contracts.
- Do a technology audit. How well are your travelers utilizing technology? Besides online booking and expense management, there are many ways in which apps and third party programs can make a traveler’s life easier. (We recently covered TripIt, as one example.) Just look up “Travel Apps for Travelers” and you’ll find dozens of lists of other useful apps. See something you like? Share it with travelers.
- Open up communications. Begin communicating regularly with your travelers. You don’t have to do a monthly newsletter, but you could do a quarterly newsletter. Refining the flow of information both ways between you, a service provider, and your end users, travelers is essential. And it’s easier done if it’s done regularly.
With the assistance of committed shareholders, some mentoring and good support from your TMC, you’ll soon feel more confident is doing your part to keep travel running smoothly. If you need some help maximizing your program, please contact Katie Spain at (678) 420-2557 or send your RFP to firstname.lastname@example.org