The Ultimate EA Guide to Prioritizing Business Travel Management
tl;dr: How can you give the crucial task of business travel management the attention it deserves without sacrificing your other “top” priorities?
Your company’s executive leadership understands that, while travel is a business priority, it is also one of your company’s biggest expenses. They look to you, as their trusted executive assistant or office manager, to manage day to day travel. How can you give this crucial task the attention it deserves without sacrificing your other “top” priorities?
You need help – a corporate travel management agency or technology platform that can lift your administrative burden and help control costs. Unfortunately, that decision is probably not up to you. Good thing you’ve mastered the art of presenting your improvement ideas to your boss and the other top brass. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your recommendation for improving travel management is well-received.
Making Your Case
Administrative efficiency is a priority for you, but effective travel management also prioritizes financial controls, data management, and traveler experience. Yet Skift’s recent report, “The State of Business Travel 2020,” reveals that a third of travel managers (including EAs like you) are “managing” travel without the benefit of a corporate travel company or platform of any kind.
It’s taking up too much of your (and everyone else’s) time, increasing frustration and wasting money. This is exactly why you want and need a better solution. Our just-released Lola.com report, “Cost of Doing Business Travel,” notes that “wasted resources often fly under the radar, which subjects companies to the consequences of overspending and wasting time, without any knowledge of how to solve the problem.”
As EA, you live these challenges every day. You are in the ideal position to recommend a better way. And, boy, will you be popular when that change is implemented! Here are some steps you can take to identify the best-choice solution and make a solid business case to your CEO to make the investment.
1. Identify the Most Important Features for Your Team
Every company’s travel needs are different. So, make a list of what your ideal travel management solution should do for you. Think about your own current travel manager duties as well as what accounting/finance needs to handle expenses, budgeting and reporting. For most companies whose employees travel, two of the biggest problems are cumbersome expense submission and reimbursement procedures, and inaccurate or untimely reporting. Also consider what your travelers need for booking as well as support on the road.
You know some of this from experience, but sit them down and ask them point blank what’s problematic or missing now. Think about the future as well as your current needs. Things will surely change as your organization grows and evolves. A solution that doesn’t have the horsepower to accommodate those changes won’t be much use. And having to switch horses mid-stream never works out well.
2. Research Potential Travel Management Companies (TMCs)
Now that you know which factors are most important for your company, it’s time to check out possible travel management partners. An outsourced corporate travel agency can do a lot more than handle bookings. They can help cut costs with discounted rates, boost traveler experience with more and nicer amenities, help streamline expensing procedures, even assist with budgeting and travel program analysis to identify further savings and improvements. They can also provide traveler assistance with some types of problems such as delayed or canceled flights, hotel room issues, and so on.
But don’t overlook the alternative. For many small and mid-sized businesses, the right technology can bring even more benefits than partnering with a corporate travel management company. A single source comprehensive technology solution (we’re partial to Lola.com) can seamlessly integrate travel planning, booking, monitoring, support, and expense capture, reimbursement, and reporting. Lola.com incorporates your company’s travel guidelines, automatically assuring compliance while also assuring travelers get the flexibility and quality they want and need. Now we’re talking.
And speaking of talking, we’re proud to say that Lola.com is the only platform that includes live, expert help for travelers around the clock. Team members can always get help, without having to call you! (Could this be why we’re rated #1 by travelers and travel managers across all major review sites?)
3. Pull Company Travel Data to Assess Current Costs
Look for data on travel frequency, the amount of time spent booking, and actual trip costs vs. budgeted numbers. A study we conducted here at Lola.com shows that as much as 15% of employee time and $12,000 per year (per traveler) is spent on travel-related administrative tasks -- an average of 20 minutes per trip just researching hotels! Overall, 70% of travelers admitted that their company’s travel management procedures affect their job satisfaction. In smaller firms, that figure was 14% higher. No question your execs are going to applaud the savings recommendation will bring.
So gather as much data as you can. In companies with vaguely-structured or fragmented travel programs, detailed data may be hard to come by (one more big reason why you need a better system). Your goal is to prove value – of your recommendation to make a change as well as the specific solution you have identified. Don’t forget to factor in intangibles because the cost of traveler dissatisfaction can be higher turnover and corporate reputation damage as well as overspending due to non-compliance. You want to eliminate your own wasted time and frustration, too!
4. Compare Solution Costs and Benefits
Now that you know what features are necessary and which TMCs or software options look like the best match for your company, it’s time to put pencil to paper. You need real numbers to wow the execs when you make your presentation, and doing cost comparisons will help you recommend the best solution. You want to compare all options to one another, but also to current company travel management costs.
An inefficient travel program that is outdated and cumbersome guarantees wasted time and money. Nobody is happy. By showing how your company can truly prioritize travel management you will become everyone’s hero.