Travel is essential to SME success in today’s global, hyper-connected workplace. Employees working with customers across the country or throughout the world is not uncommon – in fact, it’s quickly becoming the norm. While travel is essential to developing and maintaining important relationships, providing needed support and securing new business, this piece of your company’s budget can also be one of the most expensive elements of your operating budget.

Balance between a strong corporate travel program and a cost efficient budget is possible; SME’s have been choosing to either manage their corporate travel program strategy using a simple online booking company or travel agency. Businesses that realize the most savings opportunities utilize travel management companies (TMC’s) and typically see a 10-20% cost savings for their bottom line, in addition to increased control, support and overall employee productivity.

In order to properly assess the best corporate travel management strategy for your business, SME’s must use data to achieve results. Following are four ways to make data-backed corporate travel decisions that will create cost savings, increase travel policy compliance and generate the best value from your corporate travel program, driving positive results.

1. Assess your current travel spending.

If asked today, as the Finance Executive within your business, are you clear as to what parts of your travel and entertainment (T&E) spending are on the increase? In order to make clearly defined data-backed travel decisions, the first step is assessing where money is being spent right now, and why expenses may be above what’s expected. Finding and analyzing the how and why of expenses within your corporate travel budget is essential to making the best decisions to drive value. Assess your current travel booking system – are you able to find unbiased data that provides comprehensive rates or fares in the market? Have vendor rates been thoroughly negotiated to deliver the most cost-effective option for your business?

In addition, it’s equally as important to assess your traveler needs. In a recent study from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the more than 100 travel buyers surveyed found that business travelers are spending on the amenities they most want instead of having them included as part of their travel policy. GBTA head of research, Kate Vasiloff adds that “Travel managers need to negotiate for things that are valuable to business travelers, not what is [easily] negotiable.” Collecting a wider range of data from your road warriors will contribute to the assessment of your current travel spend, and in turn drive value for your business through cost savings.

2. Gather additional travel data.

While the expense data is critical in making the best decisions for your corporate travel program, additional travel data that can be gleaned from your corporate travel program will provide clarity into best practices for your corporate travel program. Information on overall travel volume and travel purchase by source, for example, can provide invaluable information as you develop your corporate travel program. Thorough analysis of available travel data, as well as expense data will allow you to develop an efficient, cost-effective travel program, providing value for your business and your travelling employees.

One of the benefits of working with an expert TMC is their reporting system that provides hundreds of fields in which data can be customized into a series of reports categorized by project or department. This type of system allows you to be creative in how you choose to leverage that data while making value-added corporate travel program decisions.

3. Benchmark your results.

To determine if your business is making clear, data-backed decisions for your corporate travel program, comparing your SME’s performance to that of your peers is essential. Through data benchmarking, you’ll be able to ascertain if your business is spending too much on hotel room bookings, for example, compared to other SME’s within your peer group. Performance evaluation groups like Topaz International provide travel data to allow businesses to compare their travel expenses to their peers.

Once benchmarks are established, you and your finance team can assess areas of potential cost-savings within your T&E budget, and make decisions based on this information. Your business’ travel policy can then be adjusted to ensure traveler compliance.   

4. Work with your TMC to make the best decisions and develop the best corporate travel program.

When you work with a TMC that provides true travel leadership, their knowledge of the corporate travel landscape as well as access to state-of-the-art systems and processes will provide you with the essential data needed to ensure a successful corporate travel program.

A great TMC will provide your SME with the tools necessary to create T&E cost-savings; provide invaluable support for your employees and your corporate travel program; allow for control over your travel policy; and increase overall productivity of employees.

The corporate travel program within your business can be a driver of value, instead of one of the costliest segments of your operating budget. Through proper data collection, analyzing, accurate benchmarking and the involvement of a passionate TMC, your business can make robust, data-backed corporate travel program decisions, providing value to your business.

Data collection is essential to corporate travel program success. Are there additional ways that your business has collected and utilized data to make positive corporate travel program decisions? Please share your comments below.

TMC’s can have a significant, positive impact to your business’ bottom line. Download our “Travel Management Companies: What They Mean for YOUR Company” whitepaper to learn more. 

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