It was reported last week that HM The Queen is hiring a Personal Assistant, whose responsibilities will include “travel and logistics plans.” This led me to consider the role Personal and Executive Assistants play in organising travel at businesses of all sizes as, while corporate travel booking may only seem a small part of the role, it’s widely acknowledged that it’s arguably one of the most critical elements. This is more than just booking flights, accommodation and transfers, putting calendar entries in diaries to instruct where executives need to be and when. It’s about saving time and reducing stress whilst keeping the costs to the company down.
Booking business travel is clearly an important responsibility that carries with it a huge time burden: providing support in the event of last-minute schedule changes, rearranging missed flights, and managing all the expenses incurred by the executive – trying to make sense of which receipts relate to which business activities in the process.
And so it’s clear that optimising corporate travel booking processes to help save PAs and EAs time, whilst reducing travel expense spend to the company and creating better experiences for executives should be a company-wide agenda. As a result, I sought advice from a few leading Executive Assistants who recommended the following four areas to address and improve the way travel is booked.
1. Not automating travel booking and expenses? Start now
It may be obvious but using a cloud-based system that automates all elements of booking business travel and travel expenses, via a single system, will also make it easier to provide your executives and senior leaders with a clear, easy-to-follow overview of their itinerary. It also provides a simplified view of projected and incurred expenses making it easier to keep track of the budget for your executive’s business travel.
Skevi Constantinou, Executive Assistant and Founder of “The PA Way” comments that alongside the automatic calendar entries that your booking system provides, “always ensure that you provide emergency contact information and insurance documents for your traveller – and check the time zone difference! Adjust where necessary.”
2. Booking repeat trips and claiming repeat expenses? Then stop rekeying repeat data
This is why it’s also crucial to use business travel booking technology that allows you to securely store all your executive’s personal details, like their passport and payment cards, in one easily accessible place for them – and you.
This makes it simple to not only find an overview of their trip in seconds, but it also saves time in the future when making new reservations as you’ll never have to rekey this into the system. It will even remember the details of repeat bookings to save further time and pre-populate key expense details for repeat spending.
Not to mention adhering to legal and compliance requirements for your executive or business leader’s trip which can occur throughout the business travel booking process.
Debbie Gross, author of “The Office Rockstar Playbook” and former Chief Executive Assistant to Cisco CEO, cautions you to “check visa requirements for specific international countries and give yourself enough time to prepare those visas – especially countries like India or China as those take several weeks.” This is where immediate access to key documents is critical.
3. Ditch the static travel request procedures
A travel and expense policy for how employees – including executives – submit travel requests no doubt already exists at your company. Whilst it may provide clarity on the information needed to make sure the business travel booking process goes smoothly, it is a static document that doesn’t take into account real-world situations.
A dynamic business travel policy adapts depending on the circumstances of the corporate travel booking and how it contributes to business growth. It empowers Executive Assistants to make decisions that ultimately benefit the business and supports revenue generation – something you will have an understanding of as the CEOs right-hand man or woman. It will also help eliminate easily preventable and expensive changes that often come from piecemeal travel requests.
4. Ensure your executive isn’t relying on paper to get places
It’s crucial that when your executive is travelling, you’ve provided them with key information about their travel such as the “addresses and phone numbers of where they are headed” in advance to “avoid aggravation”, says Bonnie Low Kramen, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant”. Using business travel booking technology that provides a real-time view of all travel plans via mobile app for both you and your executive, will not just ease the travel booking process, but provide a stress-free trip – and eliminate those frantic calls for ‘where to next?’!
Access to such technology which includes virtually every element of the corporate travel booking – including special requests and required documentation – will also allow you to easily catch any oversights before they impact the travel experience – giving you much needed peace of mind.
Debbie Gross adds that this is also useful for “customs requirements per country as well as the customary etiquette in-country – especially relating to greetings, business cards, name pronunciations and appropriate titles of officials.”
Ultimately, simplifying your business travel booking process as well as having total oversight of wider corporate travel booking and travel expense data – in one place – will save you and any other personal assistants, executive assistants and office managers significant time (and pain). Not to mention the business money.