How Strong Is Your Travel Program?

Using meaningful benchmarks to measure effectiveness

Establish the right goals for your organization's travel program.

Implement effective benchmarking to measure your success.

Request and analyze detailed reports from your travel management company.

Survey the right mix of team members with the right questions.

Identify further opportunities to save time and money.

I recently spoke to the travel decision maker at a government contractor, who told me his travel program was going well. When I asked him what "well" meant, he said that nobody was complaining, so he considered it a success. I asked, "Do you track cost savings or productivity gains?" He said no.

This strikes me as a troublesome waste of our tax dollars. Travel is the second largest controllable cost for the average U.S. organization; for most companies that means a lot of money. There are lots of ways to book travel, and without a clear-cut policy on how it should be done, travelers will make purchases based on their personal preferences or interpretation of value -- and in most instances they will take quite some time to do it. In other words, a little analysis into how it's going can reveal a lot of opportunity.

What to Measure How do you define success? How about comparing your organization's average domestic and international ticket costs to overall averages through an organization like Topaz International? This can be the basis for a powerful money-saving conversation with your team and travel management company (TMC).

"You cannot know where you stand unless you measure, and you cannot improve unless you measure your travel program the right way," notes Bradley Seitz, president and CEO of Topaz. "Effective benchmarking is part of a complete quality program and can even be done more succinctly by city pairs."

Other important benchmarks can include time savings as the result of a streamlined booking process, data collection and bill processing targets, online vs. call-in usage of the TMC, preferred vendor support, hotel and car cost averages, service parameters, security measures, policy compliance, ancillary airline fees and analysis of how travel relates to overall business goals.

Your TMC should be able to provide detailed reports, too.

• Exception reports compare the fare selected to the lowest fare in the market, noting the reason as to why the lowest price was not selected.

• Executive summaries can show average ticket costs, online adoption rates, change fees and more. Data like this can identify policy changes that can further reduce front-end and back-end costs.

• Surveys can determine satisfaction, but be careful. Too often only travelers are surveyed. A good program balances the needs and goals of the travelers as well as the objectives of the corporation. The survey sample should include equal numbers of procurement/finance/executive team members and road warriors/schedulers. This travel squad should be selected wisely, and the survey questions must be carefully written to reflect the standpoints of all the stakeholders in this process.

Reap the Rewards The payoff for your efforts: Establishing an effective travel program can reduce this sizeable expense by around 20 percent or more.

And don't stop there. Integrating a well-honed travel and entertainment process into your overall operation will identify even more opportunities for improvement, such as expense report integration, security systems integration and more. Why not get started?