"It takes two to do the trust tango—the one who risks (the trustor) and the one who is trustworthy (the trustee); each must play their role," said Charles H. Green, author of The Trusted Advisor.
Successful travel management has never been effective without trust. Without it, one can try, but efforts will sputter, veer off and ultimately take a turn down the wrong path. Even worse, creeping doubt and fear will undo previous gains.
This pandemic has uprooted our daily trust in a deep way. Uncertainty and instability can do that. When it comes to next steps, trust is a solid foundation for decision making. Without it, we wobble.
Trust will have to be rebuilt in a multidimensional effort between travel suppliers, risk management departments, travel departments and travelers. These groups will return to travel only when they are all comfortable with the pandemic adjustments.
Here is the guide for each of us playing our role.
First, travel suppliers will need to convince the public of the efficacy of their cleanliness protocols. Focus will be on the how, specifically the frequency and proven effectiveness of cleaning and maintenance programs. Likely, we will see a new, uniform global standard of cleanliness measurement certified by an authoritative body.
The rest of the players (risk management, travel departments and travelers) will require this first step before moving forward.
Next, risk management departments will issue requirements (or guidelines) for safety. These may include pre-trip approvals for certain types of travel, proof of health, restriction by type or location of property, type of ground transportation (i.e., ride-share, taxis, private cars, public transportation). Perhaps these will extend to supplier or customer offices with judgments on their attention to health and safety.
Finally, and most critical for travel managers, travel departments now are immediately tasked with emergence adjustments and strategies. The reactive portions require immediate attention, while the proactive projects will establish new infrastructure to layer in the key success components of post-pandemic business travel.
Reactive projects include tracking, reporting and managing refunded or unused airline tickets, meetings management rebooking/cancellations, and TMC configuration and staff changes (including talent acquisition). Companies that continued travel have required emergency safety travel guidelines to keep travelers safe. As information and capacity changes have become known, many have adjusted these guidelines almost daily for the past six weeks.
Proactive projects to build the post-Covid-19 travel program must include policy adjustments, recrafting key supplier agreements, budgeting for the future with near zero travel volumes, rebuilding TMC/MMC configurations and developing the correct content and frequency of communication.
Abraham Lincoln said, "The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust." Regardless of travel by fiat, travel suppliers and those responsible for company risk must rebuild trust from the travelers. Only when each role rebuilds trust, rightly and fully, will travelers return the trust—and return to the road.