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Guest Post: Challenges and opportunities of SMB travel

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Guest Post: Challenges and opportunities of SMB travel

Businesses of all sizes have become more global in their outlook, says Dafydd Llewellyn, of SAP Concur

Last year, it was clear to SAP Concur that a large portion of the UK economy simply wasn’t being serviced when it came to business travel. Although small to medium sized businesses make up over 99 per cent of private sector businesses in the UK – and crucially employ over 60 per cent of all private sector workers – the business travel industry has been geared towards the larger end of the scale – the enterprise-size organisation.

What many providers of travel solutions need to realise is that businesses of all sizes have become more global in their outlook and structure, and all the while it is now far easier – and cheaper – for SMBs to travel.

But why do SMB companies need specific travel solutions?

A big part of answering this question is the flexibility needed by smaller businesses – which is something not often found in enterprise-focused businesses. This is where the data collection of Triplink, for example, comes into its own as one of the most important parts of an SMB travel programme, allowing spend to be captured from a huge array of sources. This then helps companies to save, remain compliant, provide duty of care and be more productive.

Furthermore, small businesses often don’t have a dedicated travel manager to oversee processes, meaning that other roles, such as HR, are drafted in to oversee travel, while employees themselves are tasked with finding and making appropriate bookings. This then relates to a lack of education too: how can you comply with international regulation or duty of care if you have no idea what they entail?

Another easily overlooked aspect of SMB travel is the role played by domestic routes. Just because a salesperson is travelling from London to Manchester, rather than Paris, doesn’t mean that their journey should not be planned, booked and overseen in the same way as an international trip. For many smaller businesses, these trips happen regularly.

What specific challenges can be faced by smaller businesses when travelling?

Firstly, companies without an effective travel solution tend to generate a huge amount of administrative work for themselves – including finding the right booking, paying for it and filling out their expense reports. Small businesses are often the most time-constrained, so this can result in more stress for the employee involved.

Secondly, the booking habits of SMBs – even more so than large organisations – mimic those of people booking for themselves. It is fragmented, destination-focused and often booked late. This then creates a black hole for money, with little-to-no visibility in where it is being spent until the expense report is begrudgingly filled in and submitted.

Duty of care also suffers without appropriate technology in place, you might be able to track a flight and find out when someone has checked into their hotel, but there’s a gap between these two points (more often than not in a cab) where that visibility is reduced to zero.

How is SAP Concur looking to tackle this?

As previously stated, it’s Triplink that holds the key to a successful SMB travel programme. It allows businesses to capture spend across an enormous ecosystem of partners, allowing a full, connected picture of the trip and its spend.

But Triplink is only as strong as the ecosystem surrounding it, which is why the partnering with Booking.com late last year has made such a tremendous difference to smaller businesses and their travel. Consumerisation and the desire to book in much the same way as you would at home is a major trend in business at the moment, so allowing businesses to book through booking.com and still capture spend is a powerful tool.

This spend capture can then be analysed to better the financial health of a business; but without this data, these insights just cannot be achieved. Data allows SMBs to make deals with chains they often use, avoid the more expensive options and ensure they are running a streamlined and effective travel strategy.

The partners and their subsequent data capture also positively affect duty of care usage. Using Uber as an example, an organisation can track the journey to ensure safety – with the direct expense integration just an added bonus. This awareness also means that an employee can be easily reached in case of an emergency, respond and even be pulled out by a security team if need be – by our recently launched Concur Locate solution.

Travel needs are universal

The way in which SAP Concur has set about putting together its comprehensive suite of travel products means that it can apply to a company of any size. We are working with partners best suited for smaller businesses (such as Booking.com), putting our emphasis on education and learning on how best to deliver a travel strategy that works and keeps your employees safe. This is then sold by our team of experts in the field of small and medium businesses. Travel is becoming more and more inclusive; we want to ensure that the insights, safety and ease of use when organising it are too.

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