Guide to Corporate Travel ServicesBy Kathleen Burns
External corporate travel agents and internal travel managers have been popular travel management options for a long time — but are new corporate travel services and platforms ushering them out?
Today, business travel is becoming more and more intertwined with personal needs and preferences. Corporate travelers are looking to book a business trip independently so that they can pick a hotel with access to a gym, sneak in some tourist-y activities between meetings, or use ride sharing apps that they already have on their phone. They are seeking a better work/life balance, even while on the road.
A traditional corporate travel agent is not able to offer this flexibility and autonomy that business travelers now crave. In the past, a travel agency would often be responsible for making a booking within the parameters and policies of the company. The excessive back and forth caused by relying on an external agency frustrates travelers, who, more than anything, want a flexible, lightweight way to book and manage corporate travel.
Unlike an agency, a corporate travel service offers a medium through which a business, and their travelers, can establish and monitor the travel reservations themselves. A 2018 GBT study on business traveler satisfaction revealed that 61% of managers report that their travelers are asking for improved travel management technology.
Enter: corporate travel services
Types of Corporate Travel Services
Traditionally travel management has been owned by travel agents, and mostly tailored to companies spending $5 million and over on travel annually. In terms of online booking, the tools travel agents offer are typically slow, expensive, and not user-friendly. Read: not a great system.
More practical options for growing companies include internal travel managers or travel arrangers and corporate travel software services.
Travel managers / arrangers are internal employees who can take over the online booking tasks to release other employees, like an office manager or executive assistant, to focus on their core responsibilities. However, with an internal travel manager comes the cost of a yearly salary — which right now averages about $90,000...ouch. Plus, one person can only stay on top of an entire company’s travel schedule for so long. If you’re looking to scale your company, and increase your business traveling, this is not a sustainable option.
Corporate travel management software provides a one-stop-shop for online booking that travelers can access themselves. A software service offers the flexibility and autonomy that road warriors crave, as well as the expense visibility the business requires. This enables companies to establish a well-balanced travel and expense policy.
What can a corporate travel service do?
At their core, corporate travel services find a balance between the needs of the travelers and the requirements of the company. When these needs and requirements aren’t aligned, no one is happy. Corporate travel services offer a variety of benefits in order to achieve this happy medium. These usually include:
- Real time visibility and reporting of travel expenses, budgets, and policy compliance
- Online booking tools via a GDS to compare different itineraries and prices across airlines and hotels
- Traveler support while on the road in case of flight delays, cancelations, or other problems
- Monitoring employees’ locations to ensure Duty of Care in case of emergency
How to choose a corporate travel service
It can be overwhelming to sift through all the options for a corporate travel service and feel confident that you’re choosing the best one for your company. A few key factors to consider are:
- How big is your business?
- How many employees travel per year?
- What are your travel expenses per year?
If you don’t know the answer to some (or any) of these questions, it is likely that your corporate travel is unmanaged - or at least not managed well. And you’ll want to look for a solution that is tailored to your company’s demographic.
What else should you look for in a corporate travel service?
You can expect corporate travel management providers to offer a variety of services that improve the travel experience as a whole. These often include:
- Access to a variety of options for flights, trains, car rental, and hotels
- A user-friendly interface for easy online booking
- Live 24/7 customer assistance for when things go wrong
- Real time visibility into travel spend and travel policy compliance
- Monitoring live travelers to know where your employees are and to ensure their safety
How to find the best corporate travel service for you
Corporate travel services are not one size fits all. Before deciding on a corporate travel service, evaluate your current business travel management process. Consider repeated challenges your employees face while on a trip. How could the travel process be improved by finding a different solution?
When choosing a corporate travel management system, it’s also important to consider what your priorities are when managing travel. Do you want a super user-friendly experience? Or is 24/7 traveler support more important for your travelers?
Do you want to continue earning loyalty points when traveling for work? Or do you care more about getting the least expensive flight, regardless of the airline?
Smaller businesses may prioritize an option that offer predictable flat rates, while larger companies might have more flexible budget that can handle additional booking and service fees.
How much time are you willing to devote to implementing a new solution? Some solutions have simple, straightforward on-boarding processes, but others are a bit more complex, especially those aimed at larger businesses.
No matter what, you’ll want to make sure the service you choose prioritizes the safety of your employees by monitoring live travelers to make sure they arrive safely and stay safe throughout the duration of their trip.
Some corporate travel solutions won’t even require you to compromise, but it is smart to establish your priorities before going into the decision process.
Best deals on corporate travel solutions
Different corporate travel solutions operate with different pricing systems. Some services offer annual subscriptions, but most will charge for each transaction. This means you pay a certain cost per traveler, or a fee for each booking and service request (and sometimes both…). In these cases, you’ll end up paying extra for services you would expect from the travel management solution in the first place.
The best deals on corporate travel solutions are those that offer predictable pricing — no one wants to be blindsided by extra fees. And to get the best bang for your buck, look for solutions that will offer 24/7 assistance. Business travel doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule, so neither should your customer support. Choose a solution that will help you as best they can whenever flight problems arise.
The big picture value of using a corporate travel service is overall savings in travel expense. With a software solution, employees are held accountable for complying with the company travel policy. They aren’t able to sneak in that seat upgrade or extra drink on the plane that inevitably bump up expenses.
Corporate travel solutions can also reduce the amount of time an employee spends on researching and comparing different flights and hotels. Some solutions, like here at Lola.com, even store your employees’ airline and hotel preferences within the product. If you repeatedly travel to the same place for work, online booking becomes a breeze.
Ultimately, you know your company best. Look for a solution that fits your business’s needs and improves your travelers’ overall corporate travel experience.