Travel managers must use data to understand what travelers want and serve it up when they need it, but what data points are most helpful or important for travel managers to focus on when assessing their travel programs?
The answer to that question depends on the goal of the organization, according to Carolann Martini, vice president of account management for Travel and Transport.
“If the goal is traveler satisfaction, you must dig into surveys,” she says. “We have automated surveys that allow us to obtain feedback on the service we provide across a range of service points, immediately. The company must also send surveys about the airline, hotel, car rental/ground suppliers.”
Martini says most companies negotiate to get savings from suppliers, but rarely follow up afterwards to survey whether or not they’re delivering on the service commitments they promised. “The best way to know if your suppliers are doing what they agreed to is to survey your travelers,” she says.
The health and safety of employees is often a top consideration for many in corporate travel management. It is for Chris Bartram, Director of Contracts and Procurement for HDR, who says his team puts policies in place around what they allow their travelers to do, to protect their health and safety. Beyond that, Bartram looks to Travel and Transport for data around its online booking tool used by employees and to gain benchmarking data on RFPs for hotel and other supplier contracts.
Gauging Leakage – the Last Rogue Element of Travel Spend
Another top of mind concern for travel managers is assessing how much of their organization’s travel spend is going outside of its managed travel program. Such spend is generally called leakage and can be substantial.
Gaining visibility into leakage can be difficult; without a system that pulls in credit card data, expense data and data from a travel management company, those disparate data feeds must be tracked down, analyzed and amalgamated individually, which is a time consuming task many travel managers don’t have the time to conduct on any kind of regular basis.
Former travel manager and current account manager for Travel and Transport, Rita McKee, says a machine learning-powered solution like that provided by Travel and Transport company DVI (Data Visual Intelligence), gives travel managers the visibility they need to identify and address non-compliant expenses.
“Travel managers need visibility into all the spend, not just air, car and hotels. Most TMCs stop at air, car, rail and hotels, but your employees have meal charges, ground transportation and miscellaneous expenses,” she says. “Without a solution like DVI, travel managers have to work with their finance departments to get reporting from disparate systems, which can be time consuming and cumbersome.”
“Intelligent” Platforms Can Improve Visibility Into Hard to See Data for Travel Managers
Travel and Transport’s Data Visualization Intelligence platform (DVI) uses machine learning to identify existing patterns in travel and expense data to provide three types of analysis: descriptive (this is what happened), prescriptive (this is what the problem is) and predictive (this is what will happen).
DVI applies these analytical approaches to spend data to identify differences between stated and actual behavior, leakage and expected future expenses. By aggregating multiple data sources across categories, businesses and industry sectors, DVI is able to move travel managers and their businesses from a position of hindsight and insight to foresight, achieving significant ROI for their companies.
Even without a big data tool like DVI, travel managers who partner with Travel and Transport have access to robust pre-trip and post-trip reporting capabilities to identify expense trends, leakage and opportunities for savings. Through these reports, travel managers can begin to understand change behavior within their organizations, which is critical to achieving travel program goals, according to Brian Beard, president for DVI.
If you manage a global travel program it is important to know that data from every country is collected, normalized and consolidated in a consistent manner so you can get a true picture of your organization’s travel spend on a global, regional and local level.
“Understanding the change behavior within the corporation is a very critical data point. Travel managers need to understand not just the spend, but how close to the travel date employees are changing their travel plans, how often they change and whether or not change behavior differs across the corporate hierarchy,” Beard says. “Understanding how travel data relates to travel or employee position within the company is critical to making the right actions in response.”
Are You Acting on the Data You Collect?
Whether through an intelligent platform like DVI or employee surveys, accumulating data or even gaining visibility into it is only half of the battle. Without acting on it, the value of that data remains unclear.
“Data is only important if you action it,” Jami Hedrick, Executive Director of Account Management at Travel and Transport says. “Many times, we see people survey and get information but then stop short of creating actionable steps based on that data. If you just want to check your baseline, that’s fine, but if you want to impact change within the organization, achieve greater savings or see better satisfaction, you have to take tactical steps with a business plan.”
Analyzing and taking action upon data is a large part of corporate travel management, yet it is not the only aspect worth considering in greater detail. Our next installment of these posts will look at the tools that help travel managers achieve corporate travel goals.
What skills do you think every travel manager needs to be successful in today’s rapidly changing travel environment? 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 at your organization.