By Natasha Samuel, senior manager, product marketing
Mandate has become a controversial word in the last few years as business travel programs shifted from pure cost control focus to an emphasis on traveler experience and well-being. It's understandable: travelers may have previously experienced clunky booking tools and draconian travel policies that negatively impact their perception of their company's preferred partner for booking business travel.
A fine balance between traveler satisfaction, cost control and risk
A 2017 study by GBTA1 found that one-third of travelers booked directly with suppliers, outside of their company's corporate travel management company (TMC). The study noted that when a business travel policy is enforced, business travelers are more likely to use the company's TMC for business travel. Yet, travel managers have hesitated to mandate their TMC as they try to balance cost and control, while at the same time recognizing the importance of traveler satisfaction and well-being.
COVID-19 has brought a new landscape and new requirements. A recent study with Egencia customers demonstrates 70% expect business travel to resume slowly. More than half expect to resume travel before the end of October 2020. Egencia's 300+ account managers are proactively working with clients to help them review their business travel management programs and prepare them to return to travel. They are increasingly hearing the word "mandate" from travel managers.
The clear case for a mandate
Let's revisit why the negative perception of 'mandate' needs to change and consider why mandating your TMC for all business travel is fundamental to the success of your travel program.
- Traveler and travel arranger booking experience
First, let's dispel the clunky online booking tool myth forever. If you have a modern, digital TMC, your travelers and travel arrangers will benefit from a consistent, omnichannel booking and trip management experience.
Even during uncertain times, business travel can be a perk of the job or a necessary evil depending on the individual. Ultimately, travelers and travel arrangers are inclined to spend more hours (days!) trying to find the perfect holiday than they are trying to book a business trip. Sure, choice of hotel or airline factors into their decision making, but for business, they want to book travel as quickly as possible.
Not mandating your TMC means your travelers and travel arrangers are wasting your company's time shopping around. Booking on random sites means they may not have access to information specifically relevant to business travel today, such as hotel hygiene or new airline safety practices. They also miss out on technology that delivers a consumer-grade travel experience. That means they can't benefit from efficient travel booking, with machine learning technology like Egencia Smart Mix, which enables fast booking for hotels (within four minutes) and car, rail and air (within five minutes) in one, centralized easy-to-use place.
- Risk and crisis management
The pandemic has brought a renewed focus on managing traveler risk. 49% of Egencia's customers have indicated concerns about travel risk are preventing their company's returning to business travel2.
If you don't mandate travel with your TMC, identifying employees who may be at risk during a crisis becomes much harder. Mandates mean using a tool like Egencia Traveler Tracker that gives you a complete view of employee travel, fast and in one place. With a mandated program, Informa's global travel manager was able to easily identify potentially impacted corporate travelers with Egencia Traveler Tracker, helping to ensure their safety during the 2017 London Bridge terror attack.
- Automated trip approval for control and visibility
Trip approval has historically focused on the cost (and justification) for the trip. The pandemic has shifted the conversation to travel risk and management control of travel. Egencia is seeing a higher rate of essential-only travel and safety approval from customers, with an 83% increase in safety approval before travel is approved3.
With bookings in one place, Egencia's customers can use a comprehensive suite of approval features including safety approval based on destination risk, alongside traditional cost-focused approval, which is easy to set up and instantly applied to all new bookings. And it doesn't need to be tedious for the traveler, travel arranger and approver. Egencia's customer data shows approvers respond to requests quickly with 90% of approval requests actioned by approvers within 24 hours4.
- Centralized data
If you can't track all bookings in one place, you don't get the full picture. Spending hours reconciling basic travel data means less time focused on program strategy. Manpower Group previously spent up to 48 hours waiting for a report. Today, with Egencia Analytics Studio, they have instant, on-demand access to dynamic dashboards with rich data insights including online adoption, corporate travel policy metrics and travel program spend.
- Travel budget optimization
Today, companies are hyper-focused on how to optimize what they already spend on business travel and how to spend smarter. They also want to enhance financial protection with reporting that provides actionable insights on outstanding airline credits, program adoption, online vs. offline booking to reduce fees and traveler behaviour insights from their company’s travel policy data.
Without total visibility, you can't effectively find areas of opportunity to improve. With travel budgets reducing and an increased focus on cost savings, forecasting spend, along with visibility of unused tickets, waivers and refunds in one place, is critical. Learn how three Egencia customers used Egencia Analytics Studio to optimize their travel spend.
- Traveler support experience
Imagine a traveler is at the airport and their flight is canceled as they're waiting to drop off their baggage. While it's quick to cancel and rebook within Egencia's mobile app, the traveler is panicked and needs human support. A compassionate voice on the other end of the phone line can help reassure them and provide efficient, effective support. If the traveler has booked directly with a supplier or another system outside your program, they will likely waste a lot of time on the phone, trying to sort out the steps to rebooking or canceling with different suppliers.
When you mandate travel with your TMC, your traveler expects that in a time of need, there is someone available to help them fast. Whether you engage with them via phone, email or chat, Egencia's 3000+ Travel Consultants are empowered, skilled problem solvers, available to help customers 24/7, 365 days a year. And with a presence in over 60 countries around the world, they're providing expert support in your language. Read more about the value that Tech Data places on Egencia's Travel Consultants to help their travelers.
- Improved travel arranger productivity
You may have a team of travel arrangers for your business that centralizes all travel bookings for all employees in one place. Or, you may have a couple of Executive Assistants that manage your leadership team's business travel. Travel arrangers account for just over a quarter (26%) of bookings made with Egencia, including guest travel, and they value efficiency and easy access to travel management tools that empower them to focus on their day jobs.
Booking outside of your TMC means your arrangers waste time with more administrative and manual processes and are likely burdened with the complexity of coordinating various elements of a single business trip across several suppliers.
- Bargaining power
Centralised data and reporting empower you to optimize your company's negotiated rates and travel budget wisely. With Analytics Studio, customers can use actionable insights from dashboards along with complete spend visibility to negotiate better rates, amenities and cancelation terms on preferred routes and with top hotels.
Direct booking with multiple suppliers decentralizes data, requiring time and effort to consolidate and reconcile data sources to negotiate the best rates for your travel program.
- Streamlined expense management
Travelers and travel arrangers booking directly with suppliers fundamentally engenders inefficiencies in your travel expense process.
Would you rather have an automated feed or file directly connected to your company's general ledger for fast reconciliation, or chose to have your team sifting through expense claims with multiple associated credit card receipts for the room stay, breakfast and train tickets for each business trip?
And, finally, the resource time of a travel manager is at number 10!
Consider the pros and cons above. Think through how effective and efficient your travel management solution is, from travelers and travel arrangers planning and booking trips, to how you can demonstrate the value of your travel program to your business stakeholders, right through to how business travel data and efficiency impact your company's financial reconciliation and reporting.
A snap poll with travel managers in the Egencia Connect Community indicated that where companies don't mandate travel today, travel managers believe that there is now more executive leadership support for fully mandating their travel programs. Ask yourself the question: do I have time or the tools I need to reconcile out of program booking and non-compliance, and is my TMC partnering with me to drive effective program strategy by saving my travelers, travel arrangers and me, time?