If the topic of travel and expense management conjures up images of piles of time-consuming, headache-inducing paperwork, crumpled receipts, confusing spreadsheets and maybe a clunky app, you’re not alone. In fact, according to Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), travelers list expense reporting among the top three frustrations of the travel process. As travel managers and companies strive to reduce traveler friction, bolster employee retention rates and keep control of business travel expenses, the situation is primed for vast improvements. And here’s the good news: business travel experts say technology is at last catching up and helping make business travel expenses easier to manage than ever before.
Expert tips to better manage business travel expenses
George Kalka, for Fox World Travel, says much of the movement toward improved travel and expense management starts with taking a look at the entire travel expense process and addressing ease of use. Simplify the process for everyone, from the business traveler to the in-house travel manager and accounting, and often expense management and reimbursement concerns fall into place.
Here are some steps you can take at your company to improve the travel and expense management process.
1. Rethink the manual expense process
Many companies still rely on spreadsheets and paper receipts for their business travel expense management. So if you’re among them, you’re in good company. In fact, a survey in the United States and Britain showed that of business professionals surveyed, 41 percent reported that they still submit their expenses manually by spreadsheet. More, those professionals reported that the process took between 30 minutes and an hour to submit their business travel expense reports, typically done on company time. It’s easy to see how a simplified, less time-consuming process could improve the business traveler experience while also saving company costs and improving productivity.
“We would always recommend companies start with the traveler base and determine what pain points they might be experiencing, whether it’s through anecdotal evidence or a survey and looking at a technology solution that encompasses those opportunities,” Kalka explains.
Turning to tech could vastly improve a cumbersome business travel expense management process. But, there’s one problem. Emerging automation programs abound. How should you start the process of finding the right one?
2. Automate business travel expenses to reduce traveler friction
Clumsy expense reporting has had its day; these days, Kalka says smart companies are leaning on automated expense solutions, like expense management software. Concur Travel & Expense, says Kalka, reduces traveler friction while providing an enhanced line of sight for in-house staff who want to keep a handle on the bottom line in real time.
“At Fox World Travel, we incorporate travel data with many expense systems, but the most popular is the natural integration between Concur Travel & Expense. It’s arguably the leading product in the marketplace today. It’s a software program we embrace and believe in because it’s truly best in class,” Kalka says.
By working with a travel management company like Fox World Travel, you’ll have access to the premiere travel and expense management automation programs on the market today.
One of the benefits of Concur is that it gives the customer full line-of-sight on the data from the time the business travel is booked to the time it’s expensed. The tool is integrated with some popular vendors in common expense categories, too, according to Kalka.
“Concur has integration with Starbucks® for example, which is the number one expensed item. You don’t even have to take a photo of your receipt,” he explains. Concur is also integrated with other products and companies, such as Uber® and Airbnb®. The bottom line: integration means detailed expense data is provided directly by the vendor, so there’s less opportunity for errors or fraud.
In addition, a professional expense reporting system can further help a company manage fraud through intelligence and automation—by identifying trends for possible fraudulent activity, so you don’t have to do it manually. The result: your organization can quickly identify problem areas with an automated audit function, saving on the company’s bottom line and a travel manager’s precious time.
3. Address duty of care and corporate travel policy compliance
Automated business travel expense management and working with a travel management company have other benefits, too, which may not seem so obvious. By tying together the travel and expense process, you can gain process visibility. This alleviates finding out too late that an employee booked their favorite hotel directly rather than working through the process. It also enables your organization to better manage business travel bookings, so employees follow travel policy and work with preferred vendors, controlling costs.
More, when a traveler makes a reservation for airfare or hotel on their own, your organization may not have insights into where the traveler is located when they’re on the road. If a crisis were to occur, the company would have difficulty finding that traveler—a duty of care nightmare.
“That information won’t flow through systems until after it’s expensed, which could be days after the trip,” Kalka says.
The data available through automated expense reporting tools, on the other hand, could enable a company to see the last known location the employee used their corporate card. In an emergency, precious moments matter and that location-specific data could be the difference in ensuring the safety of your staff—and fulfilling your organization’s duty of care responsibilities.
Automation vs. manual business expense reporting: the choice is clear
If you’re still struggling with spreadsheets or sub-par smartphone apps to manage business travel expenses, it may be time to partner with a travel management company like Fox World Travel to start reaping the benefits and conveniences of automated travel and expense management.
“When approaching it from both a traveler and corporation standpoint, you can see why continuing with a manual process is inefficient and time-consuming when there are all these benefits that come from automating that system,” explains Kalka.
From reducing traveler friction and controlling company business travel expenses, to duty of care and corporate travel policy compliance, the reasons to take another look at your organization’s travel and expense management are clear. Best of all, having the right travel management company on your side can ensure a smooth journey.