A Holistic Approach to Travel Experience Drives Reputation and Profitability for Law Firms

By Reed & Mackay

Not only is corporate travel one of the biggest controllable spend categories for a business, it is also one of the most emotive. Meeting the needs of your high flyers as they take to the skies, while still accommodating the practicalities of cost savings and compliance, can be a delicate balancing act for any board.

Despite uncertainty in global markets, business travel volume for the legal sector was up by 7.4% in 2018 (v17) outpacing the wider professional services sector. Traveling to secure new business, facilitating entrance to new sectors and driving global expansion are cited as the top three reasons behind the growth.

It’s no surprise then, that in a market where the costs of travel are rising, law firms are looking for smart ways to protect the bottom line with 43.4% of firms citing cost management as their biggest business travel challenge for 2019.

At the same time, procurement teams are becoming increasingly value focused. Burned from previous experience of taking the lowest cost model at the expense of service, firms are looking for a more balanced approach to overall return on investment from corporate travel programs.

Despite advances in teleconferencing and the normalization of FaceTime, never before has the value of true human contact been greater.

Experience is personal

The return generated from business travel may be clear, but in recent years the best way to keep people safe and happy, without breaking the bank, has become clouded by complexity. After all, not all travel policies are created equal. Perhaps this is why increasingly, the voice of the traveler is heard reverberating around board rooms, pushing for policies that feel more aligned to their leisure experiences.

That’s because despite the big business benefit, corporate travel, at its heart, is personal. Travelers are spending time away from their home, their friends and their family. For those that are regularly on the move, it matters where they sit on the plane and whether or not they are going to get their air miles.

What’s more, getting under the skin of what matters to your people when they’re on the move not only improves their work performance, it can lock them in when your competitors come knocking. Lounge access, the ability to travel in business and the flexibility to stay a day and take in the local culture can all make a total benefits package more appealing.

Talent retention

Top talent has always been in high demand and recent surveys cite finding the right people to be one of the greatest challenges faced by businesses. With work life balance now rated as one of the top priorities for candidates by a Hays Salary and Recruitment survey, your travel policy takes on a new level of influence. If the way in which a business manages their travel policy has a direct impact on their ability to attract and retain talent, then CEOs have an ongoing challenge when it comes to marrying rising expectation of talent with continued pressures to cut costs.

Removing friction points

Work life balance for many is simply about being able to get the job done to the best standard in the smallest amount of time. There is a commonality to the frustrations we hear from travelers; ‘don’t make me wait at the airport, give me the best flight times so that I can reduce my days away from home and make sure I have decent Wi-Fi so that I can actually work’.

Rapidly climbing the wish list is the importance of suitable meeting space. Business travelers are “time poor” which often means tight schedules, jam packed with high value meetings.

Independent hotels are rising in popularity. Not only do they offer something more personal, they have the agility to negotiate on price. They also tend to boast features such as destination bars which can hold significant sway for someone who has a short space of time to accommodate numerous meetings. Productivity rises and expense falls if you can cut back on time spent in taxis, traveling to suitable places to host your guests.

By understanding what works for your travelers, you can build a truly tailored policy, providing the experience they desire while mitigating other risk factors such as escalating cost or traveler safety.

Whether travelers are booking with an agent, an online tool or on their smartphone, a flexible policy engine behind the scenes is key to ensuring that the experience is personalized; if you want compliance, travelers need to feel listened to.

Compliant travelers and compliant businesses

Balancing cost control and compliance with the ever-changing expectations of today’s business travelers isn’t easy. And not every business has the luxury of a travel manager who focuses exclusively on this area. For many businesses, travel forms as little as 10% of a Procurement, Corporate Services or Facilities Director role.

Strong data visualization tools can go a long way to highlighting strategic insights for time poor executives. Reed & Mackay’s business intelligence platform R&M/Insights is designed to shine a light on the aspects of a travel program that need board consideration.

“Our clients are increasingly looking to gain a new level of visibility relating to where their travelers are going and why, both pre and post trip. For instance, reporting on days spent in a country is important as it has a direct impact on the tax due on the income relating to that trip”. Commented Joe Hanly, Group CFO, Reed & Mackay.

And the risk to businesses of underperforming policies isn’t just financial.

Safety first

Duty of care has earned the top spot in 2019 as the key business travel focus for law firms, including not just physical safety but also traveler well-being.

Traveling internationally on business is often an assumed part of the day job for legal professionals. In fact, the average length of an international flight for the legal sector is 8.4 hours; 7.7% longer than the wider professional services community.

This increased time on a flight puts traveler well-being high on the agenda of leading law firms. From compression socks to ‘wellness proofed’ travel itineraries to combat jetlag, there is an increasing focus on ensuring that talent is taken care of and able to hit the ground running on arrival. After all, it benefits the firm to have travelers performing at their peak.

Ultimately, keeping pace with changing traveler expectations, through personal touch policies and consumer grade technology, can attract, retain and protect talent, while also protecting your reputation and bottom line.