All I Want For Christmas

As we near the end of 2009, I wanted to share with you my wish list for our ever-changing travel industry.
Travel buyers need to transform their jobs to be strategic. We all have tactical and administrative tasks to complete, fires to put out, reports to run. What and how you have been managing travel may have worked in the past, or is working very well for you, but there will always be outside forces and influences that can affect your job. Your company used to print money but now it is not. Every facet of your company’s operation is being reviewed with a fine-toothed comb. That new procurement guy used to manage travel? New CFO came from a company that has a well-established travel program?

To be strategic:

1. Know your company. What is your total T&E spend? Who spends (by region, organization, department, financial analysts, cost center)? What are the reasons for T&E spend? (Percentage of spend- sales, marketing, office visits, meetings, incentives, etc.) What is your company culture on spend? (Execs spend more--stay in nicer/more expensive hotels, fly business/first class or everyone is treated equal? Hard mandated/soft mandated/suggestive policy enforcement?) Do people (management, C-level execs, etc.) believe their T&E spend is out of control, controlled, needs more management, needs to be reviewed, etc.?

2. Be able to answer the following questions (an example of the answers listed): Q: Are we spending too much? A: “Compared to the industry benchmark (overall, similar industry, size, travel pattern), our spend in xxx area is % less/more. Q: Where can we control our spend? A: “There are xxx city pairs that are considered controllable because xx% of the travel is for office visits (managers, execs, suppliers, etc.). By focusing on these city pairs/destinations and reducing spend in various ways (Example: negotiate lower airfare, communicate the need for advance purchase, reduce # of trips), we can potentially reduce $xx.

3. Know your customers. How often do you survey your customers (travelers, execs, cost center managers, travel arrangers)? How do they perceive of your role with travel program management? Does any group need more assistance? Do they tell you new trends before they happen (example: new customer to visit/set up=increased traffic to a new destination)? Is the service platform that has been in place optimized? Are you minimizing transaction costs by steering as much of the simple trips online? Is your online tool optimized for your end users? What do they think of it?

4. Focus on customer service. Always work to enhance your travelers'/arrangers’ experiences. Happy customers have more inclination for doing the right thing (work to reduce costs, etc.).

We all need to do our part in transforming our roles. We need to work towards creating more strategic travel program management jobs and fend off having your job being eliminated. I believe there will always a need for someone from inside at any company to manage travel.