10 Questions to Ask Before Buying Corporate Travel Management SoftwareBy Kathleen Burns
Many companies, especially those facing rapid growth, are turning to new platforms to help them manage their business travel. But with so many options on the market, how do you know you're making the right decision for your company?
Here’s the 10 questions you should ask every corporate travel management provider to help you pick the perfect one for your needs.
1. Where does your inventory come from?
When utilizing a platform for booking business travel, you’re going to want to make sure that you can access inventory from the airlines and hotel chains that you frequently use. Make sure the travel management system offers a wide range of options to ensure flexibility when it comes to pricing, location, and destinations. Do you have a loyalty membership with certain hotel chains or airlines? Check if those suppliers are included in the system’s inventory so you can continue earning and redeeming points. You’ll want to find a travel management solution that pulls its inventory from all of your go-to spots, like consumer sites (e.g. KAYAK), direct suppliers (e.g. JetBlue), and Global Distribution Systems (e.g. Amadeus).
2. Do you offer negotiated fares?
One of the main motivations for purchasing a corporate travel management solution is to save money on individual flights and hotels. Historically, negotiated rates have only been available to large corporations that spend millions of dollars on travel each year. But the best travel management platforms are able to leverage industry relationships and vast purchasing power to be able to pass on those savings to customers who book through the platform. Just because you’re not a massive company doesn’t mean you can’t access special corporate rates, so don’t let your business miss out on potential savings, and ask travel management providers exactly what they can offer in terms of negotiated inventory.
3. Do you charge booking fees and/or support fees?
Many travel management companies like to advertise their low subscription fees, but tread carefully. A lot of these options that seem like a great deal on the surface actually charge additional transaction fees for each implementation, booking, and support requests. These transactional fees add up quickly and can be detrimental to companies trying to manage, predict and reduce their travel expenses. If reducing one-off fees and predicting expenses are important to your business, make sure the option you’re considering offers a flat-rate fee so your finance team can know exactly how much the tool will cost.
4. How does pricing change as the number of travelers grows?
Companies are always evolving, so you need a travel management tool that can evolve with you. The cost that most companies have to pay for a travel management solution typically changes as more and more employees start traveling. If your company is in growth mode, adding more travelers each month and year, you’re going to want to know how much you’ll be paying in the future. Some travel management companies use specific dollar amounts to make it clear how the pricing changes as more travelers are added, others don’t. So make sure you walk away from the conversation understanding exactly what kind of investment you’re going to face — now and in the future.
5. What kind of reporting tools do you offer?
A major pain point for finance teams is a lack of visibility into travel spend, making it impossible to accurately track and report on travel spend in real time. For many businesses, expense reporting is done retroactively. Business travelers return from their trip and only then submit their expenses and receipts. The finance team has to wait for travelers to complete their expense report before they can see how the actual spend lines up with the intended budget. For more accurate budgeting and forecasting, you’ll want a corporate travel management tool that offers real-time expense reporting tools.
But you won’t want to start there. Finance teams also want to be able to easily see what percentage of bookings were in or out of policy, which departments are spending the most on travel, and how much money they’re saving through negotiated fares and corporate loyalty programs.
If travel spend reporting is important to your business, dig in here. Ask the vendors exactly what tools they provide for reporting and whether those features work out of the box, or if they require additional implementation.
6. What expense management tools do you integrate with?
With business travel comes business travel expenses. And, if you’re like most companies, a lot of them. Business travel expenses are actually the second greatest cost for most companies, behind only payroll. Unfortunately, these costs are not easy to keep track of. Travelers often delay their expense submissions and/or leave out critical information, making it hard for companies to accurately track and manage T&E.
If streamlining your expense reports is top of mind, consider investing in an expense reporting tool. But first, check in with different corporate travel management tools about what integrations they offer. Because business travel is likely one of your top costs, you’ll want to have a cohesive expense management process that makes it simple for both travelers and finance folks.
7. How can you help us improve our policy management?
Most companies don’t have a travel policy. And, even if they do, it is unlikely that their employees follow it, or even know it exists. A travel policy is a set of guidelines to help travelers make smart decisions when booking accommodations for business trips. They typically outline how much to spend on flights, hotels, and per diem expenses. Policy compliance offers an opportunity for managing costs because when employees know about the policy, and book within it, your finance team can accurately budget for travel spend and predict future costs.
Before investing in a travel management platform, find out exactly how the providers handle travel policies. Do they allow you to enter your own policy information? Do they automatically notify travelers and admins when a booking is out of policy? Do they help you set accurate policies and spending limits by utilizing dynamic pricing and market-specific price data?
8. Duty of care?
Do you know where all your traveling employees are? This is a frequently neglected component of managing business travel, but implementing the right travel management software tool can help your company improve their duty of care efforts. Duty of care is the responsibility of your organization to account for the safety and wellbeing of its employees while they are on the road. You want your employees to know and feel that you care about them — and be prepared to keep them safe in the event of an emergency. Features like real-time travel tracking and a centralized booking platform can help with this.
9. What level of traveler support can we expect?
Are your travel managers currently responsible for providing support to your travelers? If so, these employees are likely spending their nights and weekends on the phones with airlines and hotels to manage any conflicts, delays, or cancelations your traveler is experiencing. Customer service should be a high priority during your search for a travel management software in order to give your executive assistants and office managers back the time they are currently spending providing traveler support. Look for a resource that prioritizes customer service and offers consistent and valuable traveler support.
10. How long does this product take to implement?
The implementation of new tools can be costly, not only in dollars, but also in time. There’s not much worse than investing in a new resource only to have to spend weeks or months waiting to get it installed. You want employees to start taking advantage of a travel management solution quickly, so look for an option with an easy UI and fast implementation process.
After you've gotten answers from all the vendors you're considering, it's always a good idea to hear from customers themselves. Some quick online research into customer reviews is a great way to get a "but don't take our word for it..." perspective on how actual users feel about the product.
With these 10 questions in your back pocket, you’ll be well prepared to tackle the corporate travel management software search.