How do big companies manage business trips

Your guide to business travel management in 2021

In terms of travel management, there have been some changes in recent years: away from tedious micromanagement towards trust, transparency and simplicity.

The fact is that issues like “control” and “compliance” have dominated business travel management for some time. And that's not surprising either. Business travel is the second largest expense after employee salaries. Expenses that are worthwhile, because if managed effectively, companies earn more than 10 euros for every euro invested in business travel.

Business travelers nowadays need simple, digital options to book themselves according to their wishes and more travel options (e.g. AirBnb, e-taxis). At the same time, companies want to keep cutting costs and improving the ROI of business travel.

Our travel management guide will help you combine - and achieve - these seemingly contradicting goals.

What is business travel management?

Travel management is the process of controlling, tracking, and reporting on a company's travel-related expenses. Business trips can be carried out by external business travel agencies, by an internal travel manager or by an administrative specialist, e.g. B. by an employee of the office management.

Regardless of who is responsible for travel management, most organizations rely on corporate travel platforms to keep track of business travel expenses.

What does a business travel manager do?

A business travel manager is usually an in-house employee who manages travel for the entire company (an external resource that is not part of the staff is called a business travel agent).

Depending on the size of the organization, this could be a whole team of business travel managers. Your main tasks include:

  • Travel booking for business travelers (not only for executives, but also for all other employees).
  • Support for individual departments to keep an eye on travel costs so that they stay within budget.
  • Providing travel support for business travelers before, during or after their trip.
  • Selection and management of travel providers.
  • Negotiating corporate rates for hotels that the company uses frequently.
  • Booking of group trips.
  • Organization of ground transportation.
  • Analyze business travel expenses or provide travel expense reports for analysis to the CFO.

What does a travel buyer do?

A travel buyer is responsible for purchasing or outsourcing business travel purchases. This includes working with providers, negotiating prices and / or selecting an external partner for business travel management as well as monitoring and reviewing their work.

The travel buyer typically makes decisions that affect the entire company, not just individual departments.

How does a travel management company work?

External partners for business travel management are not always travel agencies. There are also software companies that fall into the travel management category and, in addition to 24-hour support, also provide digital self-booking platforms for companies.

A partner for your travel management either takes full responsibility for travel management or provides your employees with the tools they need to manage business trips themselves without spending a lot of time. You should be able to hand over the following tasks to your service provider:

  • Self-booking within your company's guidelines
  • Concierge bookings
  • Group bookings
  • Round-the-clock support
  • Automated travel expense reports
  • Easy creation of travel guidelines
  • Tracking the travel budget
  • Labeling and categorizing travel expenses

Common problems in business travel management

However, many existing service providers and offers do not match the requirements that companies have today, for example with regard to the flexibility of business travel. On the other hand, there are a lot of problems and challenges when companies without a service provider and independently take on business travel management.

  • Every travel booking results in endless e-mail traffic that costs unnecessary time and spoils your mood
  • Responsible persons are overworked and stressed by every booking request, flight change and cancellation
  • The finance team is desperate to find out who is spending money on which trips and why
  • Those in charge have spent hours creating a travel policy that no one reads or adheres to in the end
  • The finance team monitors every travel booking to control expenses in their usual way, namely through micromanagement (yes, and that in 2021).
  • Travelers don't find the choices they want (e.g. AirBnB) or don't have the simple digital tools they are used to from private travel
  • As a result, travelers book online outside of company guidelines - and their company loses control

problems with

Travel management stakeholders

Updating your travel management process and systems is definitely a team effort. Depending on the size of your company, this may require working with:

  • Internal business travel managers
  • Office manager or office manager
  • Operations manager / COO
  • CFO and finance department manager
  • CEO
  • Panel of employees who travel frequently
  • Current business travel agency or company

Some colleagues will be heavily involved in the process (e.g. Finance and Operations) while others will provide feedback and approval (e.g. executives who travel frequently).

The pillars of modern travel management

  • trust - Trust travelers to book according to approved processes and guidelines and make booking easy for you
  • transparency - Let travelers see what they can spend and choose accordingly. Let finance and other leaders see what's posted and why.
  • simplicity - Create a process that works and meets all requirements.
  • Effects - Measure the impact of business travel on the company and save unnecessary costs

With these three pillars you can say goodbye to manual, complicated booking processes, thousands of e-mails and endless report requests. In this way you create clarity for yourself and your company.

Five steps to effective business travel management

In companies of all sizes, you can manage business travel in the following ways:

  1. Choose a smart booking tool
  2. Get support for your travelers around the clock
  3. Create policies and approval workflows
  4. Organize and use data on your business trips
  5. Improve internal collaboration

1. Choose an intelligent booking tool

The ubiquitous presence of online booking sites in the private sector has meant that companies often book their business trips on consumer sites as well.

But what if a company uses consumer tools to book trips? One of the many disadvantages: The CFO lacks control and has no choice but to investigate, which not only costs a lot of time but also makes the team unpopular. Finance departments are forced to micro-manage travel expenses for each department.

Without technology, the interests of travelers (maximum choice, easy booking) cannot be reconciled with those of the CFO (cost control, overview). The first step in modern, technology-based travel management is to choose a tool that is based on trust, transparency and (not to be forgotten) simplicity.

Here are the top features to look for in a travel management platform:

  • Self-booking within the guidelines - Trust your travelers to book what they need and set policies and parameters accordingly
  • Consolidated invoicing - The ability to receive a monthly bill for all trips from one provider instead of having it distributed over the internet
  • Travel expense reports - Easy access for all finance and administration team members who need to track travel plan and expense details by cost center, tag or label
  • Simple booking process that travelers love to do - Invoice consolidation and accurate reporting are not possible if employees want to bypass the approved tool. Therefore, choose a tool that is equipped with a user-friendly and easy-to-use user interface.
  • Great offer - Options are not unimportant. Make sure the platform you are using has all the options available that you can find online and that the company is committed to adding more offers
  • Travel support - You need travel support that is available 24/7 in your native language so that employees can get help even when their team is not available at the company

2. Ensure around the clock support for your travelers

It is not easy to be there for travelers 24/7, handling cancellations, changes and other requests at night and on weekends. In addition, the time that is needed for the really important projects suffers.

If you're not available for support, travelers get stuck waiting for changes, which ultimately costs your business time, money, and nerves. The logical solution is to rely on a partner to provide 24/7 support so that you as an office manager or travel manager don't have to.

Below are the requirements to look out for:

  • Available around the clock
  • Real human co-workers
  • Guaranteed and fast response times
  • Support in different languages
  • Trained personnel

Many office and travel managers are still busy with the daily wee-wee of travel (and all of their last-minute problems). It's basically not a problem up to a certain level either, it's just about having an available partner in your absence so that you can choose what is important to them and where you need help - or if your business has grown too big , than that travel managers can take care of everything themselves (usually this is the case with more than 50 employees, with consulting companies already from 20 employees).

In addition to covering routine support tasks such as changes and cancellations, you should also receive support when booking group trips. Long trips of eight or more people can really put a strain on the office management team. As you test tools, see if they can help you book group travel, including price negotiation.

3. Create policies and workflows for approving travel

There are three benefits to automating your travel policies. They increase compliance with travel guidelines. Your managers save time because they no longer have to book all trips. Travelers get more freedom when booking.

Do certain departments, offices or travelers have special travel needs? In this case, your travel policy will be more complex as you cannot offer a single policy that applies to the entire company.

For most businesses, the minimum basic requirements for their travel policy are:

  • Budget per flight
  • Budget per hotel and night
  • Minimum number of days booked in advance
  • Allowed hotel stars
  • Permitted flight classes

But this is just the beginning! You can go into even more detail and, for example, set the maximum costs for a hotel individually for each city.

Approval workflows

When setting up automated travel policies, you can choose how strict or how lenient you want to be. Here are three very different ways to automate policies and approve trips that are out of budget:

  • No permits required
  • A permit is required for some trips
  • A permit is required for each trip

In the event that an employee tries to book a trip that does not meet the guidelines, you should set up the simplest possible approval process. The traveler should be able to request approval within your solution, which is automatically sent to the supervisor.

Next, you need to decide who will approve the trips: the manager, those responsible for business travel, the CFO or several department heads?

For an administrative professional who approves trips on a regular basis, having a platform that shows you all trips waiting for your approval right on the dashboard is extremely helpful. This way you have a central location for every open trip and you never have to go through your e-mails for a long time.

4. Organize and use data on your business trips

Effective travel management is not only important for those responsible for business travel. Operations and finance are always involved too. And these teams need travel expense reporting that is not only accurate but also insightful!

By using cost centers and labels and making sure that all your trips are available in the reporting tool, you can create intelligent reports that the finance department can use to identify trends, sources of error and budget optimization opportunities.

  • Cost centers - Does your company use different payment accounts for different geographic areas? How many cost centers does the company have? Make sure that the correct accounts are being debited with the travel expenses.
  • Tags and labels - In addition to cost centers, are there any other important filters that the finance department would use to view travel expense reports? For example, would you like every trip to be tagged by team or project? To use the day from the beginning, later here later a lot of time.

For accurate travel dates, keep all your business travel documentation in one place whenever possible. You should therefore ensure that your management solution can communicate with many third-party providers that are important to your company, e.g. B. Low-cost airlines, AirBnb or European rail lines. If your company has negotiated special rates with hotels, the tool should be able to secure these prices for you so that you don't lose travel dates through direct bookings.

5. Improve internal collaboration

The most important thing in modern travel management is that it serves the entire company. We mentioned that travelers need to be equipped with 1A support. We also talked about how to save time in administration and administration. So what about the finance department?

You should pay attention to the following:

  • Optimized approval process - Automatic notifications and coordination processes integrated into the solution of your choice save time
  • Easy access to invoices - The finance team needs to have quick access to all invoices so expenses can be matched. The best way to do this is by using a platform that summarizes travel expenses in one monthly invoice.
  • Possibility of instant tracking of expenses - Consolidate all travel expenses on one platform so you can report on what is being spent by whom and why (using tags and labels). Pay attention to the possibility of monthly reporting - ideally automated.
  • Travel cost savings - Optimizing travel isn't just about saving time. Many companies are still using solutions for their business travel management that they did in the 80s and 90s. This means that the prices of the offers are designed in such a way that the company pays more than a consumer! There is a lot of potential for savings here.

Time to upgrade your travel management?

This is how it all comes together!

Did you recognize a few things? You can change a lot with the following five steps:

  1. Choose a smart booking tool - Meet all requirements
  2. Spread the load of support - Do not try to be there alone for all travelers 24/7
  3. Set up cost centers and labels
  4. Create policies and approval workflows - Include the policy in the booking process, your staff will thank you
  5. Improve collaboration between administration and finance - Automate billing and reporting