The transcript below is from a discussion that took place between Nicholas Job, founder and CEO of Carbookr, and Olivier Aubonnet, SNCF Enterprise portal manager, during the FORUMDIMOTV in 2021, in a workshop led by Cédric de Martimprey, sales director at Notilus, with the participation of Ziad Minkara, from CDS Group.
A few words about Notilus
The world of corporate travel has been in constant evolution for the past few years thanks to new technologies that have helped companies optimize their management of professional trips. Employees’ behaviour has changed as well. The business trip used to be associated with a travel agency that centralized all the reservations (plane, train, hotel, car reservation, etc.). Business and leisure travel are now overlapping and people are turning to pure players. A list made by Echo Touristique in 2020 of the Top 20 travel sites features Booking.com for online hotel reservations as No. 1, followed by Oui SNCF for trains and BlaBlacar (No. 6) for cars.
Notilus processes travel requests, mission orders, expense claims (public sector), and assesses expense reports against integrated reimbursement policies while facilitating the management of both travel expenses and the car fleet. The solution has integrated the Booking.com offer via the CDS platform, as well as SNCF Entreprises and Carbookr offers.
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The SNCF Entreprises portal
Olivier Aubonnet (SNCF) explains that the general Oui.sncf website used to be a major entry point for both leisure and business travellers as it simplified the lives of business travellers who travelled a lot. However, travel managers have an alternative today to prevent employees from using the Oui.scnf website:
“That’s how the Enterprise portal was born, to centralize payments and regroup all traveller profiles in one tool. During Covid, we took advantage of the opportunity to develop the interface by making it simpler and more ergonomic, as well as gearing it specifically towards professionals who are used to online tools. The remaining question is how can we make business travel as familiar as personal travel? The back office has evolved with the management and centralization of payments, monitoring of consumption, etc. Managers can grant autonomy to the employees while still monitoring expenses and optimization, through the management of subscriptions.”
“The partnership with Notilus is a good opportunity for the SNCF since our philosophies align: maximum autonomy for the employee to manage his trip. Via the [platform’s] connector, users land on the Enterprise portal to manage their own travel, while benefiting from centralized payment and real-time policy checks. Notilus provides near-transparency for the end-user. The integration of the travel policy guarantees that the expenses incurred for train travel fall under it. Employees can now pay for their travel expenses on a monthly basis, rather than on an ad hoc basis, via consolidation in Notilus.”
How does the Carbookr portal, coupled with Notilus, make life easier for travellers and companies?
Nicolas Job (Carbookr) notes that brokers are well known in the car rental industry. However, there was no platform for business travel: “So we created the first marketplace based on the same principle, offering the widest choice and simplifying travel. The initial challenge was to create the largest catalogue of car rentals, rental companies, and vehicle models for all destinations with multiple offers, which is in line with the current trend of choice and options in business travel. Secondly, we moved towards personalization and transparency – thanks to technology, algorithms, AI (Artificial Intelligence) – by offering visibility into the employee’s trip: carbon-free vehicle, mileage, etc. We try to know the traveller better, his habits, his favourite destinations, the travel policy of his company. The control of business travel was made possible thanks to the connector with Notilus: we centralize and control the means of payment with lodged cards, the travel policy is integrated, and all the invoicing done via the Notilus interface”.
“The company has the choice of payment methods. Carbookr works with the two players in the lodged card industry for companies that use this system. We bring up the billing flow and consolidate it. We can offer analytics as well, all in a multi-renters system. We deal with major players, new generation rental companies, connected vehicles, green/hybrid… We are transparent about market information. This helps reassure buyers, who are generally cautious when employees go to so-called leisure portals.”
As soon as a trip is made via Notilus, an analytical code is issued. This implies a customer code, a business code, a region code, etc. “This information flows into the portal and is included in the invoicing part” explains Cédric de Martimprey. Carbookr currently manages up to 10 analytical codes which allow for very precise reporting by cost centre, by establishment code, by employee, department, etc. The parameters can be set as close as possible to the travel policy and cost control.
The CDS Group offer meets several companies’ needs
CDS Group has historically worked directly with buyers to help them control accommodation expenses. The group also works with HR to help apply their hosting policy, with the financial department to control expenses, with the IT department for compliance and risk management, the latter of which is now with the crisis more important than ever. CDS Group must also meet the CSR reporting obligation on business travel, which isn’t only about decarbonization, but also about digital footprint, disability, and social inclusion, without forgetting to satisfy the traveller! The traveller finds himself in a controlled environment that resembles his leisure environment. They can find the hotel chosen by Purchasing, and compare it with various operators in real-time. He can book if he is in “best-buy”, or strictly respecting the accommodation rate. Transparency avoids buyers being constantly solicited. Ziad Minkara (CDS Group) explains:
“We bring up the entire Booking.com, Hotels.com, and our hotel program offer. Once the reservation is made, the traveller wants to be sure to be reimbursed if he or she advances expenses, to be within his or her ceiling without having to spend too much time skimming through travel policies – especially in the public sector – in short, he or she wants to be in a controlled environment as far as payment is concerned. Either the company pays centrally and re-invoices to the historical operators without the extras, or the employee pays with his corporate card hosted in Notilus and respects the compliance. Finally, we transmit all the information related to the expense, the profile for HR, the budget, the project, and all the analytics needed to control this expense. There is no need to manage this in a tool such as GDS PNR. It’s fluid because, with telecommuting and the acceleration of the world, business is blending with leisure (“bleisure”), and that’s precisely what we find in Notilus. The solution globally manages the travel policy, with a connection to workflows: the managers of the departments concerned validate a trip, a rental or a hotel”.
The respect of specific rules
Carbookr boosts what the company is putting in place – and does not compete with the negotiations of the buyers – thanks to its technologies and additional services (concierge service) around the company’s choices in terms of travel policy. Concerning the SNCF: public entities represent a large part of its clientele: they are subject to specific public accounting rules. Their connection to Notilus guarantees the public payer a very high level of security and validation. On the SNCF Entreprises portal, monthly travel payments can be of interest to both public companies and administrations, with the introduction of American Express or Air Plus type cards.
Frequently asked questions
During the workshop, several Internet users asked questions that we found relevant enough to transcribe them in writing.
What is the advantage for a company to use the SNCF portal rather than the Oui.sncf website?
Oui.sncf is suitable for one-off and individual trips that do not necessarily meet the company’s needs or fit the travel policy. The Corporate portal can be used to monitor consumption as part of a Key Account contract. This is only possible by implementing a centralization tool, via a dedicated portal that can manage all employee profiles, ensure that they are up to date and properly attached to the company, that the subscription cards are up to date in the profiles, and that the company customer file attached to the portal allows for monitoring. The same goes for reporting, which can only be done in a central tool. As a result, not all this data is available on a general consumer site such as Oui.sncf. On the other hand, the employee is sure to have access to all the professional tariffs and the various subscriptions, as well as detailed reporting. Getting travel information from each employee via the Oui.sncf website would be very time-consuming for management control. Notilus simplifies it via a validation workflow: we know that everything spent on transport in the company portal is in line with the travel policy. Finally, the employee isn’t necessarily aware of what can be good for the company. However, the travel manager will be able to direct them to what is most advantageous on a monthly or yearly basis.
Why choose direct connectors rather than an SBT that centralizes all inventories?
For Ziad Minkara, traveller behaviours are varied, as are company and customer infrastructures: “Notilus brings flexibility. It is possible to connect the SBT to it and to find all our services. We operate within the framework of a concentrated journey and we come as a complement for companies that have a new way of travelling, that are structured differently, and that wish to see direct operations with operators while being able to structure their policy according to the internal organization. We are partners with all SBTs and with Notilus (Notilus Booking Tool). The SBT is rather generalistic and inspired by the aeronautics industry. The business portals have broader offerings.
What is the role of a travel agency in the context of direct integration?
For Nicolas Job, it has an advisory role on the company’s needs, support, choice, and best practices. Intermediary platforms are experts. For Ziad Minkara: “We are in partnership with them. They are evolving, whereas we thought they were in decline for 20 years. Their role remains central to business travel. They suffered during the crisis but served to reassure travellers and provided support, payment, reporting, in short, consolidation. The relationship with the agency is complementary and not in opposition.
Aggregator, broker, marketplace, what are the differences?
The aggregator collects and compares offers and the broker is a car rental broker, for companies that buy in bulk and are thus able to offer very advantageous rates. These terms are used a lot in the leisure sector. Carbookr is a real marketplace and not just a price broker: “We add a technical layer via APIs such as Notilus, as well as a layer of services such as concierge services. We support the employee from start to finish, from booking to invoicing, including all the parties involved: purchasing, travel, travel manager, financial management. It’s a complete offer.”
Integration of CSR issues, in particular CO2 emissions from rentals?
Ziad Minkara notes that CSR reporting is now a legal requirement, starting with the CO2 rating. All CSR partners are helping to provide the most accurate information. On the SNCF Entreprises portal, you can get a complete CO2 report for all employee travel. This has become a benchmark for public entities, for example, during calls for tender. The same applies to car rental. Data being centralized in Carbookr, it can provide the CO2 data for all rentals, whatever the offer chosen by the employee. The demand for electric and hybrid cars is also very high.
To remember: Notilus is the entry point for car rental, train, and hotel reservations. Simply click on an icon to switch to one of the portals, benefiting from a wide choice just like in the leisure world while guaranteeing, on the company side, a controlled aspect of expenses, data security, so that each level and service of the company is in perfect control of the environment.
Our solution is dedicated to the moblity management. In addition to the expense reports management you can plan, book and track your business trips. It is also possible to manage your car fleet.