With global business travel spending expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2021, you need to be prepared to improve your company's approach to domestic and international travel.
Many companies are preparing for these spending increases by hiring a managed travel provider to handle their travel arrangements. This strategy offers cost savings while allowing companies to devote more resources to sales, marketing, and business development. If you are considering enlisting the services of a managed travel provider, you need to make sure that you approach the switch with a systematic plan. Below is your 6-step guide to making the move to managed travel.
1) Establish your travel goals
The first and most important step to take when moving to managed travel is to determine your travel goals and prioritize them to align with your company objectives. As you establish your goals, make sure you look beyond cost reduction and expense control. While controlling costs is a key goal for most organizations, you should try to dive deeper into your primary objectives and consider aspects such as the following:
- The need to provide a better user experience for travelers
- Your obligation to provide a duty of care
- The need to develop better reporting procedures
2) Carefully select a leading managed travel provider
The first and most important step to take when moving to managed travel is to ensure that you have selected a leader in the corporate travel management industry. All managed travel providers are not created equal, and you need to choose your provider carefully. As you evaluate potential providers, look for professional companies that offer the following:
- A wide array of travel-related services, including travel risk management and global travel
- Membership in professional travel organizations such as GBTA, ASTA, and Travel Leaders
- A robust employee training platform that features the Journey to Service Excellence Program
- A minimum of a decade of experience in the international travel industry
3) Secure the buy-in of key stakeholders
"We call it 'cost avoidance.' Even badly designed managed travel programs can save 10-12 percent of travel costs and good programs can save 50 percent or more."
- Kevin Maguire, NBTA Chairman and Travel Manager for University of Texas Athletics Program
As an HR manager or senior sales manager, you likely recognize that you cannot make the transition to managed travel without buy-in from your CFO, CEO, and other key stakeholders. You will need to prepare a clear, well-organized pitch that outlines exactly how a managed travel provider will positively impact your operations and the company's bottom line. Here are some tips to help you secure buy-in from stakeholders:
- Start by outlining exactly how the switch will occur and how much it will cost
- Outline how easily and quickly the transition will be for stakeholders and employees
- Cite a competitor who is prospering after switching to managed travel
- Highlight estimated cost savings and ROI
- Anticipate objections and be prepared to respond to them
4) Generate enthusiasm among employees
Once you have secured the buy-in of key stakeholders, it is time to generate enthusiasm and support among sales professionals and other employees who will be directly impacted by the move to managed travel. As you communicate the benefits of managed travel to employees, be sure to emphasize the following:
24/7 support from trained professionals
Topping the list of advantages of moving to a managed travel provider is the availability of support and guidance 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. When an internal staff member handles travel arrangements, travelers are left without assistance if trouble arises on weekends, holidays, or outside of standard business hours. Moving to a managed travel platform will resonate with employees of every generation, but Millennials will be especially apt to receive the news with enthusiasm.
"Millennials' demand for always-on, omni-channel engagement and personalized recommendations keeps rising. Travel management companies, as well as other businesses that support corporate travel booking and management, need to rapidly evolve to ensure these needs are met or risk losing relevance."
- Simon Ferguson, Vice President and Managing Director of Northern Europe at Travelport
Work with trained and certified travel experts.
Top managed travel providers view travel as an investment for companies. Accordingly, they recognize the value of hiring travel specialists who have the experience and training to resolve major and minor challenges quickly and efficiently. Additionally, they possess dedicated expertise in the travel and booking process both inside and
outside the United States. The ability to receive professional, flexible support is worth its weight in gold to the business traveler who has spent the night in an overseas airport due to flight delays.
Devote more time and energy to core responsibilities
One of the most exciting benefits of using a managed travel provider is your ability to redirect resources to core tasks lie sales and marketing projects. If your employees are currently making their own travel arrangements, they will now be able to devote more time and energy to meet their individual goals.
5) Encourage employees to get to know your provider
Now that you have generated enthusiasm among front-line employees, it is time to formally introduce your travel provider to your staff. Because your managed travel provider might be located in another state, it is a good idea to arrange a face to face visit or a conference call to give employees a chance to get to get to know your
dedicated contact. Here are some tips for a smooth introduction:
- Identify who your key contact will be with your provider and arrange for that person to be at the meeting
- Encourage employees to arrive at the meeting prepared with questions and concerns they have about the switch
- Make sure your dedicated contact tells employees exactly how they will benefit from managed travel
6) Seek employee feedback about your switch
Just because experts are now handling your travel arrangements does not mean that there is no room for improvement. After you have made the switch to a managed travel provider, be sure to follow up with employees to ask them about their experience with the changes. Potential questions to ask them to include the following:
- "How would you rate your overall experience with our new managed travel provider?"
- "Did you encounter any challenges working with our new provider? If so, what were they?"
- "What did you like best about working with our managed travel provider?"
- "Do you have any suggestions for improvement moving forward?"
The Bottom Line
Moving to managed travel is a big step for companies that are accustomed to handling their own travel arrangements. As is the case with any procedural change, you might experience some resistance from employees. Outlining the many benefits of using a managed travel provider is essential to securing buy-in from stakeholders and employees.