In addition to twinkling lights, family holidays and food indulgence, the end of year also spells three major things for all business functions: reporting, planning and budgeting.
As a large-spend Procurement category, business travel is no exception. Although reporting takes place throughout the year, now is a good time to take stock of the programme and how it can be improved. It goes without saying that the data we use to measure this also needs to be examined.
In the last two years, the industry has been wrapped up with reimagining the way the business travel ecosystem works. NDC has begun to cause significant shifts in the way airlines and aggregators distribute and market their content, and will heavily impact financial flows and business models right across air travel retailing. There has been a renewed focus on environmental sustainability – along with the ever present need to improve the traveller experience and not just cut down costs. In most education, travel managers expressed these sentiments as top priorities for their programme.
If this is so, why do the reports not reflect the same values?
A 2018 ACTE survey of 300 travel managers reported a disparity between the metrics that travel managers use to measure their travel programmes and what is now considered a travel programme priority.
The travel industry is buzzing with assertions on the importance of the traveller experience and sustainability yet many of these metrics still do not make it to the report.
When we measure we don’t just measure for the sake of measurement. The purpose of measurement is, ultimately, for quality and used to guide improvement.
How do we measure travel programme quality?
No matter what the report says, it has never been just about the cost. Traveller happiness, traveller friction and traveller engagement have always been major priorities. In the ACTE study, trip success rate, traveller friction, traveller engagement, traveller satisfaction, policy compliance, booking statistics and spend were rated as the most important, yet it was only policy compliance, booking statistics and spend that were often used as a component in reports.
Changing priorities need changing metrics
For other fields in business, what is regarded as important is always measured. In Sales, for example, business growth is valued and this is most often reflected in their reporting of pipeline value. For project management, productivity is regarded as valuable and thus is measured via employees logging hours spent on each project. For manufacturing, product quality is important and therefore, constant feedback is taken via customer surveys and quality spot checks.
How do we achieve this in travel? We can do this in two easy steps:
Step 1: Develop effective ways to measure all aspects of the programme
In travel, what is most often overlooked as a measurement is not what is most important but what is difficult to measure. While spend and compliance rates can be measured quantitatively, it is more challenging to effectively measure and match qualitative factors like traveller friction, traveller engagement and traveller satisfaction.
This can easily be solved by tweaking the analytics.
In the ACTE study HR information, trip success rate and traveller friction were the chief areas that were regarded as important but overlooked in reports. We can measure these areas by using the following analytics:
- HR data can be included. We can overlay travel spend data with the HR feed and Corporate Hierarchy. This feature has been a standard in all PredictX Travel dashboards – allowing travel managers to link trips with crucial information. Knowing employee function is very useful in knowing which trips are more valuable to the company. For example, flying last minute to finalize a multi-million dollar deal takes precedence over a “14 day in advance booking policy”.
- TMCs can use satisfaction surveys after each trip to assess and measure traveller friction. This data can be collected and added to a report.
- Regular surveys can be sent company-wide to assess overall traveller satisfaction via multiple choice. This data can be collected and trends can be identified.
- Online booking tool adoption rates can be measured to track traveller engagement.
If corporate values centre around sustainability, CO2 emissions reporting and wider carbon footprint reporting is possible. PredictX offers a Carbon Footprint Report to corporates measuring C02 per passenger kilometre (kgCO2e) for all air activity in the programme.
Step 2: Standardize travel programme quality across the industry
Once we know how we can access the measures in the first place, the next step would be to standardize what gets measured and what is considered as “good” across the industry.
Travel is often a small team in corporates – making it difficult for them to know how they are doing if they measure themselves within their companies. Industry benchmarks are difficult to define as there is no universally agreed terms or commonly understood, accepted and utilized system.
80% of respondents to the ACTE survey believed there was a strong need of a standard system of measurement for the travel industry.
The corporate travel space can learn a lot from the commercial retail space. In retail, it is not only the money and the quality of goods that is actively measured. Most companies are customer-centric and use customer service surveys consistently. These results have a major impact on how they operate.
Due to the digital transformation that is taking place in all industries and the ability to send feedback forms using online tools, getting regular qualitative feedback is easier than before. AI is also improving the way we analyse this data at the back end.
As we approach 2020 and a brand new decade, we know that it’s no longer purely about the cost of travel. As attracting and retaining quality talent becomes a crucial business endeavour, and a company’s business activity crosses even more borders, travel is no longer just a company cost but rather, an investment. It is time the reports start measuring it in the same way.