Does traveler friction – the wear and tear on frequent travelers – really matter to companies?
It does, and I see growing evidence of wanting to treat business travelers better. Sure, this will vary between industries and across firms, but the signs are there.
Airlines are investing in the passenger experience
Delta and United are guaranteeing their on-time performance for corporate accounts
American Express Global Business Travel and ACTE say corporate travel managers are keen to understand the total cost of travel
The GBTA Ladders group is tackling traveler friction and the total cost of travel as this year’s mentoring project topic
So the importance of dealing with traveler friction and minimizing the total cost of travel is catching on.
That’s great, but like any new frontier, there’s not much of a roadmap for getting to the desired goal.
For those of you like-minded list-makers, here’s a set of checklists that summarizes what I’ve written about at Business Travel Executive over the last six months. I hope these lists help you cut a quicker path to success.
Seven Ways to Reduce Traveler Friction and Resentment
Reimburse for airport lounge passes and airline Wi-Fi
Reimburse for TSA Pre-Check, GOES and similar expedited airport screening fees
Permit non-stop flights
Allow travelers to pick hotels with convenient proximity to their destinations
Permit Business Class on any flight over 6 hours or crossing four or more time zones
Arrange black car transfers after redeye flights or evening arrivals
Encourage use of VIP travel agents
Nine Ways to Improve a Company’s Travel Culture
Discourage early-morning, late-evening and weekend travel
Provide time off in proportion to time spent traveling outside of normal work hours
Get senior management to thank road warriors for spending so much time on the road
Provide pre-trip medical evaluations and advice based on destinations and travel frequencies
Encourage and support use of best-in-class travel apps
Form a Voice of the Road Warrior virtual community to provide input on all things travel-related
Explore what can be done for the road warrior’s spouses/significant others
Make the expense reporting process as easy as humanly possible
Experiment with innovative services like DUFL, TripLingo or CDC’s Travwell app - anything to make travel safer, more productive, convenient or healthier
Five Steps to Building a Business Case for Treating Travelers Better
Identify the top 5% of road warriors in each of the last three years, and find out what percentage of this group are no longer employees.
Get HR to provide the average cost of recruiting and training the average road warrior.
Get HR to paint the war for talent picture in your industry.
Take the road warrior attrition rate to senior management, and ask if the rate is acceptable.
Build a simple model showing the cost to improve Ron the Average Road Warrior’s travel experience, and ask senior management if it is worth it.
Five Steps to Upgrading a Travel Manager’s Career
Interview the people in your firm who own the biggest travel budgets about their business goals – not a peep about travel goals. Focus on their business goals related to their frequent travelers. More productivity? Higher sales? Less turnover? Better recruits for open positions?
Quiz them deeply about the tension they feel between keeping road warriors safe, productive, healthy and engaged versus the need to manage their travel budgets.
Go away; connect the dots between their business goals and how a new travel policy and travel culture can help them achieve those goals. Frame these as options, each with a tentative cost and benefit statement.
Come back to these budget owners with your options, and ask which ones they want to pilot. Be prepared to answer questions about metrics, resources and timeframes. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Don’t just run a well-managed, fact-based pilot program (although that’s essential); get involved in making the pilot a success – defined as meeting the desired business goals.
The Single Best Way to Reduce Traveler Friction Company-wide
Personalize the problems of heavy business travel
This might sound dramatic, or intrusive. Yes, maybe, but here’s how it works: Go talk to at least ten true road warriors – guys and gals that have spent at least 60 nights away from home in the last 12 months. Promise that they will remain anonymous.
Ask how so much travel has affected them. Personally and professionally. Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Be respectful but inquisitive. If this is not your cup of tea, ask one of your HR colleagues trained in counseling to do these interviews.
The point is to bring to life stark examples of how heavy travel affects real people. You’re building a collage of insights and anecdotes, the good and the bad. Reflect on these shared experiences. Build two or three composite characters. Tell their stories. Use them as proof points, as counterweights to the procurement pressure to keep costs low.
Lists are good, but compelling stories are always better. Good luck in fighting traveler friction in 2016!
NB: An edited version of this post appeared in the January edition of Business Travel Executive.
Learn more about traveler friction here. Follow my blog on travel and procurement here. Always glad to connect on LinkedIn!
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