If you run a business that demands travel, then you more than likely to have some sort of travel policy in place. Your travel policy also should have procedures in place that cover most contingencies that employees might face on the road. But when was the last time your policy was reviewed? It is a good idea to do this at least once a year to make sure that it’s not limiting your business growth and frustrating your employees. The other reason to do this review is that change is pretty constant in all things and reviewing your company’s policies and procedures in travel and expenses related to travel and business may be exactly what you need to drive up your business results and decrease your travel expenses.
Here are five things you may want to consider when creating or updating your company travel policy. First of all, base your policy on the employees that will be traveling the most and on what they feel and on what would be beneficial for them. As an example, they may not care what hotel they stay at, but they may prefer to eat better than the fair available at a low-cost hotel. In that case, the money you saved on accommodations could be reallocated on better dining options. Avoid a standardized travel policy, instead, you could even adapt it to the traveling employee’s lifestyle.
Your travel policy is a tool for communication. If properly laid out it will provide clarity and boundaries for those employees that travel. It is a company guideline policy. It should detail everything from booking flights to reserving rental cars. It should also put whatever limits are expected by the company for payment of these services. As an example, do you expect the lowest air fares available to be purchased by your employees or is first class acceptable? All of these things need to be communicated in you travel policy manual.
Don’t forget that travel, especially long-term traveling, will take your employee away from their friends and family. This can take a physical and even a mental toll on people. You can soften some of that burden by allowing your traveling employees to use their personal travel reward memberships for flights and even hotel stays. This way they not only are making a paycheck but they are also accumulating points toward their next family vacation.
Because the price of travel is constantly changing, travel policy and procedures manual should be reviewed at the very least on an annual basis. This will allow you to balance your travel budget by being aware of any additional costs that crop up. Here are a few of the items that you might want to know about.
- What is the cost of travel now? Does the company’s budget allow for the necessary expenses? What are the average gains for the company based on travel days and prospects seen?
- Are company employees getting what they need when they travel? Are there things that would make their travel more comfortable? Are they making any unnecessary purchases?
- Have there been any issues or employee complaints that might change your policy or procedures?
- Answering these questions can help you refine your company travel policy and could even possibly help control the costs involved. You should also evaluate industry trends and regularly assess your travel budget needs. This will help you discover if your travel budget is accurate along with your projected travel expenses. Also keeping track of new business contacts and new customer acquisitions versus money spent to acquire them. This number will give you what the cost benefit analysis of your business travel actually is. Be especially aware of even small costs that could possibly be considered minor. These seemingly insignificant expenses can add up to a surprisingly large amount if not kept under control.
- Be Aware of Scams
When you create a travel policy, always be sure to put in checks and safeguards to prevent employees from taking advantage of the company. Turning in receipts in this digital world we all live in today is just not enough as technology advances. As it advances, so do the chances for successfully manipulating travel expenses by employees. There are, as an example, websites that actually allow the users who log in generate fake receipts. Here is an example of what I’m talking about, just click or paste the hyperlink http://goo.gl/XT6WNb into your browser. Because of sites like this and the fact that it’s illegal to request an employee’s personal credit card statements, there is little chance of proving that this sort of activity goes on with the employees you have that do travel.
However, there is a way around all of this without calling an employee’s character into question, just get your company to issue the traveling employee a corporate credit card. Another way to attack this problem is with a company expense card. Expense cards can be managed easily and all expenses can be tracked and accounted for as they are paid for. You have the ability to approve card funds and even set limits on spending if you wish. Which one is best for you is personal preference.
One of the biggest expenses a company has, is with airline travel. However, what many people are unaware of is that you may be able to actually negotiate airline rates. You can, if you have an attractive travel schedule, even be able to get into a cooperative traveling schedule with an airline. These kinds of arrangement do occur depending on the amount of travel you intend on doing and some other factors. While this is becoming harder to accomplish, it’s still possible if you can demonstrate a significant travel volume, and your ability to control and shift your travel volume to a preferred airline.
Negotiating rates with airlines is, however, becoming an increasingly difficult proposition as airlines consolidate, trim routes and limit discounts to protect their always-fragile bottom lines. It can still be done, but in order to even get an airline to pick up the phone and engage in negotiations, you have to demonstrate a significant travel volume, and the ability to control and shift that volume to a preferred airline. Once you have that foundation, set realistic goals for negotiations based on the scope of your travel program. If you are inexperienced with these negotiations, you might need to use a knowledgeable consultant for their expertise.
Another way to handle these costs is by using a Travel Management Company. What they can provide you, can be all inclusive if that is what you need. They can decide on the class of service employees are allowed to fly on, they are able to negotiate corporate fares with airlines and hotels, and can even how corporate credit cards are used by your employees. For many, if not most companies, travel and expense costs are generally the second highest controllable annual expense facing a company.
The Travel Management Company’s job then is to offer a set of comprehensive services to its clients. They may have the ability to provide you with the best airfares and give you all the tools that you need to manage, to adapt and to advise your travel requirements. Whether their customers are large or small, they can enhance the travel experience and make certain that the business travelers itineraries are successfully met.
Another thing that is important to the companies that provide this service is the customers’ travel management needs. To remain competitive, the best of these companies offer solutions that are reliable, cost-effective, and compliant with local ordinances. However, what generally sets a business apart from its competitors is its customer service. The difference in travel management companies is, of course, their customer service and their scale. Are they local, regional or global and are they innovation driven or technology driven?
There are, as you may have noticed here, many variations of services available in different Travel Management Companies. The only way to really determine which one is best suited to your needs is to do a Google search and either go onto their website or give them a call and talk to them about your needs. Once you find one, you are comfortable with, always get several referrals you can speak with to double check their references. In fact, talk to the company CEO, the owner of the company or their Chief Operating Officer to get to the truth of how effective the travel management company actually is in providing the services that you need.