5 ways to gain a competitive edge in construction by digitizing travel
The construction industry has faced unique challenges with the pandemic, since so much of the work must be done in person or on site. Yet even though construction is positioned to reap greater benefits than other industries when digitizing travel, it’s been one of the slowest to adopt the change.
To help companies who are curious about switching to a digital travel solution, Egencia spoke with experts in the industry to put together a Construction Travel Playbook. Download the playbook to hear from those who have made the shift and learn how to make it happen for your company.
Here are 5 key takeaways pulled from the playbook to give you an idea of what to expect when making a shift to a digital travel solution:
1. Better cost control
Because of the unpredictable nature of construction projects, travel needs to be flexible and adaptable. But short booking windows, long stays, and last-minute changes can add up. Data shows that U.S.-based construction travelers spend 20% more per trip than any other type of business traveler. It can also lead to a vast amount of unused tickets and travel credits.
“We’ve seen construction companies struggle to deal with large influxes of unused ticket credits with specific airlines,” says Chris LeFevre, corporate account manager for Egencia. “Unless you have a digital solution that brings it all together, that’s really hard to do.”
Since January 2020, Egencia customers have redeemed over 100,000 airline credits worth $50 million from the Egencia platform in North America. Smart technology minimizes costs even more behind the scenes. Egencia Savings Finder, for instance, continues to look for lower rates after booking, saving customers an average of 7% on air and 14% on hotel.
Takeaway: With the right digital travel solution, savings add up instead of costs.
2. Spend transparency
With so many moving parts to construction projects, tracking overall spend and spend per contractor and client is a big deal. But when travelers book through a manual process – or on personal credit cards – getting those details can be arduous, if not impossible.
The director of accounting for a large insulation contractor, says it used to take her two to three months to look back and determine what was spent on a particular trip, before switching to a digital travel solution.
An executive administration manager at a home renovation and remodelling company, faced a similar frustration when she found that employees were booking high-end cars and hotels because there were no procedures in place to prevent them from doing so, or to identify when it happened.
“To realize we weren’t tracking that was a shock to my system,” she says. “We weren’t fully seeing the amount we were spending on travel.” That changed when the company switched to Egencia. “Working with a digital travel management company gave us one standard place for all employees to go and book – and for me to see our overall spend in one place.”
With dashboards and reports driven by consolidated booking data, managers can pull cost reports by job number, employee, office location, trip length, hotel, and more with a just a few clicks.
Takeaway: Consolidated data and user-friendly dashboards and reports makes for better budgeting.
3. Enhanced flexibility
In the construction industry more than just about any other, change is the one reliable constant. Old-school manual booking makes it extremely cumbersome for those in the field to make on-the-go updates to their itineraries. And without a unified digital solution, “empowering employees” to take care of their own travel means giving them carte blanche to spend as they see fit.
A digital solution, on the other hand, empowers travel arrangers, project managers, and travelers. The executive administration manager recognized the need for a solution as the home renovation and remodelling company began to grow. “I knew I was not going to be able to book every single person’s travel, and I also knew I didn’t have time to sit and train everyone to do it on their own.”
With a digital travel solution, the Executive Administration Manager is able to book trips for entire groups or for different classifications of individual travelers all with a few clicks. She can also set up policy guidelines that are integrated right into the booking process, so visual flags alert both travelers and travel managers of non-compliance before the booking is even made.
It’s also important for travelers themselves to feel comfortable and confident through every stage when managing their travel. Egencia customers, for reference, have an average online adoption rate of 87 percent, in large part because of a consumer-like experience that’s consistent across all devices.
(Click here to find out why an IDC MarketScape report on cloud-enabled corporate travel booking applications named Egencia a leader in tech-based business travel solutions)
Travelers can make and change air, hotel, car, and train reservations; contact their hotel; receive alerts of flight changes and cancelations; find the best ground transportation options; and get in-person help 24-7 – all at the touch of a button on their smart phone, or any other device.
Takeaway: It’s possible to empower travelers while significantly increasing compliance to travel policy, in a way that makes it easier for everyone.
4. Ability to track travelers
Duty of care – being able to identify where travelers are at any given moment – became top priority when the pandemic hit, and it’s likely to remain so well into the future. In construction, with so many travelers in the field, duty of care can be especially daunting.
A digital travel solution solves that problem with centralized booking data and technology like Egencia’s Traveler Tracker. LeFevre explains, “You can quickly get an accurate view of where your travelers are at any point and contact them in case of mass cancelations, natural disasters, or COVID-19 policy changes in a specific location.”
Before switching to Egencia, the director of accounting for a large insulation contractor, would have to make calls to local sites in hopes of locating a particular traveler. Now, with Traveler Tracker, “I can open a map that tells me how many employees I have in each region and narrow it down to who’s where,” she says. “I brag to everyone I know about how awesome it is to be able to track your travelers.”
Takeaway: The right digital travel solution makes it effortless to track your travelers.
5. Increased efficiency
It’s not surprising that a digital travel solution can increase efficiency. But seeing just how much may come as a shock. Forrester research found that between travelers, approvers, auditors, and accountants, it takes an average of 13.6 hours to book a trip (and process associated expenses) manually.
Contrast that with the average time it takes for Egencia customers to book their trips – four minutes for hotel and five minutes for air, car, and train. Even with complex itineraries, that’s exponential time savings.
“Contractors want to remain competitive in the market,” says LeFevre, “and one of the ways they can do that is by improving internal processes and making them more efficient.” When employees are freed from the burden of manual or disjointed booking, they can spend their time and energy on activities that generate revenue for the company and keep current customers happy.
Takeaway: In the competitive construction industry, the right digital travel solution can be a key component in increasing efficiency and gaining a competitive advantage.
The road ahead
Where this all leads is a competitive advantage and higher ROI. The first step is to make the shift from thinking of travel as a line-item cost to thinking of it as a strategic investment. The second step is to make the change to a digital travel solution that can support the unique needs of your company.
Download the full playbook ‘Taking Business Travel Digital: How Construction Companies Benefit’ to learn what to look for when evaluating a digital travel management company.