Goldie Locke & the 3 Barely Serviceable Travel Management Solutions
Most corporate travel solutions are too unwieldy or too opaque — is there an option that’s ‘just right’?
Meet Goldie Locke.
Goldie works in the finance department of her company, and she was recently tasked with finding the right solution to help manage corporate travel — from booking flights and hotels to forecasting travel spend and enforcing guidelines.
Goldie did some research and learned that there are three standard, yet vastly different options for corporate travel management:
1. Unmanaged — where employees book their own travel through consumer apps and provide receipts for reimbursement.
2. Corporate travel agency — where the company hires an external agency to help them book and budget business travel.
3. Enterprise software — where the company uses business software as the storehouse of their travel booking and reporting.
After spending quite a bit of time researching and testing these options, Goldie realized that they each have their own unique set of pros and cons. Well, mostly cons.
Consumer apps: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
The first option Goldie explored is the most straightforward, and potentially the most dangerous: unmanaged, or self-booked, travel. In this scenario, any employee who needs to travel for work simply books their own travel and accommodations and is reimbursed (hopefully!) after the fact.
Often called the “Wild West” option, unmanaged travel essentially treats corporate travel as an afterthought — travelers use a consumer tool (like Kayak or Google Flights) to book the option that best suits them. Sometime after the trip is complete – often months after — the employee submits receipts (if they have them) and their personal credit card is reimbursed for the expenses.
Pros: Low overhead; consumer-friendly booking tools; ability for employees to retain loyalty points
Cons: No visibility into travel spend; no company-wide guidelines to ensure consistent expectations; time lost by employees hunting for their own flights and getting approval; no assurance of cost-effective bookings; no insight into where and when employees are traveling
The Bottom Line: Unmanaged travel is the path of least resistance, and employees like it because tools like Kayak are user-friendly and familiar. But this decentralized approach means that Finance has no ability to forecast or control corporate travel spend, employees waste time navigating options, and there is no way to ensure consistency around booking guidelines and expectations, and no way to know where travelers are at any given point.
Travel Agencies: Leave it to the professionals?
The next thing Goldie learned is that many companies outsource corporate travel management to the pros — travel agencies. These organizations take on the ugly work of searching for cost-effective options, updating itineraries and offering support when travel plans (and options) inevitably change.
Pros: Access to industry experts; support when things go wrong; control over booking guidelines and policy
Cons: High variable costs; asynchronous conversations that can cause delays; frustrating booking experience for travelers, minimal ability to forecast travel spend
The Bottom Line: Corporate travel agencies can be an effective way for businesses to “fill the gap” between unmanaged travel and a more robust in-house solution, but they come with high costs and several key downsides. Corporate travel agents typically serve many clients, so they are not always able to book (or re-book) instantly. This time lag and asynchronous communication often deters employees from booking through the system, sometimes causing them to book on a consumer app anyway. Furthermore, corporate travel agencies typically report on spend retroactively, making it difficult for companies to forecast and control forward-looking travel spend.
Enterprise business software: Killing a fly with a sledgehammer
The final travel management solution Goldie learned about was enterprise business software, like Concur. Many companies rely on these vast, end-to-end solutions to handle different aspects of their finances and operations — benefits, time off, tax information, employee reviews and more.
Pros: Visibility into travel spend; integrations with expense management platforms; real-time booking options
Cons: Outdated, unwieldy interfaces; expensive and hard-to-reach support options; limited mobile accessibility
The Bottom Line: Business software platforms like Concur help companies manage many aspects of their operations, but they have proven to be an inelegant option for corporate travel management for several reasons. The most critical of these is their technical shortcomings — like poor UI and frequent outages — that cause many travelers to “go rogue” and book through consumer apps. This “leakage” not only makes it hard for companies to enforce consistent guidelines, but also obscures budgeting and forces employees to spend more time finding cost-effective options on their own.
Too light, too heavy and too removed
After reviewing each of these options, Goldie found herself forced to pick the least bad of three incomplete offerings. She went through her list of pros and cons and started to weigh them against one another.
Was it more important to find a solution that employees would actually use (consumer apps) or one that increased visibility into spend? Was it better to prioritize real-time support for travelers or a more effective way to enforce booking guidelines?
Goldie realized that whatever option she picked would come with some pretty serious drawbacks. She was preparing to give the bad news to her team when she came across a fourth option that could actually combine the advantages of the three options she tested and none of the shortcomings.
The rise of agile travel management
Goldie learned about agile travel management when she was researching user reviews of the enterprise software options. The review site directed Goldie to a page with review after review praising the corporate travel management solution for its exemplary customer service, elegant UI, clear guidelines, and top-of-the-line booking engine. She promptly requested a demo of the corporate travel management platform with the highest rating (Lola.com) to determine whether it was too good to be true.
Before the demo was even complete, Goldie knew that Lola.com was not too good to be true; it was exactly what it was promising to be: a super simple way to manage, book and report on corporate travel.
While the other options all had glaring shortcomings, Lola.com was able to combine the best of each option while removing the drawbacks. It was as easy (and fun!) to use as any consumer app (it’s designed by the folks who created Kayak, after all) while still providing companies with real-time visibility into spend. It connected travelers to live, 24/7 trained travel experts (at no extra cost) while enabling companies to easily establish and enforce booking guidelines.
Goldie was overjoyed. She went from dreading the conversation with her team about disappointing travel management options to feeling thrilled about how they would react to her recommendation to start using Lola.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of Goldie’s team was as enamored with Lola as she was. They signed up that morning and were booking flights by the afternoon. Three months later, Goldie and her team are as convinced as ever that corporate travel management software (like Lola) is the ‘just right’ solution to their corporate travel needs.