'Control, Visibility and an App That Travelers Actually Love to Use'By Emily Parker-Woodland
How Lola.com became the “single source of truth” for all of Flywheel’s corporate travel reporting
Meet Steve Isom, the VP of Finance at Flywheel, a company that helps build, launch, and manage WordPress sites for their customers.
Steve started with Flywheel in August of 2018 and quickly realized that there was a huge problem with their travel process. Not only did employees hate booking business travel, but Steve had no visibility into travel spend, which made it impossible to forecast or report on.
With employees in eight countries, travel is a huge part of Flywheel’s annual budget. They have full-company retreats twice a year in Omaha — as well as two additional regional retreats — where as many as 40 people come in from all over the world.
All of these complicated travel logistics led Steve to search for a corporate travel solution almost as soon as he started.
The Challenge: A Painful Travel Management Platform That Employees Hated
Steve saw many issues with the way employees were booking travel and the way the Finance team was tracking and reporting on it.
First, Flywheel actually had a travel management solution in place that no one was using. As a company that prides itself on employee experience (they have an entire department devoted to it!) Steve knew Flywheel wasn’t living up to their core values in terms of their travel process.
As he dug deeper into the problems with the current travel solution, he realized that employees hated booking travel on their existing platform: they had negative experiences with customer service (and were charged every time they contacted them) and the only way they would use the platform was to have someone from Flywheel’s Employee Experience team book for them.
This situation frustrated the Employee Experience team because they were forced into being power users on a platform that did not meet their needs. When employees booked on their own using consumer sites, the Employee Experience team would be up at 3am dealing with flight cancellations bouncing back and forth between calling the airline and updating the traveler.
From the finance side of things, employees were returning from a trip with a stack of paper receipts and dropping them on the desk of the Accounting Manager with no context. She was left to sort through them all and guess who spent what and why.
“When people submitted expenses it was a mess. There wasn’t a single source of truth, everything wasn’t consolidated in the same place.”
Without being able to categorize the spend, Steve’s team couldn’t report on it accurately. They couldn’t forecast travel spend, and they had no idea what it actually cost to put on one of their quarterly employee retreats.
Part of the issue, Steve realized, was that the company had no formal travel policy. Employees were asked to “use their best judgement,” and in Flywheel’s case that meant employees booked super cheap travel because they didn’t want to do the wrong thing for the company. They weren’t staying in suitable hotels, they were taking inconvenient flights, and they were growing to hate traveling in general.
The Solution: A Corporate Travel Solution That Employees Actually Love to Use
Steve decided to find a better way to book and manage travel for Flywheel. He partnered with their Employee Experience Manager to make sure that they found something that worked for finance and the travelers. The two of them discussed the three main things they needed from a travel management platform:
VISIBILITY INTO TRAVEL SPEND. Steve needed to know what was being booked, how much was being spent, and he wanted to be able to categorize that information by department, client, trip, etc. He also needed a way to see what employees were booking, where they were, and when their trips were taking place.
EASE OF USE. Employees needed to be able to book travel for themselves and easily see what fell within the travel policy. That meant that Steve needed an easy way to set a travel policy that included guidelines but still allowed employees to have a good travel experience.
WORLD-CLASS SUPPORT. There are so many things that can go wrong during travel and Steve wanted to make sure that his employees felt comfortable contacting a support team, and that the support team could help them no matter what.
With help from the Employee Experience Manager, Steve demoed several travel management solutions before finding Lola.com. He found that Lola was the only product that gave him everything he wanted from the finance side and everything employees wanted from the traveler side. Other products he demoed just didn’t fit with Flywheel’s values.
“We were extremely skeptical about incentivizing employees to take less convenient travel for a small reward. We just knew that it wouldn’t provide a good experience for our travelers or the finance team.”
The Benefits: Self-Booking, a Clear Policy and White-Glove Service
Steve quickly learned that Lola gave him and Flywheel everything they needed. He was able to create a travel policy in minutes, see what was being spent in real time, and it was very easy to get employees to use the platform. They even enjoyed it!
“At Flywheel, our support people are called Happiness Engineers. Lola’s support is the same way and it really resonated with us. In fact, I collected some feedback from our users, and it’s all awesome. One person even asked how they can buy stock in Lola!`
Another thing that Steve loved about Lola was that travelers could book on their own, follow the policy, and feel good that they were doing the right thing for the company. Lola allowed Flywheel to empower their employees to book flights and hotels that worked for them, while still staying within the guidelines Steve set.
The level of service that Lola provides to Flywheel employees really stood out to the team too. Travelers felt supported and didn’t have any stress when they were on a trip. No matter what went wrong Lola had their back.
“One of the biggest reasons that we went with Lola was centered around the experience for our travelers. The simple, easy-to-use app was key.”
And of course, since Steve is the VP of Finance he loves the visibility and detail to which he can see the travel spend, and forecast for the future.
“When I first started at Flywheel and was trying to get a sense of what travel spend was for our events I couldn’t. If someone asked me how much we spent on flights for January’s retreat, I couldn’t answer that question. And now I can.”
The Result: Visibility, Top-Shelf Service and an App That People Love to Use
The whole company is now on the same page when it comes to booking and reporting on travel. Steve was able to provide a great solution for the team and knock his first big software implementation out of the park. And employees enjoy the process of booking travel, and don’t worry when a flight is delayed or cancelled.
“Not only does Lola meet the needs of the finance organization but it actually leads to a really really good experience for the traveler so you’re winning on both sides.”
By the Numbers
Number of Employees: 200
Number of Countries: 8
Number of Remote Employees: 40
Company Retreats (per year): 4