Leakage is definitely one of the oddest business travel terms, but it’s also one of travel management’s most prolific challenges.
Technological advances and the subsequent introduction of more online booking sites than you can shake a policy-resistant stick at are making it harder than ever for organisations to enforce their business travel contract, as it is now so easy for travellers to book through their own means rather than by using a specified travel supplier.
This in turn is leading to many organisations experiencing an increasing amount of leakage; something that compromises not only the control that an organisation has on their travel spend, but also the reliability of the Management Information (MI) that reports on their travel trends.
Tackling the problem of leakage certainly isn’t straightforward – just ask anyone who’s tried to take it on. However, plugging the leak and saving on your travel spend is possible – we’ve made it happen for countless organisations. Here’s a quick-fire course in how to prevent leakage and boost compliance in your organisation:
1. Ask the key questions
The first step to improving compliance with your travel policy is to get a clearer understanding of exactly what is happening and why it’s happening. Analyse any available data in order to identify what is being booked outside of your current programme; for example, is the problem exclusive to accommodation, or to rail or air travel? Or is leakage occurring across your programme? Once you’ve spotted any trends in travel type, you’ll then need to look at who the main culprits are; is it a certain department, level of seniority or just particular individuals?
Then, with ‘what’ and ‘who’ checked off, it’s time to get to ‘why; is it a matter of convenience? Is your current booking system difficult to use or access? Does your travel policy seem inflexible or unrealistic to employees? Do employees feel like they have more choice using online booking sites?
2. Increase choice and accessibility
Identifying how travellers prefer to book their travel is key to reducing leakage within your organisation. If travellers are choosing to repeatedly book outside of contract in order to use sites that allow them to book travel and keep track of itineraries on mobile devices (something that’s particularly prevalent amongst millennials…) then you could enquire as to whether your current system, or travel management company (TMC), can provide that level of accessibility.
Lack of choice can also drive travellers in the opposite direction of your specified supplier, so it’s important to ensure that your current TMC provides you with access to a variety of content, rather than remaining reliant on traditional GDS approaches.
3. Re-visit your travel policy
Checking your travel policy to ensure that it sets parameters that are realistic for employees is worthwhile; a travel policy should guide employees, whilst not being so restrictive that it causes negative sentiment.
Analysing your MI regularly will show trends in how employees travel (and also helps you to identify whether compliance is a departmental issue, or more widespread…), as well as popular hotels and locations; once you’ve pulled this together it would be useful to then have a conversation with employees and gather their feedback; they may have valid reasons that can be worked into a more flexible, but effective, travel policy. With that in mind, it may be worth talking to your TMC about whether they can help you to introduce a dynamic travel policy.
4. Educate and incentivise travellers
Not only do employees need educating on how to book within contract, but they also need educating on ‘the bigger picture’; how and why booking within contract benefits the business as a whole. More often than not, employees are operating outside of contract due to a lack of relevant knowledge, rather than a deep seated desire to ‘break the rules’.
Incentivising employees is also another tactic you could consider using to boost compliance, as if a traveller is rewarded for sticking to policy then they are more likely to comply and connect their behaviour to company goals. Incentives to comply with your organisation’s travel policy could include gamification, or even a split in money saved with employees if they actively offer to travel economy class in long haul rather than business, for example, could both bolster your efforts to boost compliance.
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