There are few bets you can make where the stake is small – a few dollars or pounds – and the potential winnings run into the millions. There are the big lotteries of course and most of us are still waiting for our numbers to come up.
In the world of business travel, this situation is turned on its head: if you don’t pay the similarly small transaction fee and an incident occurs then the potential costs, both real and reputational, could easily run to seven figures. Paying a small sum now for traveller tracking and other services that cover the employer’s duty of care really can save companies from serious consequences.
Consider this for a moment: not all business travel emergencies happen between nine and five on a weekday. A look at two recent events show that this is categorically untrue – the Brussels airport attack took place just before 8am; the Paris attacks at 9.15pm on a Friday.
If you are a booker who chooses to manage this yourself and not use a travel management company, what are you going to do in these periods where you are not at your desk?
As a travel booker you are probably the first person the boss calls when there is an incident – terrorist or more mundane, such as flight cancellations. Many companies, particular in the SME market, track their travellers in, shall we say politely, a traditional way: on a spreadsheet or a Word document. If the worst happens and an incident occurs when you are out at a wine-bar on a Saturday night or are woken from your bed at three in the morning, is it likely that the all-important list is at hand?
This is when the booker’s mind will flit back to that conversation had last year with a travel management company and the phrase duty of care came up. You thought about it but then decided that you could do better yourself than paying a minimal transaction fee of a few dollars.
Everyone is worried about rising costs but saving money on the transaction fees that a travel management company charges could well be a false economy. In the company where the booker is backed up with a travel management company, the boss might choose to call the TMC’s 24-hour service instead, leaving you to enjoy your sleep or your glass of pinot grigio.
Worse than the boss calling would be the traveller’s spouse ringing up to find out where their partner is. Saying that the list is in a filing cabinet at the office is hardly an option and having to admit that you don’t know because you didn’t want to pay a $5 fee to a TMC is not going to appease them.
It is not just about terrorist incidents either. The volcanic ash crisis saw many travellers and bookers spending hours calling customer service call centres, often without success. The cost of being on hold soon outstrips any transaction fee saved.
Traveller tracking software is now a standard offering and lets the travel management company support the process of contacting travellers and rebooking them if necessary. Egencia, for example, contacts affected travellers proactively by mobile phone, resulting in vital minutes being saved.
For some travel bookers, it comes down to what we could call fee versus me; if they engage a TMC, they will be out of a job. In fact, it rarely happens and the likeliest outcome is that this will enable you to focus upon more strategic activity or, more likely, one of the other roles that a travel booker usually has these days.
Many finance and procurement departments also have a laser-like focus on cost. What they should be doing is focusing on value. What value do you ascribe to being able to tell the boss or a worried partner that their star employee or loving partner is safe and well and re-routed on a new flight home?
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