How to implement change successfully to your business travel

Here, Paul Casement is director of sales and account management at Clarity, explores what businesses can do to make business travel successful.

Isn’t travel just a necessary cost of doing business?

In a world where digital is supposed to be king are face to face meetings still relevant or required to get the deal done? Of course they are because nothing beats the power of a face-to-face meeting. Especially when people are buying into your business and want to look into the whites of your eyes. More and more it is about the chemistry that is important.

Can I work with this person / company and do they get what I am about? It is often said that employees match their own values to that of the company they want to work for and the same can be said choosing a partner in business.

I hear what you’re saying though. It doesn’t come cheap, does it? When margins are tight, how do you ensure it offers you the best possible value?

There’s a fine line between booking low-cost travel to save money and ensuring you and your staff are well-rested and ready to do business. And there’s no secret formula.

However in my experience there are simple measures you can take to make sure business travel offers the best possible return.

Planes, trains and marginal gains

Let’s start with attention to detail. As we all know, making simple, small changes in our day-to-day lives such as taking the stairs instead of the lift to get to the office and eating sensibly we change the bigger picture. In this case, a healthier lifestyle.

So why don’t we all take this approach when it comes to business travel? Probably because it feels like there’s not enough time.

However this is a false economy. The most successful businesses pay attention to every detail.

Let’s start with data the lifeblood of any business. You need to pore over internal data in your business as it’s only by interrogating what your team is buying and how much it costs that you see where savings can be made. If you measure it how can you manage it.

This, in turn, will enable you to change behaviour and influence team members with vital little nudges that will drive savings. Verbal nudges like “we could save money if you book your train tickets two weeks in advance” or “can you get the train 15 minutes later so you travel off peak?”.

Create a travel policy

Here’s a million dollar question: What can you do to make staff feel like they are spending their own money when they use the company card and always seek the best value options? Rather than opting for pricey hotel room to “compensate” for being away from home.

My solution? To create a business-wide travel policy. It can seem overkill in a small business, but trust me, by creating one you will end up reaping big savings. By setting reasonable budgets and putting a limit on travel spend you will encourage staff to adopt more cost effective habits. It is however important to get buy in from your audience. Involve them in the process rather than suddenly implement it. Also ensure that you have key stakeholder engagement to reinforce the policy.

Think ahead

Once you’ve set a policy, task your team to book in advance. Sometimes a last minute fare can’t be helped. But generally if you can book more than seven days in advance you can unlock huge savings.

A client of ours recently saved £30,000 by doing exactly that. Prior to that 74 per cent of all her company’s international flights were booked less than a week before travel, meaning they came with a hefty “last minute” price tag. By changing behaviour, you can ensure best travel value, just by applying some forward thinking.

Put staff in the best position to deliver

A good night’s sleep ensures you’re at your best. A well rested traveller can go into a meeting and present the very best of themselves, in order to seal the deal, negotiate savings or keep an important client happy. What happens, though, when a 12 hour flight or 4am start results in a jaded performance?

In Planes Trains and Marginal Gains, our industry wide review of business travel in 2018, we discovered that almost a quarter of travellers are not getting enough sleep. What’s more, the same percentage admitted they had lost business as a result of poorly planned travel.

There’s no way you can afford to lose opportunities through this. So how do you reduce risk?

The answer is often a quick tweak. For example, if you set a budget and allow staff the chance to book a hotel that helps them rest (e.g. one that offers a gym for a work out, a restaurant for ease) you can put them in the best position to deliver. It’s a painless adjustment. Especially when one in ten travellers we surveyed don’t feel that the hotels they currently stay in are conducive to a successful business trip.

Outsource to unlock savings

The good news? A travel management company can unlock big savings, if you find one with a dedicated SME offering. What’s more, they needn’t cost the earth and the small percentage paid in fees will be greatly offset by the savings made.

Firstly this is because you can tap into their buying power. As big players in the market, they get access to the best deals meaning you will be able to access the most competitive prices.

You’ll also have access to their booking apps and added-value services like duty of care, which are invaluable in today’s turbulent world.

Finally and maybe more crucially, they will take care of travel plans, leaving your team to concentrate on the specialist jobs they’re paid to deliver.

Ultimately well-managed travel is critical to SMEs. After all, you often don’t have the margins to mess with. By taking these simple steps however and reassessing the small detail of how you book travel, you can reap big rewards.

Paul Casement is director of sales and account management at Clarity

Further reading on business travel

Related Topics

Business travel

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