Minimalism is in.
Even when it comes to business travel.
Flick through magazines or scroll through your social media feeds and you’re bound to see some mention of the magic of minimalism. Everyone seems to be Marie Kondo-ing their lives and stripping things back to what’s really needed.
Despite the fact that travel management is often perceived as being an overly complicated, tangled web of complex policies and processes, the same simplfying principle can actually be applied to business travel. In reality, adding layer after layer of complexity to a travel management strategy tends to pull organisations further away from achieving their savings goals, which is why it’s best practice to keep your approach to travel management as simple and straightforward as possible.
However, simplifying your travel programme is easier said than done. Here are 5 things you can do to minimise complexity, whilst maximising results:
# 1 Keep business travel policies simple
Overly complex travel policies can lead to confusion, time delays and user frustration. By keeping your travel policy simple users can easily gather and view all the information they need and confidently weigh up their purchase options, either by using an online booking tool or by talking to someone at your travel management company(TMC) on the phone.
To keep your policy simple, try to stick to the following:
– 2 pages max: Any more and it’s not enticing to read or can be too much information to absorb.
– Be precise and to the point: Simple, concise policies are easier understood and better adhered to.
– Avoid ambiguity: “You can stay in up to a 3 star hotel” offers little guidance – where possible, be specific.
#2 Implement a dynamic travel policy to control costs
One way to provide choice to your traveller, whilst maintaining the control that you need in order to reduce your travel spend, is to use a dynamic travel policy. Rather than using a static set of guidelines that a traveller must adhere to, a dynamic policy is based upon the best available rate in the open market. For example, instead of trying to enforce the strict rule of ‘You must not book 1st class fares’, a dynamic policy might include, ‘Fare must be within X% of the cheapest option’, meaning your traveller may have the option to travel first class whilst keeping within cost limits – everyone’s a winner.
If your TMC offers a first class online booking tool, your travellers won’t need to sit, calculator in hand, working out which fares fall within X% of the cheapest; the online system will make everything clear in its presentation of search results, making your booker’s job simple.
#3 Make use of content aggregation to be sure of the very best rates
It’s easy to assume that having contract rates in place wherever possible will save your organisation money, and it’s fair to say that where there is sufficient volume to command a discount it’s in your interests to do so. But do remember that your contract rate is not necessarily going to be the cheapest rate for your travellers at any given time.
The best way to find the cheapest deals is to use a booking tool that makes the most of content aggregation. This way, your bookers will be able to select the cheapest rate from a selection of sources, including Global Distribution System (GDS) channels, online alternatives AND any contract rates you have in place. So, your contract rates will still be available to use, but only when they are the very best rate for your organisation.
#4 Allow employees to book whatever they want; i.e not limiting their choice in any way other than with a travel policy
One of the main reasons bookers can get frustrated with their organisation’s business travel programme is feeling as though they have a lack of choice in how they travel. Many travellers resent overly restrictive and stringent policies, leading to bad feeling and a negative effect on morale. In order to prevent this, it’s best to implement a clear and simple travel policy, which is understood by your bookers and built into your online booking tool.
Providing options from across the open market, preferably including both traditional GDS and alternative online channels, will allow the booker more scope to pick what best suits them. With your policy rules built into the booking system, you can effectively allow your bookers to choose whichever policy compliant option they want, without unnecessary interference.
However, it’s not always possible or desirable to allow bookers free rein, even within travel policy, which is why getting to grips with your approval system is a vital part of creating a more efficient business travel programme.
#5 Only implement an approval process when it’s really necessary
If your travel policy is built into your booking process, you shouldn’t need to approve every single booking; it’s likely that most bookings within your organisation can be booked without approval, provided they are within policy. But there will inevitably be some scenarios that require sign off from above, particularly when it comes to breaking policy and duty of care, and this is where an approval process becomes essential.
It’s worth considering which places you will only allow travel to in very particular circumstances. In the case of a war zone or an area known to be dangerous for travellers, a mandatory approval is always vital to make sure your travellers are protected as far as possible when they travel on business.
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