Greater visibility into the operations of the vendors that make up your corporate travel management program often means the ability to make better, more informed and more data-driven decisions. It may mean cost-savings, and – as we’ll get into later in this article – it can mean greater security for your travelers.
Yet, despite these obvious advantages, visibility isn’t something that’s questioned routinely. We content ourselves with the status quo, and in doing so, fail to appreciate that there are levels of access and visibility we aren’t tapping into. It is the epitome of the challenge that, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
That’s why, in keeping with our commitment to increasing communications, we want to highlight what visibility can look like from your ground travel providers, as well as how it benefits your corporate travel management program.
Ground Visibility for Corporate Travel Management Programs
In most cases, opportunities exist to gain greater visibility into almost all aspects of your corporate travel management program – especially when it comes to ground transportation. And while we can’t speak to the individual needs of each organization, we can share a framework for thinking about visibility that applies to all companies, across all types of business travel bookings.
Visibility into Traveler Movements
Visibility into traveler movements really gets to the heart of the issue: do you know, at any given moment, where your travelers are?
It’s a simple question, but it’s one that’s surprisingly complex to answer. For instance, many ground travel providers claim to offer location visibility, but are only able to provide maps of initial pickup positioning or intended destinations. Without actual GPS tracking, coordinators are left in the dark regarding their travelers’ exact location and estimated times of arrival (ETAs), presenting a challenge if someone is needed on-site to greet travelers or if time-sensitive itineraries hinge on specific arrival times.
But it isn’t just an issue of convenience. Imagine that a security incident occurs in the city where your traveler just touched down. Without knowing your traveler’s position, how will you know if alternate arrangements – even emergency evacuations – are necessary? Visibility into traveler movements isn’t a “nice to have.” It can be critical in an emergency situation.
Visibility into traveler movements is facilitated by the notifications you receive before, during and after your trip. A few specific notifications your ground provider should offer include:
- Advance details regarding the drivers and vehicles assigned to your traveler
- On location notifications confirming driver positioning
- On board notifications indicating the traveler has connected successfully with the driver
- Trip completion notifications informing travel coordinators and their teams that the traveler has successfully reached the final destination
Visibility into Reservations
Visibility into traveler movement is driven by access to the reservation-making process. You can’t have visibility into individual trips if you aren’t confident they’ve been booked correctly in the first place.
As an example, one of the most common complaints we hear from travel coordinators is the challenge associated with changing pre-existing reservations. We get it. Business trips get canceled. Meeting schedules can shift minute-to-minute. Changes are inevitable, but if you aren’t confident your updates have been successfully recorded by your ground provider, how can you claim to have true insight into the travel process?
At a minimum, your travel partners should provide you with:
- A secure way to access the details of your upcoming reservations for multiple passengers (ideally, from a central portal that’s viewable across multiple devices and platforms).
- Immediate confirmation of any bookings or reservation changes that are made, as well as the ability to view these changes in the same central portal as your unmodified trips.
- An easy way to download invoices and billing documentation to facilitate your company’s expense processes.
- Visibility into the billing details associated with past trips, such as the ability to associate individual trips with a particular traveler’s name or to match billing records with trips through the central portal.
To put it simply, if you’re still having to make additional, unnecessary confirmation phone calls to verify any stage of your reservations or have an invoice sent out, you don’t have enough access to information from your travel management provider. Simple tools like this save you time (and, consequently, money), especially when they are provided in a way that makes it possible to manage your travel bookings at any time, from anywhere in the world.
Visibility for Teams
Finally, consider that you may not be the only one on your team who needs insight into the movements of your travelers and their reservations. Granting this access in an appropriate way keeps you from becoming the bottleneck that holds up ongoing travel arrangements.
Providing visibility to any of the following people saves you time and prevents duplicate work:
- Your travelers. Even if they don’t need the ability to book or modify trips directly, they may still find it helpful to view what their car reservations look like for the day.
- Your security and flight teams. If your corporate security team or dispatchers conduct pre-trip screenings or risk management activities, granting them visibility into upcoming car travel saves unnecessary back-and-forth time on your end.
- The flight deck. Private pilots often conduct their own calls to be sure the car is waiting at the FBO. Using a system that pushes on-site and traveler movement notifications to the flight deck eliminates extra calls when you really want your pilot focused on the aircraft.
Thinking More Broadly on Travel Visibility
The framework above provides three ways of thinking about transportation visibility. Hopefully it leaves you with actionable suggestions for improving awareness into your travel operations. However, it’s worth noting that visibility doesn’t start and stop with you. It’s just as important that the providers you partner with prioritize greater insight as well.
Take, for example, the issue of driver vetting. In a recent article, we raised the question of whether or not ride-sharing is appropriate for executive transportation. The answer was mixed. In some cases, it’s a good choice. In others, it’s not.
Part of our hesitation with recommending these services in all situations is the lack of information made available about drivers. Not only do you not know who your drivers will be until they’re on their way, services like Uber and Lyft themselves have limited insight into their drivers. Background and driving record checks may help weed out some dangerous candidates, but bare-minimum onboarding standards used by some companies make it possible for just about anybody to work as a driver.
A related issue presents itself in the case of threat monitoring. It may not make sense to continually monitor news sites and social media channels for emerging threats based on your travelers’ locations. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your awareness of the real-time conditions surrounding them. Working with trusted travel partners who provide this capability gives you the benefit of that oversight – without the extra effort required to achieve it.
Planning for Visibility within Corporate Travel Management Programs
Greater perspective into the various activities and providers encompassed by your corporate travel management program is almost universally beneficial. But it can be difficult to know what levels of access are possible – let alone how to take advantage of them – if you don’t proactively educate yourself.
Do your due diligence. Partner with travel providers who empower you with relevant information, as well as those whose internal practices offer a level of visibility you can’t achieve on your own. The benefits – whether in terms of smoother operations, cost savings or traveler safety – will be well worth the effort.
What levels of visibility do you have within your corporate travel management program? What opportunities do you see to increase it? Leave us a note below with your response.