American Express Business Travel (AEBT) is offering tips for managing unexpected travel disruptions following the recent crisis after the Iceland volcano explosion which saw a shut down of much of Europe’s airspace.
“Companies with a plan in place clearly were in a better position to support their travelers and their companies through the most recent crisis,” AEBT says, offering sound recommendations for companies to consider to ensure preparation and business continuity for any unforeseen travel disruption.
* Be a safety net. Distressed travelers seek solace in their travel managers and expect a personal touch from their service. Collaborating effectively across business units including travel, risk/security, finance, communications, procurement, technology and human resources is crucial to successfully supporting all of the needs of both travelers and the company. So plan ahead and have the right contacts aligned and policies in place before the next big event.
* Take a fresh look. Nothing is more important than knowing the whereabouts of your travelers and verifying their safety. Do you have the appropriate tools to track your travelers in the event of an emergency? Be sure that you can access this information quickly, either through on-demand reporting, a GUI-based tool, or a combination of both. It is important to make sure your travel policy supports these tools by stressing the importance of making reservations (air, hotel, rail etc) as well as all changes through the approved travel channels. This will ensure all data is channeled through the traveler-tracking tools so that employees can be easily located. Also include this information in employee code of conduct training materials and in new employee manuals.
* Evaluate your servicing configuration. Does it include allowances for emergency and after-hours service? Understand the contingency plans of your travel management company to be sure that your travelers will be able to make contact and get the help they need.
* Revisit your traveler communications strategy. It must allow for two-way, real-time communication with employees and travelers both individually and company-wide. The best mobile solutions incorporate a mix of smart phone apps and text messaging for timely alerts and added convenience at an otherwise inconvenient time. Be sure to have an alternative plan of communication through the use of websites, social media channels and landlines in the event mobile networks are not available.
Consider a traveler portal solution that can target individual travelers based upon their preferences and travel history then post and push timely and relevant information on the fly. An added potential benefit is that travelers learn to rely upon this central location for all travel related information, resulting in productivity gains and improvements to policy compliance and savings.
* Embrace telepresence and teleconferencing. With the proliferation of public telepresence rooms, this option will be more accessible, especially for companies who do not wish to invest in building their own facilities. Teleconferencing has come a long way and is also a viable option. A central booking solution for the whole of these options allows for easy booking and can minimize lost productivity due to travel interruptions.
* Recycle those unused tickets. Utilize an automated ticket tracking application to identify all unused tickets. Refundable tickets are as good as cash in your pocket and non-refundables can frequently be used against a future trip to offset that expense.
* Turn an eye to return on investment. Some of these suggestions do require investment so it is important to understand and balance the costs against the potential tangible and intangible benefits of getting employees back to work and keeping them feeling safe and protected.
* Be social. Create the dialog with your peers through online forums and discussion boards. Share your experiences and pick up a new tip or learning along the way.
* Debrief while the situation is still fresh. Talk to your impacted travelers and let their experience inform your supplier strategy, policy and crisis management plan. Were some suppliers more accommodating than others in making alternate arrangements for your travelers, waiving re-booking or other fees? Keep this in mind as you go through supplier negotiations in the future. A survey or questionnaire sent to all employees can help identify unrealized impacts and gaps in your corporate travel program while demonstrating a commitment to traveler service.