Over the last few years we’ve seen the business travel industry go through somewhat of a technological renaissance. There’s been the advent of online booking technology, the rise of internet booking sites and more recently the emergence of New Distribution Capability (NDC).

But there’s one aspect of travel management that’s at risk of being left behind…

Approvals.

Once upon a time approvals reigned supreme in any organisation’s travel management strategy. All requests for business travel would need to be approved by a travel manager before a travel management company (TMC) had the go ahead to actually book anything – the idea behind this being that each instance of business travel would be judged on a case by case basis in an effort to keep travel spend down.

Time rumbled on and the rest of the travel management industry seemed to grow around approvals, meaning that for many organisations they’re now a bittersweet aspect of a travel management strategy; a simple way of controlling travel spend, which is often a priority of senior management, whilst also acting as a source of frustration for travel managers and bookers who find them inefficient.

At Click we believe that it’s high time approvals were brought up to date and dragged into line with other travel management tools, and that there really is a way that you can implement an approvals system that will deliver much sought after savings without stagnating the booking process.

How to implement a more effective approvals process in your travel management strategy

The secret to successfully implementing an approvals process that works for your organisation is to switch the focus of the approvals and instead of using them solely as a way to control travel spend, use them as a way of guiding booking behaviour.

Changing booker behaviour over a controlled period of time is the only way to see consistent savings that will continue into the future and at Click we’ve found that using approvals as way of steering booker behaviour to be really effective.

Combining this approach to approvals with a dynamic travel policy to bolster spend reduction efforts has provided many organisations with the confidence to allow travellers to book without the need for approval; as long as a booking falls within policy (which can mean anything that an organisation is comfortable to book without needing a Line Manager or Security Manager to check it first and does not necessarily have to revolve around cost) then travellers are free to book.

So, which undesired behaviours could approvals be used to control? This will vary depending on your organisation’s individual business travel programme, but here are a few examples:

The booking of options that don’t comply with your travel policy

The booking of travel to dangerous countries or areas – a must in terms of duty of care

The booking of trips over a certain amount

The booking of trips in business or first class

The use of a supplier that doesn’t deliver the service standards you expect for your staff

The overall aim is that, when used together, approvals and travel policies combine to provide a solid framework to drive behavioural change and reduce cost.

Using this approach avoids implementing an approval process for too many bookings and, as a final piece of best practice advice, we recommend that organisations aim for no more than 8% of bookings to be subject to an approval process. We believe this delivers the right balance between driving desired behaviours and ensuring approvers don’t become “trigger happy”, paying little attention to each individual request because their inbox is flooded with requests on a daily basis.

If you are thinking of changing the way that approvals are used within your organisation then the best place to start is by talking to your TMC; they can advise you on whether this is worthwhile for your organisation in particular and, if so, how best to implement it.

For more procurement and travel management advice, insight and information click the button below:

 

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.