No single approach to data fits all corporate travel programs, yet every travel manager should be asking the same essential questions, said BCD Travel data expert Damon Meek. He recently led a session on “Four Data-Related Questions All Travel Managers Should Have Answers For” at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives conference in New York City.
“Each company has special challenges and nuances that make it and its travel program unique,” said Meek, whose team manages and supports BCD’s proprietary reporting and analytics platform, DecisionSource®. “How do you know what data is relevant to your company and how to use it? How can data drive your program goals and make you successful? These four questions can help you figure that out.”
1. Which of your program objectives can benefit from using travel data?
To answer this question, you need to have clarity on what your program objectives are, Meek advised. Are you aiming to cut costs, boost in-policy hotel bookings, improve traveler satisfaction, increase employee security or offer more mobile options to your on-the-go employees? Travel program data can help you assess performance in each of these areas. BCD clients using DecisionSource can choose from a variety of reports that offer insights on everything from how departments, teams and individual travelers are spending to hotel-to-trip-night alignment and how to find travelers quickly in a crisis.
2. What’s the best way to avoid data overload?
Before you begin reviewing metrics, think about what you will be able to do with the results, Meek said. What will you change or implement? If nothing, then the metric is not for you. Plus, don’t get too granular. Start at a high level before deciding where to drill down. Finally, focus on picking the low-hanging fruit first, he advised. What data will allow you to make quick changes with immediate impact? Start there.
3. Which data should your suppliers be providing?
Fully measuring your program may require data from several sources—your travel management company, card provider, travel and expense system, online booking tool and supplier contracts. The list goes on and on. Some of your suppliers may even be internal to your organization, such as data coming from human resources. Again, it’s important to focus on the information that will help you achieve your goals, Meek said. What data sets will allow you to measure performance against contract terms and the rates and fares your travelers are paying, compared to what is contracted? That’s the kind of information you should expect and push for from suppliers.
4. How can you use data discovery to achieve actionable results?
You know your goals. You’ve analyzed your data. Now what? Taking action on what you discover through data requires a focus on “what if” analyses instead of just looking at “what is,” Meek recommended. Look at traveler behavior patterns and how you can use traveler engagement and other strategies to improve them. “Some of our clients—Pitney Bowes and Mondelēz come to mind—provide great examples of how to use data insights to drive change and savings,” he said.
Replay a webinar from Advito, BCD Travel’s consulting arm, to learn more on how data management, analytics and visualizations can help you achieve program and company goals. Plus, discover more about DecisionSource here.