Traveler Friction, Part 1: Three Key Benchmarks

Road warriors are a hardy bunch.  tClara’s data on more than 100,000 travelers shows that each month road warriors often spend more than ten nights away from home, and spend more than 30 hours on planes.  Month after month, that adds up to a lot of wear and tear.

Most road warriors can handle it – for a while.  But sooner or later, all that travel-related wear and tear (aka traveler friction) builds up, and then the traveler burns out.

Burning out a road warrior is incredibly expensive, especially if the traveler is on the road producing revenue or serving high-value customers.  So it makes sense to look hard at what causes traveler friction, how it impacts a business, and what should done about it.

Benchmarking Traveler Friction’s 3 Key Drivers

It’s a simple equation:

Traveler Friction = Trip Quantity x (Travel Footprint + Trip Discomfort)

tClara has applied its patent-pending Trip Friction™ algorithm to over 500,000 trips from 100,000 travelers around the globe.  This means that firms can now objectively understand what their travelers are experiencing.

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KPI Toolkit for Travel Managers

Updated Feb 2017

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Travel KPIs and benchmarks have not evolved much in the last 20 years.

Here’s a fresh, much more strategic look at what travel managers should be using to measure the success of their programs.

Start with an understanding of what business travelers need to do their jobs well.  That’s the Hierarchy of Needs, shown in blue.

Hard to argue that the ultimate goal of any business trip is to have a positive business impact, right?  So if that outcome depends on getting the road warrior through each level of needs, then travel managers should be working hard to ensure those needs are well met.

And that means measuring proxies for these levels to show how well said management is going.  Measure these KPIs, mange them well, and your travel program will achieve much greater impact for your business.  I’ll write about these travel benchmarks in more detail soon; for now, the basic ideas:

Risk Score combines the program’s overall readiness for managing travel risks, and the destination risk associated with the program’s travel footprint. Scale the results where high risk and poor readiness result in a high number.  Management will want to see this travel KPI driven down.

Trip Quality combines the quality scores for the flights taken and hotels booked by road warriors. Assign high quality scores to non-stop flights booked in first class, and low quality scores to flights with multiple stops and booked in economy class.  Same direction for hotels – the more stars, the higher the hotel quality score.

Road Warrior Attrition measures the annual rate at which the road warrior workforce loses its people.  Attrition is a very common HR metric…just need to tell HR who your road warriors are. Management probably wants to see this rate decline over time.

Trip Scrap Rate is the opposite of Travel ROI.  Here, we’re measuring the percentage of road warrior trips that in hindsight, the road warriors believe were not worthwhile.  The average is about 12%…clearly worth managing this number downward, right?

The most important of these four KPIs is Trip Quality, because it is a choice, a dial, that management can turn up or down.  Changing trip quality will affect travel prices in one direction, and will drive the other three KPIs in the other direction.

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Airfare Benchmarks Grow Up

Please don’t believe that having an old-school airfare benchmark from a peer set is going to tell you anything meaningful. Comparing your $555 average ticket price (ATP) to a benchmark’s $500 ATP is worthless…unless it’s been created from exactly your markets.

The Air Clarity airfare benchmark solves this problem, and goes two steps farther. Not only does it build a truly market-matched airfare benchmark at the overall program level, it breaks down the program’s percentage gap into two critical pieces:

The Product Mix gap measures the difference in airfare product features your program bought, versus those product features bought by the benchmark’s travelers. Product features include cabin, number of stops, days advance purchase, Saturday night stays, etc. Essentially, the Product Mix gap reveals how your travel policies and culture compares to your market-matched peers…an essential insight for policy-based savings estimation.

The Price gap measures the overall weighted difference in airfare prices, measured at the smallest practical level – same city pair, same airline, same booking class, e.g., Y, B, M, H, etc.  This single metric instantly reveals the potential for sourcing-based savings.

Air Clarity's 3 Most Important Airfare Benchmarks.png

Airfare Benchmarks in Price per Hour

For a much more executive-friendly way to discuss the cost of air travel, forget price per mile…really, what does 25 cents a mile mean to anyone not in the aviation industry?

See this post for a range of price per hour benchmarks in short haul (mostly domestic) markets and long haul (international) markets. The Air Clarity Price per Hour benchmarks also come by cabin…great context for those executive briefings.

KPI Toolkit for Travel Managers, as of 2012

Back in 2012, four of us took up Paul Tilstone‘s challenge to create a set of Key Performance Indicators for travel category managers.  Nicolas Borel, Torsten Kriedt, James Westgarth and I have been working on this project for quite a few months now.

We settled on twenty-one KPIs, complete with definitions and likely data sources.  Of course, you can’t have a KPI Toolkit without an Excel file, right?  So we designed an easy self-scoring worksheet that allows you to customize the weights of each KPI to suit your interests. Our KPIs focus on transient travel – the groups and meetings side was out of scope from the get-go.

Folks, these KPIs are suggestions – they are not industry-agreed standards.  They are meant as a thoughtful starting point for considering which KPIs are best for your travel program.

Updated: Here are the two files we created:

2012 KPI Reference Guide for GBTA This PDF describes the 21 KPIs in detail, and provides more information about the scope and limitations of this effort.

KPI Scoring Wizard This Excel file contains a simple worksheet that allows custom weighting and scoring of each KPI.

GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) members have access to the KPI toolkit via the GBTA website.  The KPI toolkit is but one ; many other valuable resources are available to GBTA members. If you are not yet a member, you may join GBTA here.

Here is a whitepaper from Advito, BCD’s consulting unit, on the role of KPIs in a strategically managed travel program: Strategic Travel Program KPIs from Advito

On a related note, here’s a post on the pitfalls of using KPIs.

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