Managing employee expenses is one of the biggest challenges for a business. It’s a significant cost after all with research revealing it as both the biggest variable cost to an organisation, as well as the most unpredictable. Although companies are currently benefiting from much lower levels of spend due to the enforced travel bans, with vaccine developments it’s only a matter of time before employees start to travel for work again.
This is at a time when spend is also under intense scrutiny.
It’s no wonder that the pandemic has forced companies to review how they manage spend across their businesses and the systems used to facilitate this. Automated expense management software has benefits far beyond productivity and preventing error – it provides instant spend analysis and helps company leaders to understand what spend is necessary and what’s not. By gaining further insight into expenditure and the subsequent value to the business, companies are able to calculate customer acquisition costs (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLTV).
However, the unpredictable nature of business travel compromises the extent to which companies can control spend – particularly by ensuring employees spend within budgets and policies. That’s why we’re introducing the most intelligent Trip Request for our customers.
What is a trip request?
In the world of business travel, a trip request is the process by which employees request pre-approval of travel based on certain criteria. It’s the approval of principle more than anything.
For the employee needing to travel, the typical scenario would involve them searching across multiple booking sites to research the cost of flights, hotels and so on, then filling out an online form in a different system to send for approval. Once approval is received, they would then use their company’s online booking tool to book all travel. Often by which point, costs have risen and the original request is already redundant.
But that’s not all. All receipts and invoices from the trip need to be processed for expense reclaim or reconciliation, meaning approval for the spend is sought once again. Just explaining it creates a headache let alone having to actually go through the process.
A more intelligent trip request
The main problem with a process such as this, is that it fails to solve the problem it was originally designed for. By using multiple systems, each data set becomes isolated, resulting in either a huge admin effort to marry up whether the spend matches the original trip request, or non-compliance. The lack of visibility of what spend was requested against the actual amount spent eliminates all possibilities to control costs.
SalesTrip’s intelligent trip request removes the timeout risk or endless loop of the traditional pre-trip approval process. All administered through a single trip management page, employees are able to research, suggest and request a trip budget directly against the specific business purpose such as a customer or project. The amount is then reviewed by the designated manager in the same place, enabling the trip booking to be made if approved. In a single view:
- Enable managers to review trip requests against operational and revenue data
- Approve or reject requests at the touch of a button whether on desktop or mobile
- Track spend all the way from requested spend through to planned and actual spend
- Calculate the ROI of travel spend in the context of business growth
Business leaders can take back control of costs with a system that’s easy for employees to use and gives approvers the real-time visibility they need for improved efficiency and accuracy. Let’s look at how.
Here you can see how the employee accesses the trip request form via the business purpose – in this case, a sales opportunity where an onsite visit is needed. Having researched the cost of flights and accommodation in SalesTrip, the amounts are simply entered and then submitted for approval.
After this, the approving manager is then presented with the same view but can see the value of the sales opportunity, its current stage and other critical information to assess whether the trip is necessary to close the deal.
The spend was approved and so now the employee is able to book the travel, still within the sales opportunity, but all the while with visibility of the approved budget. You can see above that any options out of budget are highlighted and unable to be booked ensuring policy compliance.
Dynamic approvals for faster trip management
The other frustration we hear about the trip request process is the static nature of approvals. Typically, the line manager and head of function are the only ones who can approve travel requests. Whilst this is often an appropriate line of command, it’s restrictive and doesn’t always consider the budget owner. Ultimately, the spend comes out of someone’s budget whether sales, marketing or general operations.
That’s why with SalesTrip’s trip request you can specify an approver based on certain criteria. For example, you want the approver of a sales rep’s travel to a prospect meeting to be the regional or territory manager responsible for the revenue in that region. But a sales rep’s travel to a marketing event should be routed to the marketing budget owner for approval.
But why does it matter?
As a marketing budget owner, I have a very real example.
My team diligently track all campaign activity and spend in Salesforce so that we’re able to look at the return on that spend by reviewing how much pipeline and revenue was generated as a result. Take an industry event where we’re represented by employees from across multiple departments. At previous companies, I would often get blindly hit with big expense bills after an event. People had turned up who weren’t supposed to, people had exceeded hotel budgets and there were one too many excessive bar bills.
I had no visibility of this spend being incurred. I only knew of the fact after it was too late to intervene, by which point the costs added up the same amount I could have spent on a lead generation campaign.
Now with SalesTrip I have total visibility of any spend logged against marketing campaigns, whether planned or actual. I can intervene where necessary and have a real-time view of total costs for budgeting purposes. In one instance, a colleague had extended their business trip to a San Francisco-based event via New York for personal reasons. And flying business class. It was not recorded as ‘bleisure’ and significantly increased the cost of the flight and total cost of campaign. It was not too late to rectify and ensure the trip costs were back within budget.
I may have been unpopular, but the event remained in budget and the individual action didn’t compromise further revenue generating activities.
Sound familiar? We’d love to explore any similar issues you may have encountered. And if you’d like a demo of our intelligent trip request, contact us here.