Travel and Expense
Building Effective Travel Programs for Business Travelers: An SAP Concur Conversations Podcast
Business travelers are on the road and in the skies again. But there have been and continue to be significant changes in the travel experience. That’s why it’s more important than ever for travel managers to know who their travelers are, make sure they are making the most cost-effective decisions, and provide employees with a good travel experience that meets their expectations.
In this episode of the SAP Concur Conversations podcast, Hansini Sharma, who leads the Travel Practice at Acquis Consulting Group, spoke with Jeanne Dion, Vice President, Value Experience Team at SAP Concur, about how and why it’s crucial for travel managers and business leaders to change the way they approach their travel programs and policies to reflect the expectations of their travelers. She also shares why she believes the traveler experience is “the next big thing” in corporate business travel. Below are some of the key takeaways from their conversation.
Realigning the travel experience with traveler needs
The pandemic spurred significant changes in the travel experience over the past few years. There’s also been a dramatic increase in the volume of travelers to where airports are now packed. So, it’s crucial for travel managers to understand who their travelers are, where they are going, what kind of travel they are doing (e.g., business-only travel, bleisure travel, etc.) and capture the detail needed from every aspect of the traveler experience while maintaining compliance and cost control and meeting their KPIs. Travel managers also need to identify their traveler personas, categorize the different types of travelers they have, understand what’s most important to those travelers, and prioritize their needs.
When working with companies, Sharma asks, “What are the goals of this trip? And how do you want someone to experience this trip? Is it having the most cost-effective trip? Is it having the most productive trip? Is it having the most convenient trip?” Because those can all be different things and “that’s truly what a traveler experience is — considering all pieces of the journey.”
Consequently, companies today must build travel programs that are far more progressive and flexible and offer more options to travelers than they have in the past.
Empowering the new era of business travelers
Nowadays, we all recognize we have work to do and we’re going to spend a lot of time with our work colleagues, but we also all want the flexibility to live our own lives how we want and in a way that works best for us. Thus, we’re learning to work and collaborate with people in new ways, and this model has become the new standard way of living and working. As a result, most companies need to rethink how they are supporting travel.
“The newer generations like the idea of being able to work wherever they are and have flexibility,” Sharma says. Some companies are leveraging this fact to their advantage while others are missing out. In many cases, flexibility and the ability for employees to seamlessly blend their personal lives with their
business travel has “become a point of retention,” which is making it the “next big thing” in corporate travel.
Dion agrees, “Travel is so definitively personal. I think in some cases it’s even more personal than how much you make. It affects every part of your life. It affects every part of you. And so, what you’re really trying to do is to humanize travel.”
Once companies know what’s needed, they can leverage digital technology to better understand how their employees are interacting with their travel solutions and adjust their travel policies accordingly. They can also build travel programs that enable people to:
- Feel comfortable and empowered to book the travel they want and also incur legitimate business expenses in a way that complies with their company’s policies.
- Have what they need to be the most productive and effective while traveling.
Sharma says that in her experience “when people are happier with the experience they’re having, they’re like, ‘Okay, maybe I don’t need to go rogue.’” And that can make all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful travel program.