Jeroen Hurkmans: Don’t gloss over risk communications and data

14 July 2015
Jeroen HurkmansVice President EMEA/ APACAdvito

Buyers should have a proactive rather than reactive approach to travel risk management

Last time, we talked about the importance of identifying and managing stakeholders in your travel risk management (TRM) programme. This time, I’ll focus on two less obvious, but no less crucial, pillars of effective programmes: collecting the right data and communicating with your travellers.

It’s tempting to gloss over these. The first may not seem wholly necessary. The second may seem obvious and natural. At first glance, it appears neither needs the same level of attention as other tasks (like ensuring safety on the road). And in some ways, that might be true; they might need even more attention.

Collecting the right data

Data means information. Better data means better information. And better information means a better understanding of what happened in the past, so you can predict and plan for what comes next.

Collecting the right data ensures a strong foundation for your travel risk management programme.

Which data?

Historical data tells you about what’s already happened. How many travellers were mugged or got sick during a trip last year? In the past five or 10 years? How many crises were there? How quickly did you alert travellers?

If you don’t already have a system in place for capturing data as it happens, you’ll need to research. And then you’ll want to set up a formal system to record data as it comes in so you won’t have to worry about hunting it down in the future.

Historical data

This data is all about spotting patterns and mapping risks. The key to collecting historical data is to cast a wide net. Especially if there was no formal data collection method before, you’ll need to talk to many departments to get a clear view. Your legal, HR, security and medical departments will all likely have important data you’ll need. And don’t forget to work closely with your travel management company and security adviser as they’ll provide both invaluable data and help in sorting through it all.

Data collection that works

Setting up a data collection system ensures you won’t have to search for information again. Any data you need will be waiting for you to use as you choose.

risk management credit cacaroot-720 Data will make you more prepared for when a crisis happens ©cacaroot/iStock

When creating your method for collecting data, keep these tips in mind...

  • Figure out what data (both pre-trip and post-trip) you need. Be as clear as possible about what you’re looking for and which sources you’ll use.
  • Keep all data secure. Have security measures in place before any issues arise.
  • Make sure all traveller profiles are kept up to date.
  • Share data with those who need it. For instance, some of your stakeholders may need to know about traveler whereabouts or emergency contact details.
  • Pay attention to data privacy laws in all relevant countries. Many countries have strict regulations about data security, so stay aware of any changes and how they affect your programme.

Collecting the right data is a relatively simple but crucial task. Focus on your data and you have a strong foundation for the whole of your travel risk management programme.

Communicating with travellers

It’s not enough to simply collect data of your travellers’ incidents. You need to ensure clear, effective communication and that requires thought and planning. Because all the travel risk management policies, updates and resources in the world won’t matter if you can’t tell your travellers about them in a way they’ll understand and remember.

Focus on content

Before you can worry about how effectively you’re communicating, you have to know what you want to say. Outside of general updates or regular reminders, use your data as a starting point.

Maybe you notice that more travellers have been getting sick recently, so you know to send out tips about staying healthy on the road. Maybe you see that some travellers missed alerts during the last hurricane because their contact information wasn’t up to date. If so, let travellers know they need to report changes in phone numbers to stay informed when crises arise.

Your data doesn’t just let you track your programme’s effectiveness. It also tells you what to share with travellers to keep them prepared and safe.

Be clear

Clarity is king when it comes to effective communication. Anything less than absolute clarity can leave travellers confused, frustrated, or misinformed. Of course, there’s no such thing as perfection (especially when it comes to communication), but you can take some easy steps to improve clarity.

  • Use language that is easily understandable, avoiding complicated jargon when possible.
  • Don’t stray from the core of what you want to say.
  • Think about what travellers need and want to know, keeping in mind that these may not always be the same thing.
  • Consider the method of communication. Would an email be most effective? Or should you post an announcement on the company’s intranet? Maybe a blurb in the monthly newsletter? All delivery systems will offer pros and cons, so you have to determine which is most appropriate for each situation.

Be concise

Be careful not to over-communicate. It’s easy to do since there’s a lot you want your travellers to know. But flooding them with emails, newsletters, announcements, etc. can be overwhelming and make them tune out entirely.

stand out credit Kativ-720 Remember your message needs to stand out among others ©Kativ/iStock

Instead, send out a general reminder about the programme once every six to 12 months. This will keep employees aware of the travel risk management programme without fatiguing them. Consider including in these communications information about the resources that are available to travellers. It’s important that they know where to go to should they have questions or concerns. And make sure all information is easily accessible at all times.

Apart from general scheduled communications, send out brief messages about changes as they arise, focusing on those that will directly affect travellers. And you should certainly keep travellers updated in times of crisis, especially via push messages.

Employees are most likely to pay attention immediately following a crisis, so that’s a great time to send out reminders about policies or safety tips. For instance, if someone’s laptop is stolen during a trip, send out a quick email with advice about keeping possessions safe.

Strengthen and simplify

Collecting the right data and communicating effectively with travellers may not be the flashiest of travel risk management tasks, but they are two of the most critical. Without data, you have nothing upon which to build your programme – nor your communication. Without effective communication, you have no way of bringing your programme to the people it was built to protect – nor will you get data.

A focus on data and communication will strengthen your programme and simplify the complicated job of managing travel risk.

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