Business travel produces an inordinate amount of data, from expense reports to average hotel room and car rental rates – not to mention finer points such as low-fare achievement and travel policy compliance percentages. Sorting through all the data can be a daunting process for small and large companies alike, often requiring a significant investment of time and resources.
Does data analysis matter?
The answer is: YES, it does matter, as travel is typically a company’s second largest expense, so even small tweaks to a travel program can have big impacts on the bottom line.
Do your employees follow the rules?
One of the best ways to control travel costs is through travel policy compliance, so knowing when and why employees don’t comply and implementing solutions to close those gaps can result in significant cost savings. Insisting your employees book within the system also has the added benefit of ensuring better accuracy in travel spend reports, and as everyone knows – good data is essential for good management.
How do we begin to collect data?
The first step is to assess what data, if any, you are currently capturing. If you handle your travel program in-house, your most common source of data is probably credit card statements and expense reports. And while these numbers are certainly helpful, they leave large gaps in your ability to glean useful insights from your travel spend.
A TMC, on the other hand, might be capturing large amounts of data, but are they providing you with useful reports and do they support your efforts to understand what’s really happening while your travelers are on the road?
Start with these categories
When thinking about the complexity of travel management analytics, it is helpful to reference the seven key categories that are important for most travel programs as developed by the Global Business Travel Association:
• Spending & savings: spend under contract, booking and payment visibility, realized negotiated savings, contract competiveness and cost of managed travel
• Traveler behavior & policy: cabin non-compliance, lowest airfare and advanced booking non-compliance, and hotel visibility and quality
• Suppliers: traveler satisfaction and contract support
• Process: re-booking rate and reimbursement days
• Traveler Safety: location insights and traveler profile completion
• Corporate Social Responsibility: carbon visibility and rail vs. air
• Data Quality
What data should concern you most?
There are a multitude of data sets within these categories, so the answer to that question depends on your priorities. Traveler satisfaction in the form of comfort and ease of booking might be one company’s metric, while another might prioritize meeting financial goals. Having said that, there are some key performance indicators that all travel managers should have at their fingertips, including total spend, average trip cost, low-fare achievement, travel policy compliance and average airline ticket, hotel room rate and car rental price. This data set alone can put you on a path toward increased visibility and cost savings.
If you work with a TMC, or are thinking about working with one in the future, monthly or at least quarterly reports should be a required part of your contract. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you are satisfied with the answers to these questions:
• What types of reports are available?
• How often will reports be provided?
• Are the reports accessible, searchable and available online?
• Do they offer a reporting tool that lets you review your own data?
• How are reports compiled? By department, transaction date?
At Travel Leaders Group, clients work with a dedicated strategic program manager who constantly reviews every aspect of a company’s travel spend. Detailed online reports are compiled regularly and offer a wealth of information broken down into over forty different categories. Data is organized on a monthly basis with year-to-date totals for easy comparison. Strategic program managers work with clients to provide in-depth analysis of the information and suggest areas of improvement.
By having the right data at your fingertips, you’ll be able to make better decisions, plan for the future and determine if your program truly is a success.