Making the Leap to Managed Travel: Buying Process Considerations
So your organization is ready to make the leap to managed travel. Congratulations! Managed business travel has amazing benefits–not only for employees on the road, but also for executives, finance departments, and human resources.
We understand that if you’ve never utilized a managed travel program previously, the buying process can seem daunting. However, the hardest part of bringing in a managed travel program is understanding what to look for in the first place.
From policy control and reporting capabilities to traveler experience and support, we’ve outlined the key features and functionalities you’ll want to consider on your search for the right travel management solution.
What is a Travel Management Company?
A travel management company, or TMC, delivers support and assistance for the day-to-day operations of your business travel program by providing dedicated resources and technology for all stakeholders within your organization that are touched by business travel.
As we’ve stated previously, “Unmanaged travel causes employees avoidable stress, leaves room for human error, and ties up your finance team with manual processing of clunky spreadsheet-based expense reports that have a multitude of receipts attached.”
Organizations leverage TMCs to streamline not only travel management and expense reporting, but also to improve efficiency and policy compliance. Your entire team will be thankful to discontinue the use of clunky spreadsheets, manual approval cycles, and delayed reimbursements.
Assemble a Buying Committee
To get started, we recommend that you gather key stakeholders from across your organization that are involved in your business travel program. This team is your buying committee and will be responsible for bringing to the table key pain points of your current travel program, processes, and policies.
We suggest that this group collectively create a wish list, discuss budget considerations, implementation timelines, and travel inventory considerations–all of which come into play when vetting a managed travel solution.
You may also want to pull together an RFP document. This will help you guide the review process and also require potential managed travel companies to provide a proposal specifically for your business. Remember, managed travel is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
With your buying committee assembled and requirements outlined, it’s time to start reviewing TMCs. We suggest keeping in mind several capabilities and factors as you review options, including the implementation process, inventory, travel policy capabilities, expense and reimbursement capabilities, and data-driven insights and analytics.
Does the TMC provide negotiated rates and ample inventory?
When an organization begins its search for a managed travel service, road warriors often will begin to grumble about available inventory. In the managed travel world, inventory refers to the airlines and hotels that are offered in the program.
Frequent travelers are concerned with inventory as they often have a preferred airline or hotel chain that they utilize and are accumulating miles or points–an absolute perk of business travel. We recommend that you allow them to retain loyalty points regardless of the TMC you select as this is a great way to keep your employees productive and happy on the road.
Keep an eye out for a tool that integrates with a global distribution system (GDS). This will provide a wide variety of inventory. You should also check if you will get access to exclusive rates and if employees will have the ability to choose what airline or hotel they select to book.
For instance, TravelBank has secured negotiated rates with over 200 airlines and half a million hotels. The result? Our customers see an average of 25% savings and travelers are happy with available options.
Will you be able to build-in travel policies and profiles?
Corporate travel policies are a key component of business travel management as it provides guidelines for business travel logistics. In most cases, the travel policy includes flight and hotel booking parameters, budgets, approval processes, expense reporting guidelines, safety rules, and reimbursement information.
As you look for a managed travel company, prioritize vendors that will build policies into the app. It will ensure the rules are complied with and give employees clear direction as they book trips.
Lastly, be sure to find a managed travel company that will work with your team to update policies as needed. You want a balanced set of guidelines for your travelers–it will make compliance far easier to achieve.
Are expenses automated and reimbursements timely?
Automated expense management benefits both the employees capturing expenses and the finance team that processes reimbursements.
Look for a managed travel platform that simplifies the expense reporting process by providing the ability to snap photos of receipts, which then auto-populate expense details. Your business travelers can then backfill notes, details on attendees and the business purpose without having to track down the documentation.
Once a trip concludes, employees can submit their reports with a quick tap or click, and their manager is notified that a report is pending approval. After manager sign-off, the finance team is able to quickly audit the report and approve for reimbursement
TravelBank customers particularly love that when it comes to reimbursements, employees can securely link their bank account for an expedited direct deposit. No more waiting for check runs–if your corporate policy allows, money can hit accounts in days vs. weeks.
Can your finance teams view data and analyze easily?
With the sharp rise of business travel, your finance team is likely feeling a much heavier burden that takes time away from account reconciliations, receivables, balancing the budget, and ultimately the bottom line.
As you look for a managed travel solution, pay special attention to how it can simplify processes and utilize automation while also providing accurate budget forecasting and analytics.
We recommend that you invest in a travel management company that provides the following information for your finance team:
- How much teams are spending with real-time insights
- Utilizes historical data as benchmarks to accurately forecast future spend and improve employee behavior
- Monitors overall savings against your policies, and view employees booking over and under budget
Another differentiator for finance teams is a dynamic budget option. In the past, it’s been challenging to accurately predict the cost of flights or lodging. To solve this pain point, look for a TMC that offers a budgeting tool that provides real-time data based on search dates and destinations.
How will the TMC support your business travelers?
All of your efforts will be for naught if the TMC you select isn’t supportive of your employees on the road. Do your research and require customer references from the managed travel companies you are interviewing.
On the off-chance that your employees are faced with a travel emergency, it is important that they aren’t left to fend for themselves on the road — this can include a delayed flight, missing hotel reservation, or more severe scenarios like illness or an issue in a certain region..
For starters, be sure that the managed travel company you select will assist with employee onboarding and have learning materials available to get everyone up-to-speed on the new platform.
Restating what we highlighted above, be sure that you are able to build your policies directly into your app. This will provide clear guidelines for employees as they book, making the entire process more efficient.
Round-the-Clock Traveler Support
Around-the-clock support is a key factor for leading managed travel solutions. Bonus points if there are multiple ways to contact support. For instance, TravelBank provides phone, email, and chat support for clients. We are typically available 24x7x365 to assist employees with changing flights, extending hotel stays, or just to answer basic questions (please note: travel support hours may differ slightly during the COVID-19 pandemic).
This level of support provides peace-of-mind for employees and supports duty of care and safety requirements.
All-in-One is the Way to Go
As you review your list, be sure to ask potential TMCs about the product integrations that are required to manage travel and expenses. A one-stop-shop is the way to go!
With T&E handled by the same platform, everything your business needs to manage travel and expenses seamlessly–from 24/7 agent support to built-in expense tracking–is centralized. TravelBank’s user-friendly technology manages the entire T&E spectrum—from booking, to expense reports, travel policy compliance, reimbursements, budget forecasting, and more.
There’s no denying that employees in every department impacted by travel will thank you for implementing a managed travel solution. Road warriors will love the inventory options, instant booking approvals for in-policy bookings, and 24x7x365 support. Finance teams will appreciate compliant expense reports and insightful analytics and human resources will have the peace-of-mind that policies and duty of care are wrapped directly into the technology.
We hope you’ve found this managed travel buying process guide helpful. If you’re in the market for a travel management company, the TravelBank team would love to chat about your goals and how we can help. You can request a demo to learn more.