SmartTrip Delivers Shared Travel Savings – Bravo!

Travel managers have a powerful new tool to coax more savings from their travelers.

Runzheimer’s new SmartTrip tool solves the problem with a simple equation:

Good Trip Budgeting+ Traveler Self-Interest = Shared Savings

How it works: The traveler enters the most basic of trip specs: Origination, destination and dates of travel. The tool produces the trip’s benchmark cost (a best estimate), split out by Air, Hotel, Transportation and Meals. Yes, these estimated costs can be tailored to fit company travel policies, so for example, the estimated hotel costs can be based on 3 star properties, not 4 stars.

With the trip’s benchmark cost in hand, the traveler is free to shop and book anywhere. SmartTrip stores the user’s favorite travel sites, including the company’s preferred sites. SmartTrip is building the ability to pass trip specs into the more popular travel sites, so no re-keying is required to start the shopping/booking process.

Note that SmartTrip is not a booking tool, so let’s skip ahead to when the traveler has finished her trip, and has filed her expense report.

Now SmartTrip can compare the trip’s benchmarked cost to the actual cost. If the actual trip cost less than the benchmark, SmartTrip credits the traveler’s trip bank with the savings. If the trip cost more than the benchmark, the difference is deducted from the traveler’s trip bank. Travelers can set savings goals and track their progress.

Fine – but what can you do with those savings? SmartTrip allows for three types of payouts:

  • Split the savings between the company and the traveler, based on a pre-determined percentage. The traveler gets a check, which is a taxable event.
  • Give the savings to a charity.
  • Keep all the savings for the company (OK, so this isn’t really a payout)

Regardless of the payout method, the tool tracks the best and worst savers (from trips whose actual costs exceeded the benchmark). How public to make these leader and loser boards is presumably up to each company.

I like this tool a lot because:

  • It gives travelers a clear, practical and significant reason to reduce travel costs. Shared savings is a potent motivator.
  • It gives travelers a fast, easy and useful company-appropriate trip cost. That alone is a valuable element for travelers and their travel budget owners.
  • It quantifies savings in a new and meaningful way, making it easy for travel managers to show benefits to senior management.
  • It shines a light on those who habitually beat, or exceed, the benchmarked trip costs – one more tool in the travel gamification toolbox.

A big hat tip to Matt DeWolf, Joseph Boschert and the rest of the Runzheimer NPD team for bringing this terrific product to life. The design is clean, simple and very effective. Well done! Michael Tangney (at Google) – you deserve credit, too, for popularizing the beat-the-benchmark concept.

SmartTrip is a powerful and practical tool for aligning traveler behavior with company goals. If you’re a travel manager, you’d be smart to take a close look at this innovative tool from Runzheimer.

Scott Gillespie is the author of Gillespie's Guide to Travel + Procurement. These thoughts are excerpted with permission from his blog.