What do you do when you’re unable to head over to the grocery store? Well, you can get your groceries delivered to your house. There’s an app for that. Want to find out where you’ve parked your car? There’s an app for that. Want to trade faces with your cat? There’s an app for that as well. Technological progress has made our lives more comfortable and enjoyable. But does “there’s an app for that” work everywhere? What if you just want your employees to book their business travel right the first time? Without breaking any of your policies or vanishing while you have a duty of care for them? Well, actually, there is an app for that.
Corporate booking tools offer some much-needed respite to enterprises that deal with a significant number of travel bookings, by providing them a direct and low-cost booking solution. Older booking tools were monopolized by travel agencies, which made it difficult for firms to book trips outside of business hours or land the best prices. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore—we now have a good number of online booking tools for businesses of all sizes to choose from.
When you add a booking tool to your workflow, you can easily simplify the process for all the stakeholders involved: your employees, the travel team, and the finance team. With the adoption of booking tools by your employees, you will witness a reduction in transaction costs, an increase in compliance (which helps in cost-saving), and a smoother booking process for your employees. With a centralized tool in place, your travel team can meet its duty of care, and the finance team is guaranteed better control over spend.
Corporate booking tool
A corporate booking tool, or CBT, is online booking software that business travelers can use to book their trips. CBTs simplify the entire corporate travel and accommodation booking process, and they are used by firms to manage their employees’ bookings, ensure policy compliance, and help with duty of care.
How does a corporate booking tool work?
The travel manager configures the tool based on your expense policies and loads the preferred vendors and rates. Once this is done, your employees can use the booking tool to browse through various options for their travel and accommodation and pick the options they want.
After paying for the trip, your employee receives a booking confirmation from the CBT. Once the employee hits the road, the travel manager or administrator can track them for duty-of-care purposes.
Benefits of a corporate booking tool
Here are some significant advantages of using a corporate booking tool in your travel program:
Ease of use for travelers
Business travelers can book their own trips at any time using the booking tool, with a wide range of policy-compliant options to choose from. Some booking tools are taking it one step further and incorporating AI to offer personalized travel assistance to business travelers based on their previous bookings and preferences. CBTs also allow travelers to book from their phones or other mobile devices, make changes as needed without hassles, and access all their travel details and documents from a single place.
Improved policy compliance
With a CBT, you can streamline the entire process of pre-trip approval and compliance. Your CBT can be fully configured based on your firm’s travel and expense policies by your travel manager. Once this is done, the system only displays policy-compliant options for your employees to choose from, so any chance of non-compliant booking is ruled out at the source.
If an employee does attempt to book an out-of-policy trip, your corporate booking tool can flag and remove the booking and warn the employee so they can re-book their trip within the policy.
Increased direct and indirect savings
Most corporate booking tools have partnerships with airlines and hotels that allow them to offer negotiated rates to your employees. By booking through a CBT, your firm can save a lot on airfare and booking charges. Your CBT can also remind your employees to book their trips well in advance, which plays an important role in cost-saving.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your employees when they’re away on business trips. Since CBTs use a centralized booking system, your travel manager always has access to your employees’ itineraries. Features like traveler tracking and constant risk alerts help your travel managers easily locate employees, communicate with them, and offer assistance in times of crisis.
Powerful analytics and spend visibility
A centralized booking system removes the possibility of data silos, making CBTs a source of effective analytical reporting. This offers two main advantages for companies using CBTs:
You can collect and analyze data with the help of consolidated reports. This helps understand the spending patterns of different departments and employees, and identify ways to reduce spend.
If your data shows that your company has a high travel volume, that can help you negotiate with preferred vendors for better rates. Since CBTs are a credible source of data, they’re a good way to help your suppliers recognize the benefit of offering you good prices.
You can also use the data you collect to pick the vendors you want to form partnerships with.
How to find the right corporate booking tool for your firm
If these benefits look like a much-needed boon for your company and you are ready to implement a CBT, what do you do next? Choosing the right tool is a key decision that should be based on factors like the frequency of your business trips, the person-hours and money you’re willing to spend on a solution, and the features and integrations your travel program needs.
A. Does the size of the firm matter?
Any organization (from startups and SMEs to large firms) that wants the benefits of a CBT can use one. Regardless of the size of your firm, your decision to implement a CBT should be made based on your employees’ travel patterns and how much of your travel can be booked online. If at least 60-70% of your bookings can take place online, your firm is a good candidate to adopt a CBT.
Startups and SMEs in particular can benefit from a CBT, since it provides them with a software infrastructure that they probably don’t have in house.
B. How expensive is it?
CBTs can be slightly complex to set up, and they often require specialized IT or development teams to install and manage them. So this might increase your personnel needs if you don’t already have staff who can take on this task. Aside from the personnel costs, the implementation price depends on the specific CBT you choose and the size of your business.
C. Are there specific features or possible integrations to look for in a CBT?
The third and most important step is to research the different tools available on the market to check if they fit your requirements. You can start by checking websites that review different CBTs—read the customer reviews and create a comparison document of the best booking tools. While doing this, look at the bigger details like price and flexibility first, and then narrow it down to the smaller requirements. Here’s a basic checklist of functionalities an ideal CBT should have:
◻ User-friendly website and mobile application
◻ Ability to customize the system based on your expense policies
◻ Access to preferred vendors and rates
◻ Integration with expense management systems
◻ Ability to generate powerful analytical reports
◻ 24*7 customer support (even better if the support is free)
◻ AI travel agents or assistants
So, you’ve found the right booking tool for your firm. Here’s what to do next:
Implement the solution you’ve chosen
Once you have zeroed in on your ideal CBT, reach out to their team for a thorough demo of their product. If you are still convinced that it is the right tool for your firm, go ahead with signup and implementation.
CBT providers normally provide educational content for your onboarding process, like technical documentation and videos. They should also set you up with a customer support contact who can help your team set up the system quickly. Once you are all done and ready to go live with the tool, test the features before releasing the tool for employee usage. Doing this will ensure that you identify any problem areas so you can sort them out before they turn into incorrect bookings.
Educate your employees
If your employees are used to open bookings or having their trips arranged by your in-house team, then you will need to help them transition to the CBT. You can start by making sure they are aware of the benefits that the CBT will bring them. Next, work with your travel manager or CBT provider to educate your employees through training sessions or documentation.
Frequent, effective communication will help your employees adopt your CBT quickly. By educating them and guiding them through the process, you can achieve maximum policy compliance and ensure employee satisfaction as well.
Here’s your takeaway!
Incorporating online booking tools into corporate travel programs is no longer just a good option—it is a necessity. Adding the right booking tool to your travel program will offer a better quality booking experience for your employees, while helping you increase policy compliance, offer top-notch duty of care, and reduce your travel spend.