According to research by Forrester, 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% say they are good at connecting analytics to action. We wonder how accurate these figures could be for business travel? Management information has been provided to clients for decades; I still remember the paper copies that would be printed and handed to customers at their review meetings, long before real-time dashboards and interactive data could be accessed 24/7. But even with data being so readily available, how many businesses today, have the insight, time and resources to act on this information?
Why data matters
Travel is often the second or third biggest spend in an organisation but often remains difficult to analyse in the context of overall business goals. If travel costs rise by 3%, but revenue increases by 6%, is that a good result or a bad one? As well as defining the goals your analysis of business travel spend seeks to achieve, it’s important to identify the data to help track your progress, such as the various key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you monitor your results. At a very high level, these can include:
- Total business travel spend
- Spend under contract with a business travel agency vs. off contract leakage
- Spend with each travel supplier such as airlines, hotels, train operators, etc.
- Number of bookings made online vs. offline
- Number of days travel booked in advance
- Adherence to corporate travel policy
- Class of travel/standard of hotel
- Achieved savings
- Missed savings opportunities
This list could go on forever, but what’s important is to figure out how travel aligns with your business’ overall goals. This should allow you to find out which KPIs are relevant to your travel programme, and with so many metrics to consider, it’s having focus on these key result areas that will stop you getting distracted by less important statistics and figures.
For those working with a travel management company, you should already have access to an abundance of data down to the smallest details. Most good travel management companies will work with you to understand your business goals and help you define a business travel strategy that will support them. The bit in between is linking the data to the goals, and this is where your partnership should show it’s real value.
Let’s say your business has a goal to reduce costs by 20% this year. Your TMC may help you devise a plan to lower travel costs to help you achieve this aim, without reducing the traveller’s experience. This may include:
- Developing a preferred hotel programme, negotiating lowest hotel rates and value added benefits for the traveller such as upgraded room type, car parking and flexible cancellation
- Introducing new travel suppliers and corporate agreements to offer savings
- Educating your employees on the advantages of planning ahead, and more carefully planning the timing of the trip and meetings to make use of lower priced advance purchase air and rail tickets.
- Implementing and managing airline corporate reward programmes
- Providing access to Internet and distressed hotel inventory to ensure a good range of accommodation options and rates
- Implementing an online booking tool to reduce booking fees and improve productivity
The steps taken above are all actual measures taken for one of our customers, which collectively saved our customer £150k on their travel spend during one year. Crucially, all these actions could be measured accurately with data and KPIs so our customer could see the benefits and track progress as it happened. And it didn’t stop there, once one objective was met, we’d collectively define another one, and so on and so on. This makes is simple for our customer because they know which metrics to pay attention to and therefore, doesn't get bogged down with all the data. And, because we do the analysis and provide the insight, our customer can focus on the actions needed to deliver results.
Something we often find when speaking to potential customers is that they have data, and lots of it, but they don’t know how to use the data to improve their travel programme. There's no question that the data provided to most Travel Managers is powerful, but with so much of it, you might not be able to see the wood for the trees.
The problem is, data is pretty pointless if you have no insights, so instead of making decisions, you find yourself over analysing and never take any action - this is where your travel management company comes in. Your travel management company should be giving you the insights and recommendations you need so you can act and reap the benefits of a continually improving travel programme.