Pre-trip approvals are up there with sorting out the miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen, segway tours and taking a shortcut in the official list of ‘things that seemed like a good idea at the time’.

Cut to 6 months down the line and, as a travel manager, you’re in the midst of an administrative nightmare.

Or a never-ending pile of instruction manuals, if you chose to tackle that drawer…

Pre-trip approvals were once seen as the perfect solution to monitoring and reducing travel spend, however they no longer seem to fit quite right for many organisations, with travel managers and bookers finding the approvals process to be slow and inefficient at best – and infuriating at worst.

The thing is, pre-trip approvals can be an asset to your travel management strategy, but only when implemented in a way that works for your organisation; they’re a great way to control booking behaviour and consequently produce savings. Here’s some best practice advice on how to make them work for you:

#1 Don’t make employees seek approval for everything

Although it can be tempting to think of ‘what-if’ scenarios, adding layer after layer of approvals can be impractical and counterproductive if they are not absolutely necessary.

Each layer risks slowing down the process of actually booking travel, which can compromise the chances of booking at a cheaper price; travel prices tend to increase continuously and by the time the approval request has reached the top of a to-do list, the price may have increased, sometimes significantly.

An overly complex approach could add further complications in the fact that, if a price has increased so significantly that it is now out of policy and therefore invalid, then the booking process finds itself back at square one – rendering time wasted.

#2 If possible, implement only one or two maximum approval levels

It’s unrealistic to expect that all bookings made within your organisation can be automatically approved, as there will always be more complex journeys that require approval from management. When considering the approvals system you wish to incorporate into your travel policy, make sure you’re clear on the real necessity of every level of approval. Where possible, try and restrict the number of approval levels to a maximum of two, meaning, even for the most expensive of business travel requirements, your bookers should avoid waiting in perpetuity for the ok from a neverending line of approvers.

#3 Use an approvals system to shape traveller behaviour

Changing traveller behaviour really is the key to making your travel management strategy work for your organisation, but old habits die hard and it can be a challenging process. However, the right approvals process can certainly steer your bookers in the right direction.

If you have a repeat offender who consistently books out of policy, despite clear indications from your online booking tool that they shouldn’t be, it’s beneficial to implement an approval requirement for all of their travel bookings. This may slow down the process initially, but once the booker has to go through an approval process for every single booking, they will soon learn that sticking to policy is best for them and the organisation.

#4 Aim for your organisation to be approving no more than 8% of bookings to avoid approval apathy

Overall, your travel programme will be more efficient if you can avoid unnecessary or overly-stringent approval requirements. At Click we suggest that no more than 8% of bookings should require approval; if your approval percentage starts creeping up, this will not only slow down bookings, it will increase approval apathy amongst your travellers, negatively affecting morale.

A good travel management company will work with you, both during implementation and on an ongoing basis with your account manager to improve booker experience and remove barriers to efficiency in your business travel programme.

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About the Author:

Alice is Click Travel’s Content Coordinator and is responsible for all of our digital and print content, packaging up and presenting the wealth of expertise at Click in a way that works for you.