In today’s digital age, buying a toaster online, reserving a table at your favorite restaurant or hailing a ride downtown can happen with a few taps of your smartphone. So why can’t the same be true for managing your corporate travel program? If you’re still coordinating your employees’ travel manually with request forms and phone calls, it’s time to consider upgrading your process to an online booking tool (or corporate self-booking tool), commonly referred to in the industry as an OBT.
How can an online booking tool help you manage your program?
Corporate travel booking tools are online software platforms that your employees can use to book and manage their travel. They are similar to sites like Expedia or Kayak, but you as the travel manager and administrator for the travel booking tool, can load preferred suppliers and rates, apply policies and restrictions, and track your travelers when they’re out on the road.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Here are six of the most important advantages to implementing a self-booking tool for your company:
1. Create good corporate citizens
Are your travelers inclined to choose business class seats or luxury hotels? Perhaps they’re already frugally minded and look for a convenient midscale hotel. Either way, booking tools provide you with the resources to guide your travelers to the appropriate (and in-policy) travel content. With booking tool configuration, you can set your city hotel limits for New York City higher than Cleveland, you can flag first class seats and chauffeured limousine as out of policy. Maybe your travelers were already booking the more cost-effective flight route, but a bit of ‘visual guilt’ can help nudge them in the right direction if you need to reign in your travel spend.
2. Increase delegate efficiency
A corporate booking tool makes it easy for personal and executive assistants to act as delegates (also known as travel arrangers) for multiple travelers. Instead of filling in endless forms and calling suppliers, delegates can place an itinerary on hold and share it for approval or changes with a single click. If they need to manage multiple travelers for the same event, they can use built-in features to replicate the search results (so they’re not starting from scratch every time). And they don’t need to worry about collecting each traveler’s name, date of birth or loyalty numbers – they’re already in the system and are automatically applied to the trip.
3. Personalized options
Business travelers today are looking for convenient and frictionless travel experiences. They want to use a tool that remembers their preferences, past bookings and automatically applies the appropriate corporate policy. Corporate travel online booking tools, such as Deem, are evolving to offer this personalized experience for travelers. The most advanced travel booking tools have the ability to store personal information for each traveler, such as unused airline ticket credits, frequent flyer and hotel loyalty numbers and preferred suppliers. If you meet your travelers’ needs by delivering more flexible and personalized programs through data and artificial intelligence, you can make travelers’ lives easier and ensure compliance.
4. Manage duty of care
Most employers understand it's their responsibility to ensure employee safety during business travel. In legal terms, this is called duty of care. As an employer, duty of care means you conduct your business responsibly for your employees. This is more than just a moral obligation, as failing in this area can result in legal action for negligence. Implementing a self-booking tool can help you manage your duty of care in a number of ways. Pre-trip approval functionality ensures any risky or unconventional travel plans are declined before they are booked. Travel managers can designate different levels of approval and functionality to segments of employees. Traveler tracking and risk alerts allow you to easily locate and contact your employees in case of emergency or threat.
5. Improve data capture and reporting
Many booking and planning tools provide business intelligence tools that offer strategic account analysis to identify new savings opportunities and benchmark your contracts against similar companies. Booking all aspects of your travel using a travel platform ensures that all data is transferred to the reporting system, payment and risk providers. Collecting travel data also helps your company understand employee behavior, detect trends, minimize costs, and find potential vendor partnerships.
6. Travelers can book and change on-the-go
Your travelers no longer need to worry about spur-of-the-moment changes to their travel arrangements. Travelers can take the functionality of the tool on the go. They can complete end-to-end bookings on their mobile device, make changes while they’re on the road and reference all their travel details in a single location.
Implementing the right OBT for your company
So, you’re convinced it’s time to implement an online booking platform for your company. Where do you start?
Despite the fact that people are accustomed to booking their personal travel through consumer platforms, driving adoption of a corporate online tool at your company can often be met with challenges. If your travelers are using a high-touch booking team, are picking up the phone, or going to the in-house travel desk for even the simplest trip, those habits can be difficult to break.
The key to successfully building adoption of your booking tool is having a comprehensive roll-out plan that highlights employee benefits. Proactive and frequent communication ensures your adoption process reaches all the relevant employees with the right information in the most effective way possible.
But your efforts don’t stop there. It’s important to build a robust support system for the lifetime of your travel program. Consider working with a travel management company, such as Travel and Transport, Inc., who can provide consultation on your technology needs.
Next, educate your travelers, with workshops or in-person training sessions as well as newsletters to keep the booking and planning tool top of mind. By educating travelers early on and communicating with them regularly, you can drive adoption and avoid frustrations.
With the right OBT and adoption program in place, you can offer travelers the flexible, simple and fast travel booking and management experience they want – all while you control your travel spend, reach your duty of care goals and improve employee productivity.
Thanks to Deem for contributing this post to insights.travelandtransport.com.