Two years ago I wrote that travel managers face two paths.
One path is to keep doing what you do today: jumping through endless supplier meetings, putting out fires around traveler service issues, continually hacking away towards inbox zero… In short, doing all those things that add short-term tactical value.
The other path leads to adding higher, more strategic value by focusing on travel’s broader business impact. I’ll preach about taking this path at GBTA in Boston on July 17th.
One area along this path that I think is rife with opportunity is non-employee travel. Think recruiting trips for on-site interviews, new-hire training, or guest visits such as speakers, partners, or customers.
Most all the current corporate travel tools and systems were built for current employees. If you worry that your own travelers don’t enjoy that experience, how do you think your non-employee travelers feel?
Think about their travel experience with your firm as a welcome mat. It’s probably the first tangible impression, the first practical insight into how your company really treats its people.
I suspect that for many programs, non-employee travel is a high friction experience. But it doesn’t have to be.
If you can ‘wow” these external travelers with a high touch, low friction experience, senior leaders will see the impact you’re making.
Your SVP of Talent Acquisition will appreciate how you’ve enhanced their candidate experience, and helped win top talent. Your Chief Revenue Officer will love that the prospective clients they’ve flown in for coveted face-to-face time are impressed by the way your firm operates.
In short, upgrading the non-employee travel experience:
- Plays to your expertise,
- Is ignored by most firms, and
- Lets you shine before a senior management team, especially budget owners like a Sales SVP.
That’s the strategic opportunity here. So what does it look like, in practice, to nail non-employee travel?
Some key issues to solve:
- You want to make a great first impression. Today, that means showing off a high mobile IQ by delivering a mobile-first traveler experience from registration to reimbursement.
- You’ll need a clear and seamless way to get travel details communicated back-and-forth between your agency, the guest, and the guest’s “host.” You’ll want to avoid this turning into a bunch of 3-way email threads.
- This problem gets even worse when the traveler has a disruption mid-trip and reaches out to the wrong person. Have a look at Freebird to solve this problem.
- The experience will be best for the guest if they don’t need to pay for flights, hotels, and ground out-of-pocket. Virtual payments, direct billing, and CC authorizations are all solutions that have various pros and cons to ensure guests are not asked for a credit card at the hotel or rental car counter. BTN wrote last week about how The Advisory Board and their TMC have developed a virtual card program to solve similar problems—definitely work checking out for the “DIY” approach.
- There are compliance and legal factors to consider when working with non-employees. For interviews, if the recruiter or hiring manager collects protected-class data like birthday or gender, that’s a risk that needs to be managed.
- Duty of Care remains a priority, meaning good reporting and integration into your risk management platform is important.
If you’re intrigued by this way to improve your program, I recommend checking out Pana, a new travel tech startup.
They’ve solved for many of the considerations I’ve outlined above, including mobile-first design, centralized billing, clean traveler communication, and protection of sensitive traveler data. (Full disclosure: their CEO Devon Tivona has become a friend and mentee, however I have no financial interest in the company).
Their team engineered one of—if not the—first mobile tool exclusively for non-employee travel. Pana won the 2016 TUMI x Wired Innovation in Travel Award, beating out consumer-facing applications like Kayak.
No surprise that Pana is getting traction with Silicon Valley firms, but any firm that does a lot of recruiting or other non-employee travel should benefit.
Here’s to putting a really nice welcome mat out for all your travelers!