Whether you’re fixing something around the house or trying to get your work done more efficiently around the office, the right tool can make all the difference. Travel is no exception to that rule. With technology making the travel industry ever more interconnected, there is an abundance of third-party tools making travel faster and easier.
We asked travel industry veterans what the best-kept secrets or most underappreciated tools are for travel managers. They returned four tools that can help travel managers deliver more satisfying service, both to travelers and to corporate stakeholders interested in the profitability of the corporate travel program.
From VAT reclaim and the best mobile travel apps to corporate online booking tools and platforms that make communicating with travelers better, here are some of the best tools for travel managers to consider.
4 Best Tools for Corporate Travel Managers
The best tools for travel managers make work easier and more efficient. At the top of that list is a category that takes up a significant portion of a travel manager’s time – communication with travelers.
#1 - Business Traveler Communication Tools
According to Joel Bailey, Senior Vice President of Customer Solutions for Travel and Transport, the single most underutilized capability is technology that helps travel managers target relevant communication to travelers when they need it most.
“We have a variety of tools that allow travel managers to target relevant information to travelers at just the right time. These tools help travel managers see exactly when the right time is to tell travelers that their hotel has free Wi-Fi and breakfast, for example. Or, when to let travelers know that insurance is included in their car rental reservation,” he says. “Our platform makes it easy for travel managers to figure out when to communicate, how and with whom to have the highest impact.”
Some pieces of information are best communicated at the time of reservation while others, like those Bailey mentions above, are best relayed at the time of check-in.
Travelers heading to a country they haven’t visited before may appreciate information a few weeks in advance of travel so they have an optimal amount of time to prepare for their business trip.
A platform with targeted communication tools helps busy travel managers schedule appropriate communications in advance so that they are delivered to the right travelers at the right time.
Bailey says travel managers should take advantage of the automation capabilities of their travel platform to save time and ensure important messages aren’t missed.
“Standard messages about things like destination tips, car rental, and hotel information are static and can be automated,” he says. “Set it up once and let the technology determine who needs to know it through a series of rules you set.”
That same platform should also allow travel managers to create and send unique messages about specific events such as strikes, protests or other non-recurring situations to large numbers of travelers who need to know about them instantly. At Travel and Transport, such messages can be instantly relayed through the comprehensive mobile app, increasing the likelihood of affected travelers receiving the information and being equipped to act on it.
A tool enabling targeted information is essential to avoid annoyance and improve reading and retention rates, says Juliet Reffold, head of account management for Travel and Transport Statesman.
“Many organizations face challenges in figuring out how to communicate with their travelers. No one wants mass emails going out unnecessarily, so one of the best things a travel manager can do is to use the tools available to them, either through their TMC or internally by communicating directly to the people who travel.”
Reffold says that whether you use social media tools like Yammer or Chatter or a travel portal, the important thing is to engage travelers by showing them you’re listening to them, talking with them and taking action on their feedback, all of which will help build buy in to the travel program and compliance with the travel policy.
#2 - VAT Reclaim Tools for Business Travel
Another untapped tool is VAT reclaim. VAT, which stands for value-added tax, is assessed on goods in the European Union (EU). If your travelers visit the EU and pay VAT, but don’t live there and are traveling back with the goods, they can claim a refund of the VAT.
While VAT varies, it can be up to 27 percent on some items. It’s complicated to calculate and cumbersome to reclaim, which means companies often leave lots of money on the table.
“Many companies forego the funds they could reclaim, which is a shame since there are third-party tools today that help travel managers reclaim VAT with almost no effort,” says Mervyn Williamson, managing director for Travel and Transport Statesman.
Along with VAT, companies often overlook compensation for flight delays on travel to the EU. Again, Williamson says this is money companies are leaving on the table for their people.
“The EU has specific rules regarding compensation owed to travelers whose flights are delayed more than a certain amount of time, but you have to know the process to recover it. Third-party providers can help you claim those funds owed to you under EU law,” he says. “All of that is money that can be recovered to help compensate weary road warriors who may have missed a key meeting or family event. Handling this process for your travelers is one way to show you’re looking out for them.”
#3 – Business Travel Mobile Apps and Travel Portals
Some travel management companies have mobile apps and travel portals that their travel manager clients underutilize. That’s the case at Travel and Transport at times, according to April Wheeler, Vice President and Officer of Account Management for the global travel management company.
“Travel managers can push important messages to specific groups of travelers through the mobile app and offer lots of conveniences to their travelers through it. They can use our portal to perform robust pre and post-trip reporting easily as well as enable easy online booking through it for their travelers. Everything done through the portal is compliant with the travel policy and can be tracked, enabling visibility travel managers need into their travel spend.”
Of those reports, Jami Hedrick, Executive Director of Account Management for Travel and Transport, notes the benefit of being able to identify spend with various suppliers as a big positive for travel managers.
“Travel managers can benchmark departments within our reporting tools to see who is acting in policy and who isn’t. They can easily see which hotels in cities are being used and over time can quickly identify trends in travel spend. Our post trip reporting capabilities allow customization of the dashboard so travel managers can see exactly the information they care most about front and center.”
Hedrick says such reporting capabilities allow travel managers to show their value to business line owners who can then follow up with their travelers as necessary. When trends are noted and change is desired, Hedrick says Travel and Transport can push quality control checks out through its proprietary travel advisor desktop and CRM tool, BARTT, so that travel advisors can correct errant booking behaviors with travelers at time of reservation.
“It’s a holistic system that really allows us to help organizations, and travel managers achieve their specific goals,” Hedrick says.
#4 – Corporate Travel Industry Resources Like GBTA and ACTE
A final tool travel managers often overlook is industry resources available to them through the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) and ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives).
“Both of these organizations have a vast amount of resources they’ve collated specifically for travel managers,” says Wheeler. “There are so many venues and opportunities to get best practices. Travel managers can become members and get access to networking events, educational seminars and other resources all over the world.”
Wheeler says some of the most valuable tools for travel managers there include sample RFP documents for all kinds of engagements. If you aren’t using these resources, membership in one or both of them could benefit you greatly.
Tools alone won’t get the job done. However, when paired with powerful cross-departmental connections, a travel manager can become unstoppable, which is exactly what we’ll cover in more detail next.
What tools help you get more done as a travel manager? What did we leave off our list? Talk to one of our corporate travel experts today about how much your organization could benefit from Travel and Transport’s travel tools and technology.
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What tools do you think every travel manager needs to be successful and deliver satisfying service to travelers and their organization? What did we miss that needs to be included on our list? Talk to one of our corporate travel experts today about tools and resources to help you manage travel more effectively.