In a previous blog post, I talked about how the growing use of ground transportation companies like Uber and Lyft are challenging the bureaucracies and taxi commissions with their new processes and ideas. The use of these new technology tools is now motivating associations like the National Limousine Association (NLA) and other ground transportation companies to pick up their game. In today’s fast-paced, app-centric world, this begs the question for those of us involved in the travel industry…how are these new options thought through in your organization, and more importantly, does your travel and expense policy address this change?
It’s exciting, and as I’ve said before, I love the new technology and what it’s capable of. But as someone who works with the travelers in your organization, the “shiny, new thing” needs to make sense for your business – is it saving the company money, allowing your employees to be more productive, and providing an effective way for your employees to travel?
Uber this...Uber that
Recently I was speaking with executives about their travel policy, and in a side conversation, one of the persons in the room spoke about how much he enjoyed using Uber for his personal transportation. Of course others joined in with their positive comments about the ease of the app use and its convenient pick-up. The conversation then moved to how employees were using it for their business needs, and subsequently submitting credit card receipts for reimbursement. I finally interrupted and starting asking them a few simple questions…did they have a taxi and/or sedan service that they were already working with? Was there a preferred supplier agreement with this company? Had they asked their preferred supplier if they could compete with Uber’s benefits? And was there savings in working closely with the preferred supplier to create a new way of transporting their employees?
I was met with blank stares and “we hadn’t thought of that,” responses. No one had taken a breath to look at the travel policy, and consider what time, control and cost impact this was having on their business.
New ideas are good, and with Uber working on developing a business-arm for their services, they are poised to have a tremendous impact on the corporate travel industry. Be prepared for this by considering what works best for your company. When we work with businesses and help them design their travel policy, we take the following ground transportation details into consideration:
Rental Cars – Depending on the size and scope of the event or project for which your employee is travelling, a rental car may simply be the best option for them. Questions to consider when designing your policy can include:
- What size vehicle do you allow your travelers to book?
- Should travelers elect to use the optional rental insurance offered by the rental agency?
- What is the authorization process for car rental reservations booked out of policy?
- What are your preferred car rental vendors?
Sedan Services – Typically used for executives, sedan services offer a wide variety of options that can include everything from a Mercedes sedan to a luxury van or coach bus. Since this service is more costly and not your typical ground transportation option, your policy needs to be clear on when travelers can book this service. In addition:
- Do you have any agreements with preferred sedan service vendors?
- When are travelers allowed to book outside of the preferred sedan vendors?
Uber and Other Transportation Network Companies (TNC) – Here’s where the big Uber question comes in. In some instances, Uber or a similar TNC like Lyft, is the best option for your travelers. These businesses are listening to customers and making smart decisions so you will consider them when you’re booking travel.
- How will this be addressed in your policy?
- And who will book this service – is it on a per employee basis, or does your TMC take on this task?
- When is a taxi a more reliable option?
Additional Considerations – The purpose of this portion of your travel and expense policy is to make decisions as easy as possible for your travelers. Clearly define the difference between what can be used for business and for personal use. Address items such as:
- Are travelers reimbursed for parking and/or ground transportation to the airport? What are the pricing limits/requirements for approval?
- Are meal costs reimbursable for travelers? Which meals and what are the requirements for approval?
- Do you allow travelers to be reimbursed for things like valet parking or parking tickets?
Once you allow the business travelers in your organization to make the decision to go outside of your established system for the next, “new thing,” your travel policy falls apart. Taking the time to address these questions in your travel policy encourages conversation about what’s best for your business, your travelers and your bottom line with regard to travel.
What’s next on the travel horizon? Change is constant. Encourage your travel squad to ask for feedback and continually ask questions about best practices for your travelers. Your travel and expense policy should always be evolving and meeting the needs of those who use it. Communicate with your employees and your travel management company about what works best for you, and then enforce it.