For business travellers, the most important aspect of a travel programme is the freedom to make bookings, and any potential changes, themselves (54%). This trend illustrates the importance of making business travellers independent and providing them with easy-to-use travel management tools (Egencia survey, 2018). However, using online booking tools offered by the company is not yet instinctive among business travellers. Fewer than one in ten employees reported using them for the majority of their trips and 22% of those surveyed sometimes use them (FCM Travel-DéplacementsPro Barometer 2018). In fact, some of the business travellers questioned (48%) still prefer using the Internet.
Booking tools are adapting to SMEs
‘Of course, in recent years, companies have already put in place business travel management solutions’, explains Jean Noël Lau Keng Lun, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Egencia. ‘However, we are now witnessing a rejection of solutions that are too difficult to use. Therefore, true digitisation of this process for SMEs now involves offering their employees tools like those used in a personal capacity, which can also provide responses tailored to their needs and uses, especially in terms of hotel provision. So we use the technologies of artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of our travel booking solution. They allow us to offer services in line with the habits of business travellers’. Simplification of the business travel booking process also involves travel apps syncing with each other. ‘Business travellers must be able to use their travel application equally, and seamlessly, on their mobile, tablet or computer’, adds Jean Noël Lau Keng Lun. These apps should sync automatically so that the traveller’s information is kept constantly up to date’. To this end, companies need to use technologies that allow them to centralise bookings, incorporate the travel services most commonly chosen by employees and bring together all the information on the trip. Travel professionals are therefore becoming increasingly fond of incorporating several players in this market and even centralised payment solutions into their business travel management platform. For example, a few months ago, BCD Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) signed a partnership with Airbnb Business to allow their customers to book accommodation offered by the collaborative accommodation platform.
Towards automated and integrated management of expenses claims
Expenses claims management automation tools are also eagerly awaited by both SMEs and company employees. Indeed, inefficient management of expenses claims generates significant costs, which are often difficult to estimate. Storage, errors and non-compliance are all negative factors that can now be limited thanks to the use of ad-hoc tools. According to Egencia, 34% of business travellers who now have access to these technologies believe the automation of expenses claims saves them time. However, a quarter of users think the system could be further improved. Moreover, 35% of those who do not have access to this type of tool think it would be useful for them. ‘Current technological advances hint at new opportunities to optimise administrative processes, with expenses claims management that can easily be automated via dedicated solutions’, explains Olivia Buono, sales director at SAP Concur. They allow us to eliminate omissions, calculation errors, non-compliance and even missing receipts relating to business travel, improving compliance with the travel policy and the costs to which it gives rise. ‘Automation also helps save time in terms of submitting and checking expenses claims, both for the employee and for the accounting department’, says Gilles Bobichon, Notilus director and co-founder of Dimo Software. Furthermore, thanks to the features of mobile apps dedicated to expenses claims management, employees can, for example, use the camera on their smartphone to submit a receipt and attach it to expenses claims, wherever they are. It also allows you to avoid errors and fraud, and gives the accounting department and/or managers a real-time view of expenses.
End-to-end solutions are conquering the SME market
Finally, end-to-end management solutions that allow automation of all processes in the travel purchasing chain, from booking to travel approval and expenses claims, are starting to be adapted to the needs of SMEs. ‘With our new SAP Concur Standard solution, we offer SMEs a business travel and expenses claims management solution that meets their needs, both financially and technologically’, explains Olivia Buono. Easy for employees to use, it supports companies in controlling costs, ensuring compliance with the travel policy and guaranteeing traveller safety’. Business travel and expenses claims management solutions are gradually adapting to the needs of SMEs and their travellers, both functionally and in terms of ease of use. ‘Finance departments and employees also improve their productivity in organising and managing business travel’, concludes Gilles Bobichon. There is better compliance with the travel policy, and expenses are controlled more rigorously’. The technologies exist – it’s up to SMEs to adopt them!
An article written by Anne Del Pozo that you can read in full on the GPO MAG website, an information website for business leaders.