In the current economic climate, many companies are working hard to reduce their expenditure and unfortunately business travel has borne the brunt of cuts. In 2009, American networking company, Cisco Systems, managed to save an impressive $890,000 (approximately £579,385) in travel costs by investing in high-definition video conferencing software as an alternative to face-to-face meetings with their business clients. Understandably, this is an attractive saving which encourages many companies to cease business travel altogether.
However, many advocates of the face-to-face business meeting are less hasty and are concerned about the impact new software will have on business profits. Research undertaken by Oxford Economics outlined that a company could expect profits to fall by 17% in the first year upon cutting business travel. Many believe techniques such as video conferencing cannot match the personal bonds that can be made when meeting someone in the flesh and therefore could prevent the development of valuable business relationships. It is often harder to judge facial expressions and get a grip on the tone of conversation. The average Skype call is a tricky skill to master in itself, but add a room of business associates and a few international accents and the situation becomes that much harder.
But technology needn’t cause businesses such a headache; it is entirely possible for business travel and new technology to work together. Here are a few key points to consider:
- Mobile phone apps: Since the arrival of the smartphone, the market for downloadable apps has rapidly expanded. There are now 775,000 apps available – and that’s only in the iPhone store! Business travel has become a niche target market for app producers and, as a result, there are plenty of options that could take the stress out of your travel, from booking a taxi upon arrival to providing notification of the departure flight, which leaves more room for successful business. Apps can even be used to reduce travel costs; for example, ‘Expensify’ app monitors expenses by importing credit card transactions.
- Skype: Although your company may not deem video conferencing suitable for external business, Skype is a very useful tool for communicating with other staff members, so travelling long distances need not hinder business decisions. For those who struggle with leaving family members for considerable lengths of time, with the help of Skype you never have to leave them at all! This clever piece of technology allows for free video calls from anywhere around the world – so, when business is tough and you are missing a friendly face, all you need to do is call.
- Social media: Social media can be an asset both prior to and following a business trip. By connecting via Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, corporate travellers can share advice and travel knowledge about cities, flight companies and local suppliers therefore helping others to be informed about their destination. These sites also support follow-up procedures by providing an easy and relaxed platform for further communication.
Technological advances have certainly brought new, cheaper alternatives to business travel; however, they have also delivered innovative ideas that could improve it and boost the profit that follows. Some companies claim to have found the perfect solution to embracing new technology while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face meetings. If your business is not ready to cut business travel entirely, consider whether it is necessary for large groups to travel or whether costs can be cut costs by sending a single senior manager to meet the client and enabling other team members to engage through a conference call. The best of both worlds!
Charlotte Healey is a keen writer working at SilverDoor, an international serviced apartment agency who specialises in short term accommodation for the business traveller. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.