In the age of consumer empowerment, the consumer is God – whether in personal or professional life. Enter these new-age consumers – particularly millennials – into the workforce, and all the usual dynamics experience a massive shift. Welcome to the new world, where organisations are waking up to an era focussed on employee satisfaction; one where changes are seeping into every sphere of operations – right from employee rights and fulfilment to even employee responsibilities such as corporate travel.
There’s an app for everything
As business travel is becoming more common than before, professionals are increasingly looking for the same convenience they’ve become accustomed to in their personal lives. Given today’s easy access to tools and technology and the already pervasive presence of the internet, the boundaries of expectation in personal and professional lives were bound to blur and merge.
Let’s look at a few examples in our everyday life. Taking the simplest decision is now a matter of choosing from a multitude of options. Don’t feel like driving to work? No worries. Would you like an auto, cab (compact/ sedan), shared cab, zippy mobike or an eco-friendlier shared bus? Forgot something at home? Would it be quicker to drive over or have it professionally picked up and delivered? Hungry? You may forget all about your hunger by the time you even settle on what you’re most craving for.
Similarly, leisure travel too is all about clicking buttons – flight, stay, tourist attractions, local travel. It’s the life, as they say, and it’s unbelievably easy to get addicted. Business travel too, therefore, now necessarily has to come with just as many options. The well-heeled, well-travelled corporate traveller of today expects as much agility, convenience, speed and variety (of options) while scheduling a business trip as when planning an impromptu summer trip to Seychelles.
Changing demographics, surprisingly obsolete processes
Another important factor to note is that there’s now a much higher share of women entering the traveling business population than even a mere five years ago. Add the ensuing and varied family, risk and insurance, and regulatory compliance requirements into the mix, and it greatly increases the need for agile travel plans. Not just that, the sheer magnitude of the potential permutations and combinations is enough to send any hapless travel coordinator into shock.
At Happay, we recently commissioned a ‘State of the Indian T&E Expense Management’ study, where we interviewed 200+ finance decision makers. The findings were nothing short of jaw-dropping. 57% of the respondents had revenues exceeding INR 1,000 crore, with half of them being very large enterprises (annual turnover crossing INR 5,000 crore). Yet, 75% of the respondents reported that their travel claims process was still manually driven, with mandatory attaching of bills to paper vouchers.
Despite the aggressive penetration of computing and mobile technology across the country, merely 27% and 12% of companies support the use of desktops and mobile devices, respectively, for the purpose of recording travel claims. This overdependence on manual processing has multiple immediate implications – delayed claims, lost invoices, overdue approvals and painfully slow corroboration, to name a few. This, in turn, results in reduced employee productivity and efficiency, as a lot of time and effort is spent chasing documents and process owners. To make things worse, there’s the psychological impact of mounting frustration.
It’s time to go seamless – automate, integrate, migrate
To have a truly happy and optimally functioning workforce, it’s high time companies automated and mobilised their expense management systems. The bottom line is that given the enormous volume of business travel and the ginormous array of options available today, identifying the perfect fit is no longer a human task. Not just that, it’s practically impossible to maintain a physical record of every transaction that takes place during an official trip. The most optimum route to rationalising this process is, therefore, to automate it – right from raising travel requisitions and booking to claiming expenses on the go. AI capabilities help auto-populate expense details captured from SMS/ e-mail invoices and statements, flag policy compliance issues and allow as many modifications as required, saving hours of back-and-forth manual work.
The next step is to fluidify the process. Already tied up with a travel agency? Or addicted to checking out the best prices on aggregator sites? No problem. Who said they couldn’t all happily co-exist on a single platform? Cloud-based expense management solutions like Happay easily integrate with travel management tools your company uses.
Finally, there’s accessibility – no more limitations by way of physical documents, servers or closed office WANs. You can now access and update your business travel expenses anywhere, and at any time – literally on the go. Happay’s AI-powered system offers an unbelievable assortment of options to record expenses, thus completely eliminating the need to manually file expense claims.
So there you have it. In today’s frenzied era, time is the most precious commodity. Every effort should be made to save it, freeing up the workforce for as much real productivity as possible. Moreover, a traveller-focussed user experience is central to ensuring a successful travel program. It all starts with a strong employee focus and a very real interest in saving them the agony of chasing processes that are merely meant to support their core responsibilities. What do you gain in return? A happier, healthier and more efficient workforce, besides the power to control every business expense via real-time tracking and analysis and a centralised, end-to-end travel management workflow.