Evolve your travel program to an outside-in approach

By Lesley O’Bryan, Practice Area Leader

No doubt, you’re wondering what this title means. Well, it has everything to do with the current and future performance of your travel program and your company. And, I can tell you what it means from your answers to just three questions. These questions probe your company’s view of the travel program, business trips, and travelers in your company today.

Question 1: Which statement most closely portrays your company’s travel program?

  • The travel program is designed around what the business hopes/wants the traveler to do, using the prescribed tools, processes, relationships, and goals we have in place.
  • The travel program is designed around what travelers need to be smart, productive, connected, and supported before, during and after travel, using a mix of tools, people and preferred relationships that know them over time.

Question 2: Which statement most closely defines a business trip within your company?

  • A business trip is a map of a process, or series of steps in a process of decisions to be optimized.
  • A business trip is a traveler’s journey comprised of a set of changing interactions that require information, recommended action, and support (often) in real-time.

Question 3: Which statement most closely describes a business traveler in your company?

  • A business traveler is an employee of the company who subscribes to the programs and policies set forth by the company to achieve its goals.
  • A business traveler is an emissary of the company and its brand, and is directly responsible for the experience customers have with it which affect the company’s growth.

What does this mean for you?

While you may feel conflicted, I intentionally listed only two and opposing responses to each question. This is to showcase the extremes and offer a progressive path forward.

Inside-out view

If you selected the first option in each set, then you and your company have an “inside-out” view of your travel program, business trips, and travelers. This means your processes and policies center on the capabilities, systems, and financial needs of the business. To improve program performance, you tweak or optimize traditional methods.  You might automate processes, control costs, or improved traveler management to produce incremental improvements, but their effects diminish over time. This is because the past is derailing how business is changing. It assumes the current business model, culture, workforce, and travel program is as right for today and the future as it was when it was initially created. Many travel managers see some progress but feel unprepared for the next wave of real-time, personalization and digital innovations.

Outside-in view

If you selected the second option in each set, then you and your company have an “outside-in” view of your travel program, business trips, and travelers. This means your program is traveler-centric. I recommend the progressive view for your travel program to keep pace and contribute to your company’s bottom line today, and in the future.

This view values travel policy, and a managed approach to travel spend and your company’s goals. But, it requires you to let go of a business trip as a formulaic process. Instead, it encourages design-thinking (like technology companies use) and views a trip as a journey comprised of a set of interactions and real-time decisions for the traveler.

It also means viewing travelers as ambassadors of your company’s brand and treating them as internal customers. It means prioritizing the travelers’ experience and digital opportunities to empower and engage them through service, support, and communications. In exchange, your travelers feel a sense of investment, so they proactively provide feedback, actively support the program, and improve performance. This alignment is critical as companies increasingly view employees as their greatest asset and competitive advantage to grow the business.

This view directly aligns your program with company goals, doing your part to boost employee engagement and connecting travelers to strategic imperatives. It demands adjustments to your travel policy, how you communicate with travelers, and the messages you share so travelers connect the impact of their choices to business performance.  It requires procurement to evaluate decisions based on improving the workplace and performance, rather than only focusing on cost and proposed deliverables.

Traveler engagement matters more now than ever

The future of work depends on inspiring a changing global workforce that thinks more like consumers and are co-dependent on technology. The future of travel management depends on removing pain points and distractions to create a better work/travel experience. Traveler engagement offers a blueprint for migrating your program from an “inside-out” to an “outside-in” approach. It is an ongoing and disciplined way of providing timely and relevant information through the channels and tools travelers already use. It offers a strategic way to connect and creative way to market to travelers to solicit their input, guide purchase decisions, provide crisis support, and remedy traveler support issues.

If your program needs a performance boost, or you want to evolve your program to an “outside-in” approach, visit us at booth # 1406 at GBTA.