A Happy Finance Team and Happy TravelersBy Emily Parker-Woodland, published on Dec 17, 2019
How Lola.com gave Plethora control over their corporate travel
As is so often the case, there was a single event that made Michelle King realize that her company’s travel program was broken.
Michelle, the Office Manager at Plethora, a San Francisco startup offering custom manufacturing, was responsible for managing the company’s travel and keeping travelers within policy. Operating manufacturing facilities on both coasts, Plethora's employees regularly travel to work with each other and to meet with clients. But as Plethora grew, she realized this task was getting harder and harder — too many trips to approve, and most of the were expenses coming in late.
And then one day it all came to a head.
An employee booked a flight that was a full $1,000 over policy, and Michelle wasn’t alerted to it until well after the fact. The company had to reimburse the budget-breaking expense, but they weren’t happy about it.
On that very day, Michelle knew she needed to find a better corporate travel management solution for Plethora.
Even before “that flight” Michelle was experiencing some turbulence managing Plethora’s travel process. She was diligent about updating the company’s two-page travel policy and making sure employees knew where to find it. But she realized that many employees read the policy once, and then never returned to it again, often disregarding it when booking travel.
While maintaining an organized, budget-friendly travel process was a big priority for Michelle, she could tell it wasn’t for the rest of the team.
“Employees may have read the travel policy once, but they weren’t going back to it with each booking. They were just booking what they thought was within policy without checking. And usually, the bookings were more expensive than what was allowed.”
Michelle had no way to see what was being booked until after a trip had taken place, so the company was spending too much money on travel, but they still needed to reimburse their employees. And the VP of Finance would come to Michelle when bookings were over budget to see what the cause was.
“Not only did I not know how much employees were spending on travel until after the trip took place, but I didn’t even know when employees were traveling. There was no way for me to see who was on the road at any given time, so it was impossible to monitor the whole process.”
But when the $1,000 overage occurred, Michelle knew she could no longer afford to kick the travel management can down the road. She immediately started looking for a travel management platform that would allow her to easily book on behalf of traveling employees and provide a lightweight way for them to book for themselves.
Plethora uses American Express corporate credit cards for business expenses, so Michelle decided to look into what AmEx offered for business travel. During her research, she came across American Express Global Business Travel’s partnership with Lola.com. The partnership was designed specifically to help growing companies, just like Plethora, better manage corporate travel. Michelle was delighted to discover that they offered all of the benefits she was looking for, and more.
- Control over travel spend and a better travel policy
With Lola, Michelle could enter the company’s travel policy on the Lola platform and employees would see what was in and out of policy during the search process.
- Special travel benefits
Michelle knew that with their corporate American Express cards, the company received a ton of special pricing. She was very pleased to learn Lola.com’s partnership offered exclusive rates for things like refundable flights that she couldn’t find anywhere else.
“Flights are changed and cancelled all the time, and we were paying a lot of extra money in those situations. With AmexGBT and Lola.com, we have access to refundable flights that are the same price as a nonrefundable flight. So we don’t spend any extra money, but we know our flight is protected if someone’s plans change.”
- Help from a travel agent while employees were on the road
At a previous company, Michelle used a travel agency to book her corporate travel and she loved the experience.
“I want to make business travel as easy as possible on our employees. Having a travel agent available 24/7 to help with any issues that come up is a way to make sure our employees are taken care of on the road and I wanted to introduce that experience into our company culture.”
Not only did Lola offer everything Michelle needed but it also gave Plethora extra benefits. Whenever an employee books a trip, Michelle, the VP of Finance, and the Director of HR get an email so they can see what is being booked in real time. If anyone books outside of policy, they can catch it right away and make the necessary changes.
“With the email notifications, I am able to keep track of what is being booked and how much is being spent at all times. And when I’m out or on vacation, the rest of the travel team gets the email and can still keep an eye on things without putting in any extra work.”
Even though it’s super easy for employees to book their own travel, some people prefer to have Michelle book it for them. Luckily, Lola.com make booking travel for her team simple and stress-free.
“Before Lola there was no way for me to book travel for others, the process would have been way too time consuming. Now I can do it in just a few minutes. I love knowing that I’m able to help the employee, and can still offer them the comfort, protection, and benefits they need while traveling.”
And, with real time visibility, Michelle is able to look at all the details and statistics about Plethora’s travel spend.
“The reporting features are great. I can see what department is overspending, who might need a refresher on our travel policy, and who is booking travel last minute. It allows me to understand what changes need to be made, and gives me confidence that I can answer any questions the Leadership Team might have.”
Using American Express Global Business Travel with Lola.com has turned Plethora’s travel and expense process from overwhelming to clean and organized. Michelle gets more information in less time than before, and her employees don’t have to spend hours searching multiple travel sites for the right options.
“AmexGBT and Lola.com provide a simple way to manage travel and expenses. It allows me to provide a good experience to the travelers and make sure our company isn’t overspending. It’s just made such a huge difference overall.”