By Kathy Kent, Senior Consultant, GoldSpring Consulting
Travel manager responsibilities are compounding every year. The immediate overtakes the important, and before you know it, core travel program policies and processes have gone stale.
Implementation is a great time to take stock of where your program is and where it needs to go. Don’t let the opportunities that led you to sourcing in the first place get overlooked in the rush to implement. It’s the implementation that’s going to drive your new opportunities and ideas forward, and it’s what will help you realize value on the effort put into the sourcing project.
Here are some areas that could potentially use a refresher:
Standardize policies and processes. Go for simplification, efficiency and consistency. With recent developments, it’s a great time to consider changes and tweaks like eliminating or reducing pre-trip approval. Have you considered recent changes in preferred supplier programs? Also, take a global view and ensure policy and processes are up to date and consistent across the board. This means region to region (where you can) as well as across departmental lines like expense or global security updates.
Improve data and reporting. Implementation is a perfect time to look at whether you’ve got the right metrics in place and if your dashboards are giving you what you need. What’s the data hierarchy, what departments are set up to receive reporting, and is it being distributed to the right people? Are people looking at it? Make sure dashboards reflect current travel policy, and savings and supplier metrics. You can only drive increased savings if reporting is mapped to travel policy and compliance correctly.
Improve the traveler experience with technology. Take advantage of technology and deploy the user-friendly tools
available from suppliers and the TMC. Bring mobile booking, itineraries, flight alerts, safety advisories, hotel reviews, messaging and other features together in one ecosystem. Create a traveler experience that is less fragmented than the consumer space, and available only inside your program. When it comes to the booking tool specifically, reduce the amount of warnings, messages and pop-ups in the tool; focus on the critical few that drive savings, safety or preferred supplier usage.
Improve the traveler experience with counselors. As more transactions go online, great service for travelers who do call in and need to speak to travel counselors is even more important. Provide information on your company culture and objectives for agent training so they can be more consultative and provide the best choices to your travelers. For instance, travelers can be asked if they have flexibility, especially on international flights, in case there are lower fares just outside travel policy time windows. Toggles may need to be adjusted so counselors can see those options.
Look again at emergency response processes. Make sure you have an emergency response plan that can be executed at a moment’s notice. If it’s been awhile since an incident, those plans can become stale. For example, make sure team member contact information is current. Look at the last event and note what went well and what didn’t. Make sure the right departments are involved and consulted and there’s a communication plan in place that can be turned on quickly.
Of course, roadblocks can exist. But getting support on policy or process changes upfront can help. Recruit some key stakeholders to be champions of the new system: key travel arrangers, frequent travelers and groups with high visibility. Work closely with your TMC to ensure everything will be put in place as you expect. Getting a third-party to audit and speak up on your behalf can help.
A successful implementation should focus on improving the user experience and bringing travelers back to the program. Taking time to refresh what you can in the process provides a framework for future program consolidation and enhancements and sets a baseline for continued improvement going forward. Contact GoldSpring today to get started.