You’ve revamped your travel policy so it’s simpler and more flexible. Now what? Weave your policy directly into the employee booking experience, so you never have to chase down a non-compliant employee again.

Webinar Transcript:

Angelina:          Hi everyone. Thanks for joining our third webinar, automating your travel policy with TravelBank, a walk through of how to apply your customized travel policy to the TravelBank app. You can shift your compliance to be a little bit more enjoyable than the ones in the past. Now we’re going to start with a couple of introductions. I am Angelina, head of product at TravelBank. I was also on webinar one. Hopefully you guys remember that. My background is in statistics and most recently I was in a product role at TripAdvisor. Probably the most interesting bit about my background was that I was notoriously bad at following travel and expenses policy in my prior role. I think I mentioned this in webinar one too, but just to sort of reiterate my passion for TravelBank and also travel and expenses product is because I was always traveling to Australia and it was really hard to keep track of all of the travel expenses and receipts and all that.

Angelina:          Solving that policies and enforcement and receipt capture, all of that problem, was very relevant to me and exciting to me. Today I’m really excited to share with you live demos, which I think is the most fun part of our job. Just one more person that is going to be our co-presenter today is our product manager James.

James:              Thanks, Angelina. I’m James and I’m a product manager here at TravelBank. Previously I worked as a technology consultant and I focused on creating digital experiences and improving processes across many different industries. Today I’m here at TravelBank to create a travel and expense management solution that is delightful for every business user.

Angelina:          Awesome. Thanks for that James. In our previous two webinars we explained how to create a flexible policy that’s good for your employees as well as your business. We highlighted a few real customer stories. Hopefully these were really helpful and relatable for you guys. Today we’re going to discuss specifically how it can be implemented via TravelBank.

Angelina:          For our questions later on, before we jump into content, a few housekeeping items. We’ll be taking questions throughout the webinar and answering them at the end of the presentation. If you have any questions, you can submit them via the chat function on your right and we will answer them, as many as we have time for, today. Also you know, just work with us today and feel free to take notes, but we’ll also send you the recording for your reference so you’ll have that material really easy and available for you in the future.

Angelina:          Today I want to quickly sum up our agenda for today. We’re going to talk about, step-by-step, how to automate your new and improved travel policy with TravelBank app. We understand that we’ve probably set up policies in the past and it was a very manual process and probably a bit clunky. Hopefully today we’ll show you an alternative that’s seamless and automated and concrete on ways to set that up in TravelBank.

Angelina:          First I’m going to cover setting policies within the app. Second we’re going to delve deeper into the budgets and flexibility, which we know is the meat of the policies and what’s most important for you as admin. Third and fourth are my favorite topics. Third being the employee’s experience in booking process. You don’t have to sacrifice your booking experiences to really abide by policies that really works for the business. As well, notifications and approvals is something that we take care of for all of you, that’s maybe the manager, the employee or the admin, to make sure that these policies are followed and enforced in a painless and seamless automated way. Finally, the auditing and reconciliation of your policy is a must have. We understand that being proactive isn’t enough, so we want to make sure that we highlight some of our data and analytics platform as well.

Angelina:          First I can walk through the setting up of the policy within our app. I’m going to switch over to TravelBank app. This is where you would land on TravelBank. As an admin you would have a couple more options than your employees or managers might have. Left hand side, you have company settings. This is where you would interact with those admin capabilities. Today we’re going to laser focus on your travel and rewards policy. I think one of the other things to highlight is if you were to land on on TravelBank as an admin with an interest to create a company, you would go through an onboarding process. You won’t be landed here. You would have a lot more context of what you were guided to walk through. Here we’re going to click into travel and rewards policy, to highlight what’s underneath that. We have a rewards program and we have a few travel policies that’s created in the prior, so that we can walk through that and more in depth with you with James later, as well as our default travel policy and how to add a new travel policy.

Angelina:          I want to quickly make sure to recap the motivations of our users and why you set up these policies and how you find them on company settings. We talked a lot about how clunky and even finding a travel policy set up can be a really difficult process in the prior tools. We’ve really simplified and laser focused on the most important topics that most commonly used topics. The smaller companies or the bigger companies that are really launching these seamless, streamlined travel policies can take advantage of really ease of use, setting up with the policies. We are really focusing on getting rid of clutter, getting to your policies quickly, setting them up really easily. This all can be done really seamlessly. This is a quick highlight of what that looks like. I’m going to hand off to James to walk through that a little bit more in depth.

James:              Awesome. Thanks Angelina. Now that we know a little bit about the travel policy, let’s jump in and see what makes up a travel policy. We’re going to take a look at the default travel policy here for this organization. You’ll see three sections. We have a policy for flights. We have a policy for lodging. We can see all the employees in the policy. Each employee can only be part of one policy, but you can select them and manage them here. What goes into a policy? Looking at the flight policy, the first section is setting a budget for flights. A budget is one of the most important things for TravelBank. What this is, is a dynamically generated real time number for the average cost of flights for the route that the user selected. Instead of it being an arbitrary, don’t spend more than this number, we’re using the fare class that the admin gets to set, and the number of stops, and the user search criteria. We generate that number in real time so that this can be an actionable number, an actual dollar amount for your traveler.

Angelina:          Yeah. I think that takes the burden off of the admins to come up with the numbers to enforce and doing these calculations on one off beforehand. I think this is one of the key features that we take that burden off of the admins and the finance professionals and we’ll take care of that for you.

James:              Yeah, absolutely. Here, taking a look at fare class, you have your expected options from economy through first-class. We recommend economy for vast majority of cases. Depending on your organization, this is something that maybe, more senior team members, business class might fit them better. Economy tends to be the standard. For number of stops, nonstop is what is typically recommended as well. Depending on your company’s values, if you tend more towards cost savings over time savings, the number of stops might be something that you play with a little bit.

James:              Once you have the budget set up, then you have booking rules that you get to apply on top of those budgets that make up the policy. Here we have just underneath, three different booking rules. We have the advanced booking requirements, flight costs hard cap, and budget flexibility. The advanced booking requirement is something that you can toggle on and off for this policy. Basically this will incentivize good flight purchasing behavior. You can push for your travelers to book further out in advance. As most of us know, two weeks tends to be the amount of time within which flight prices will start going up rather dramatically. Getting your organization into a pattern of booking flights in advance can really impact your travel costs.

Angelina:          Yeah, and I think it’s important to highlight that we are recommending these requirements but of course we understand there are exceptions and you can definitely book flights within a shorter time period. James will highlight that down the line as well.

James:              Yeah, definitely. The next one we have is the flight cost hard cap. We talked about the budgets being dynamically generated, real time and based on the route that the user is looking at. This incorporates a lot of seasonality. An example we like to give is, say you’re traveling and you need to be in San Francisco while Dreamforce is going on. You’d imagine those flights are going to be pretty expensive, but the budgets will incorporate that information. The user will still be compliant by booking under budget, but maybe this is a high spend event. We’ll see finance teams typically like to play with this a booking rule. What this will do is give the finance teams a flag for a high spend event. Say anything more than a thousand dollars, I want to be informed so I know that we’re spending high, or maybe this is something that a manager needs to review because, do we really need to be taking that trip? It’s no longer just the employees compliance within the booking experience.

James:              Last but not least, we have budget flexibility. If you want to give your employees a little bit of flexibility on the budget, say you’re confident that they’re being compliant with the rules and you don’t need to be so strict on compliance within the budget parameters, or you’re okay with them if they find a inexpensive premium economy seat that they want to upgrade to that’s just barely out of budget, you can set a percentage of buffer before it triggers any policy rules. That can be either a percentage or a dollar amount.

James:              We’ll talk a little bit about notification approvals settings a little later on in the presentation. For now we’ll save that and that flight is now applied to all users within this policy.

James:              One thing I want to touch on before we jump over to the employee experience is the budget for lodging. Similar to how we set up the budget for flights, lodging takes two pieces of information to generate real time budgets for hotel searches. As an admin, you can set the star class for the hotel for your employees, and it uses the average for those star ratings, and for hotels within a mile radius. In the past we’ve seen a lot of cases where organizations will have a set static number of four per city that they see frequent travel to, but they won’t have that seasonality built in. Having a hotel class recommendation and having that distance from search location brings in the seasonality, that flexibility, and compares it to real results rather than static data.

James:              What you need to know around this… We talked a little bit about what goes into creating a budget and why that’s important as a baseline. Next up we’ll see what that looks like for an employee. Also we talked about the booking rules. The first one being the advanced booking rules. Some of the advantages to having that turned on for employees that are booking flights, to get you in a good habit of booking in advance. We also talked about hard caps and how that could be a useful tool for finance to flag high spend events and also put something through review with managers before they can be purchased. Lastly, adding flexibility into your budget. You know your team best and every organization is different. This will just give you the opportunity to fit the budget a little bit more towards your organization.

Angelina:          I think it’s important to note the budget flexibility really gives you an ability to make sure that you stay within the common sense. I think the common sense factor is literally built in as a budget flexibility feature within our policy.

James:              Next, let’s take a look at the employee experience with the booking process. We’ve set this up and we’ve updated the policy as an admin. For an employee, what does that experience look like? Let’s take a look at a flight. We’ll go from San Francisco to New York. Let’s pick a date further out in advance, maybe sometime in February. We’ll hit search. Very quickly these results come back. You’ll see on the top right, a one way company policy with the number $157. Here’s your budget for that searched route. If you’re a brand new employee and this is the first time that you’re using the tool, the first thing you would see is your travel policy modal right on top of your search results. This will help ground the employee in what policy do I have to abide by and where did that information come from? You’ll see that one $157 and information on where that came from. We have nonstop con me flights for the route that I searched and the date that I searched.

Angelina:          I think that’s very important because if you were to tell the employee about your travel policy like three weeks before they are going on a trip and then by the time that they’re making a booking for flights, they probably forgot what that policy was. Reminding them what the travel policy is, right when they’re searching to book a flight, I think is a very important way of communicating that policy to the employees, to make sure that you get the right enforcement and you don’t have to do much to stay in that budget policy that we talked about.

James:              I think understanding where that number comes from is also pretty important as well, knowing that the criteria comes from nonstop economy flights versus just something arbitrary.

James:              The second piece for this policy is the advanced booking requirement. Just a reminder that this is your company policy. Since we’re booking way out, it doesn’t trigger this issue. We’ve got it, let’s take a look. As you saw, we can easily go back to that information, but for first time employees, that’ll be the first thing that they see. Our flight results for the route we’ve searched, starred neatly laid out by fare class, by airline, by option. If we were to select something within policy, we can continue, see more information and it’s all very straightforward. Let’s try to push our policy a little bit and pick out something that’s a premium economy flight that’s over budget. Here you can see, as you’re looking at the flight details, we have a gentle nudge that you’re now outside of policy when you’re reviewing this option and that this is about $66 above. As a user, now the context is starting to come through with the policy and the booking experience. If that’s still something that I want to select, I can go ahead and select my flight. Once we get to this checkout screen, you can see that policy nudge is a little bit more apparent. On the right section of the screen you can see that you are $66 over budget and you’ll need to request manager approval in this case, and in red text, a little bit more in your face.

James:              We talked a little bit about the employee experience here and we’ll continue the flow in a second. Just to come back to this. A few of the ways that we make the policy that you created a little bit more integrated into the booking process. The first tool that we use is the policy education in app. The first screen that the employee will see when they perform a search and also something that they can go back to whenever they’re booking travel or researching their next business trip. In addition to that, we have the budget displayed cleanly within the app and over-budget flags, indicators and other nudges built seamlessly into the booking experience. The goal here is not to get in the way of the user booking, but inform the user as they’re making a booking decision so that they can make the best choice for them and also your organization. Angelina talked about this a little bit before, but we think this is a really big deal for compliance. Instead of having to go somewhere else and dig through a Google Drive to find your travel policy and find a few lines of text that are applicable to the trip you’re trying to take, having all of that directly in the app and related to your booking research, makes it very easy for the user to make the right decision and be informed.

Angelina:          Yeah, and I think that loops in with the admin experience with that we talked about as well, because now your compliance doesn’t have to be so painful anymore.

James:              Next step, let’s take a look at… Oh, and here are… This is just a quick look at what that booking experience looks like on our mobile devices. You can see that budget in the top right, no matter what platform you’re searching on.

James:              Let’s take a look at notifications and approvals. Going back to the employee booking that we have here, we’re a little bit over budget. We’ve picked a premium economy flight and we know at this point that we have to go through manager approval. Let’s finish the checkout flow and then request that. The first block here with travel information, one thing I like to highlight is that we support booking for more than one profile. You can book for yourself as we will in this case, but if I’m an executive assistant or a travel manager for a team, I can manage multiple profiles pretty easily all in one place here. I’ll select myself and you’ll see further at the bottom, additional booking details. This organization was set up to include a required drop down field for travel purpose.

James:              The admin said, I want to make sure that every booking that comes through tells me why they’re going this trip. The admin set it up with all the dropdown options. You’ll see some categories here. For different organizations this could be different things. We can pretend these numbers are charge codes for example. We’ll pick a conference and request that flight approval. This will be just another reminder that because you’re over budget, you will need to get approval from your manager. You need to provide a description for why you’re making this request, just to give your manager some context. We’ll put in-

Angelina:          I really like this because, in the past, you would find a flight, copy the details and put it into an email and probably send it to your manager, right? Basically all of that process is done for you here within one platform, which then you don’t have to flip back and forth between your research. You don’t have to dig up your email and all that.

James:              Let’s submit that for approval. Quick and easy, this flight is now pending approval from the manager. As the employee that requested, I can always come back to my travel section and review my trips. Here is a flight request that we’ve submitted and the status you can see is pending manager approval. Who did this request go to? Well we said manager, but as an admin you have access to the employee directory and you can set up the relationship for approvals for every employee within your organization. You can assign an employee a manager and if you don’t elect to assign them a manager and leave that blank, then this request will be available for all the admin team to approve or decline. Imagining that we’re that manager now, on the top left, you’ll see a Manage tab. Clicking in, this is where the managers will see their approvals. That flight request that we just submitted over here, and we can click in to see more information.

James:              This will look very similar to the checkout screen for the employee’s original request. As a manager, you can see all the nuance detail of the segment of flight that the user was trying to book. The important thing of course, is on the right giving manager information about why did this request come through? Well, let’s see. This user was $66 over budget. Here was a flight budget and here was the total cost. Here was their reason.

Angelina:          Will we get it approved?

James:              I think not. Okay. It’s just that easy. From the employee’s standpoint, now that trip is updated in their trip section. You’ll see the request is declined and you’ll get that manager note for why it was declined.

Angelina:          What happens if you get it approved James?

James:              Well, once it’s approved, then this will be a general flight card. The flight will be automatically booked and be displayed down below.

Angelina:          They’ll also get email confirmations. It would be as if you were booking any normal flight on our app.

James:              Yep. It’ll be available on all platforms for you to review.

Angelina:          Exactly.

James:              Then at this point, I can elect to delete my request and move on or use this to trigger another flight search so I can pick something that is maybe a little bit more reasonable for my team’s budget.

James:              We talked about the employee experience, the manager approval. Let’s go back to what the admin had to do to set this up. If we go back to our default travel policy, at the bottom of both the flight and lodging policies, you’ll see the notification and approval section. Notifications and approvals both have a sliding scale of being for triggering for no cases at all through every booking that happens through TravelBank. This is up to you and whether or not you want to trigger notifications for your employees’ bookings. What we typically recommend, especially if you’re just starting out, is to get notifications for all bookings. This will not block travelers. It’ll just keep your management team and admins informed.

James:              On the approval side, it’s pretty much the same. You can disable approvals entirely or trigger them for all bookings. A combination that we’ve seen that works really well if you’re just starting out with TravelBank and you’re a little bit smaller, is try triggering notifications for all bookings and seeing what kind of behaviors and booking patterns your employees have and degree of compliance, without having approvals enabled. That gives you information so you can start tweaking the policies that you have. Of course, if you know what to expect from your employees and you know what policy works, then triggering approvals only when they’re out of policy is a really good way to approach this as well.

James:              Okay. We went through a lot regarding notifications and approvals. We started out with the employee experience and saw that go all the way through the manager. We know that those approvals are going to be set up by the admins and employees will be assigned managers to approve. If not, it falls back to the admins. You can set that up all in the employee directory. You can set up notifications and approvals to match the policy that you’re trying to create for your org. The approvals will trigger, depending on what you set up. If it’s out of policy, that was the experience that we went through where the employee was kept informed and the manager had insight into what the employee was trying to do.

James:              We saw how easy it was for the manager to approve or decline an employee request. We gave them all the information around the flight that the employee wanted to book and why they wanted to book it, and armed them with the information to make that yes or no decision.

James:              Most importantly, the employee experience. As you saw, we kept the employee informed throughout the booking process on what would trigger the approval, what would be out of policy. We wanted to keep it a delightful and straightforward experience so that… There are definitely going to be cases where there’s justification for going out of compliance with a policy. Making it very easy for them to do, provide the information needed, keep the manager informed and get that flight booked.

Angelina:          Cool. Thanks for that James. I think what James has done is a really wonderful way to walk through how to prevent someone to be doing an unwanted travel policy behaviors or booking something without knowing what the policy was.

Angelina:          Now let’s talk about a little bit, what happens after or how to sort of audit and reconcile your policy. I think that one of the biggest tools that we can use is the Analytics tab that we have. We sort of walked through it earlier, right under the Company Setting tab you have an Analytics tab within TravelBank, which displays a little bit high level visualization of things like, how much your hotel and flights spend were, how much the benchmarks were, and the bookings by airline, hotel, by city and my favorite is who are the top spenders. I think that’s going to give you a way to pinpoint who the outliers are and who the bad actors are, if you’re looking for that and how you are doing in aggregate. It’s a really easy, scannable way to understand where your travel policy stands.

Angelina:          This can be delved down deeper by department or booking date if you’re looking for that, as well as there is a flight list and hotel list and cars list set where you can see really granular detail and data which you can export it to a place where you were already doing a data visualization and you can use that. Also you can see things like why certain booking details were tagged and which dates that they were flying, which segments that you were flying, and all of that nitty gritty detail. I think those are also important down the line because you might want to perform your own analysis or we can digest that information and work with our visualization tool side to make that always better. For this specific feature, we’re really excited to see what’s in store for 2020. We’re looking to improve that in this year pretty significantly.

Angelina:          I think that captures the retroactive looking at where the Analytics dashboard is and how to use the travel data. I think we can spend probably hours on end on separate data, but at least this is the place that you can easily digest and download that data if you need that.

Angelina:          Now let’s take one step back and take a look at all of the things that we discussed, James.

James:              Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully today’s session gave you a sense for our goal in creating a easy and delightful experience for admins, managers and employees when it comes to travel policy. We talked a little bit about the admin, how straightforward it was to create policies and how flexible it was with your budget flexibility, the different booking rules you can layer on, and tweaking notifications and approvals, and all the different ways you can set up a travel policy. We went through the manager’s experience of going through an approval and we saw how much information we provided to the managers so that they can stay informed and have all the right information they needed to make that yes or no decision on the fly. Then lastly, but arguably the most important, is the employees. We walked through the booking process and saw how easy it was to perform a flight booking, but also saw that layered with the travel policy that we created. We blended the two in a way that didn’t get in the way of the employee booking, but kept them informed so that they can make the right decision for their travel and for your organization.

Angelina:          Awesome. Thanks for that really helpful recap. Now, quickly, before we head into the Q and A session, I want to remind you that if your company chooses to work with TravelBank, you’re eligible to earn 1% back on travel booked through our platform. If you would like to learn more about this offer, it’s as easy as emailing and mention this webinar.

Angelina:          Now, let’s quickly take look at the Q and A sections that we have. I’m going to go through the first question, which is, I’m not sure if I should start with all trips requiring approval. What do you suggest? I want to highlight what requiring all trips would mean. If you require trip approval for all trips, that means that every employee looking to go on a trip will trigger an approval process that would have to be either approved or declined by the manager, which means you’re putting in a little bit more hurdles for booking and spending the travel money. That makes sense if you have a really high control appetite, if you’re really optimizing for never having a bad habit or looking to optimize for the dollar savings. If that is not your priority and if you have a little bit more lax policy and need for travel, it probably isn’t a great fit for you. The best thing to do here is talk to your key stakeholders about the scenarios and walk through the scenarios with your key stakeholders and see if it makes sense. If you’re not sure if this is the right way to go, then again, we have TravelBank recommended travel policy that you can leverage as well as a starting point.

Angelina:          Second we have, can we have more than one travel policy in TravelBank app? James, you want to take that one?

James:              Yeah, sure. The answer is absolutely. You can have as many policies as you have employees. We’ll see… A lot of companies will start, especially if they’re smaller, they’ll have one policy that works for everybody within their organization. For larger organizations or growing companies, we’ll see that begin to be split up by department, by seniority level, and sometimes by travel frequency. Of course, the employees can only be assigned to one travel policy each. At the end of the day, only admin users can see which travel policies are assigned to which users, vice versa, what they’re named and what goes into them, except for the travelers that are exposed to the policy when they start researching.

Angelina:          Cool. I think… The next one is, do I have to create a travel policy to get started? I think that one is super simple and we’re really excited to share that one with you. We understand that not everyone spends their days thinking about what’s the best travel policy, what’s the right fit for your company. We’ve set up a custom travel policy or default TravelBank recommended travel policy, which is a great place to start. It is based on the most common parameters for existing business travel. This should cover you for your starting point and see how that performs. Again, making a change for that is super easy and simple. You can take time to observe how your company is doing under that policy and make an adjustment as you see fit.

Angelina:          Cool. We are going to move down the list, which is… The next question is, are the average fares pre-compiled or are they calculated from results of any specific search? You want to take that?

James:              Sure. The average fares are not pre compiled. They’re calculated off of the real time data. The way we do this, is we pull the flight search and at the time of search, we take a look at all the flight results that fit the parameters of the policy that the user has selected and weight those results and provide the budget from there.

Angelina:          Cool. I think that’s… We highlighted that a little bit during our session too. I think that’s an important thing that we do to make sure that whatever is happening in certain cities, if there are conferences that are really large, there is high demand and the pricing is a little bit unexpectedly high, then we reflect that in our budget.

Angelina:          I think the next one that we will do… We have a question, is there a way to make additional booking details mandatory for all employees? You want to take that too?

James:              Yeah, sure. The case that we walked through was an organization where the additional booking details is created and mandatory for all employees. This is something that you can set up as an admin and use data with whatever you see fit. We talked about it as travel purpose being the mandatory field, but what you can toggle is, the name of the field, the options within that field, and whether it’s required or optional. A little bit of flexibility there for you.

Angelina:          Awesome. I think this would be the last question. Do you have the means to compare lost opportunity, IE, what was the average price among carriers that were not selected to given market? I think I briefly mentioned that on the Analytics tab. We calculate average price and capture that data for each search or each budget that we show the user. That is captured throughout the life cycle or throughout the booking process of the user. We capture that during the search. We also capture that during the checkout. We also store that in the Analytics. If there has been, at any time, that the finance professional needs to go look at that in aggregate, what the missed opportunities were, if you’re below or above that, that’s really simple to do. As well, a manager can take a look at if your employee has booked above budget or below budget and how much the benchmarks were for each trip. I think that’s something that you can easily find in our Analytics or Your Bookings tab.

Angelina:          I think that’s all we have time for today. Thank you so much for joining us today and look out for our follow up email that will include the recording of the webinar, as well as all of the resources that we mentioned today. Thanks everyone.

James:              Thank you.

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