Case study

The new frontier of travel management cost control

January 23, 2020

The virtuous circle of using technology to automate processes and drive down business travel costs has been at the core of the relationship between Neo and a leading professional services firm, which began 10 years ago.

When the customer first moved to the online booking tool (OBT) in 2009, online adoption was only 55% but this has now reached 90% for airline bookings while compliance levels are up to 99% for flights – key goals for the customer.

But this is far from the end of the journey. The customer is continuing to work with Neo to find new innovative technological solutions to drive even higher rates of automation and adoption – not just to save money but also to enhance the booking experience for travellers.

This includes further improving the approval process and integrating more content, such as ground transportation, to achieve a truly seamless “end-to-end” and simplified solution for travellers, as well as enhancing the flow of data back to the customer .

The goal has been to create a solution so good, employees would not even think about going elsewhere to book their travel.

A need for online adoption in a global company
The customer is one of the world’s largest professional services firms. Its UK division has been working with Neo for the past 10 years with travellers using the OBT to plan their trips. This contract also applies to the firm’s operations in 12 Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The Global Business Services and Travel Leader says one of the main reasons for moving to Neo was to increase online self-booking by travellers.

“We had achieved a level of adoption with our previous online booking supplier that was OK and middle of the road, but we wanted to push on to drive use of online further,” he explains.

A SIZABLE UK TRAVEL PROGRAMME

Active traveller profiles: 15,300

Annual travel spend: £90 million

Air sectors: 100,000 per year

Room nights: 180,000 per year

Rail transactions: 250,000 per year

Saving on indirect costs and processing

The goal of increasing online adoption has certainly worked for the customer with the percentage of bookings through Neo now reaching 82%, including 90% for air bookings, 78% for hotels and 70% for rail.
There has also been a complete turnaround in self-booking, with 73% of all transactions now completed by travellers. In 2009, travel arrangers made 80% of bookings with only 20% self-booked.

Around 10% of airline bookings are still completed over the phone; mostly for itineraries involving complex multi-sector itineraries.

Using Neo has also helped to push up compliance levels to new heights – reaching 99% for flight bookings, 95% for hotels and 85% for rail journeys priced at more than £50.

Another major advantage has been the streamlining and automation of the “purchase to pay” process. Previously, travellers would book using a corporate card and then expense it before getting reimbursed.

This cumbersome process has now been replaced by a three-step “book, validate and fly” system, with account and job codes automatically integrated into the booking. This automation was made possible through the customer’s IT department working with the Neo technology team and its corporate card provider (American Express).

“At point of sale, they book, they validate the code and they travel,” explains the customer. “That validation goes through Neo to the TMC and on to the Amex lodge card, with that data coming back as an automatic file straight to our ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. Instead of going through a five or six-stage process, there’s a three-step process.”

This system is so effective in driving higher adoption that the customer no longer needs to examine all bookings for compliance, saving considerable time and resources. Instead, there is now only scrutiny on the rare occasions when a traveller expenses an airfare booked outside the system.

Working with Neo to increase self-booking has been so successful the professional services firm no longer measures the direct savings using an OBT because they are seen as “a given”.

Partnering for better productivity and innovation

Getting access to the right travel content was a prime motivation of moving to Neo, explains the Global Business Services and Travel Leader for the firm, who managed the transition process 10 years ago.
He says the previous US-based technology supplier was unable to offer key travel content, such as low-cost carriers and UK and European rail operators.

“Our previous supplier was not able to offer this type of content and was also not developing quickly enough in that direction,” he adds.

Offering an “end-to-end experience” for travellers was also crucial, while choosing a supplier to work with as an ongoing partner – rather than just providing a product – was also important.

“The difference in attitude and approach from the Neo team was much better in our experience,” he adds . “They are very good partners and very willing to work with us to develop the booking experience.”

Change management is the key to success

When moving to Neo, the customer’s internal project team concentrated on communicating and training travellers on the new booking tool using its network of key travellers and bookers to spread the message. There were also user groups plus regular web sessions and videos to talk travellers through using the Neo platform.
“We did all these different things to get people comfortable with the new system,” explains the customer. “We didn’t want to bring in a new system only for people to say they don’t like it and we’re not using it. We spent a lot of time and effort taking our employees on the journey with us.

“This was really important for us as we wanted to maintain our existing user base and didn’t want to drop anybody on the way.

“If you change the mindset, and give them a better experience they will come on the journey with you.”

The next frontier of travel savings

One of the areas that the customer is working on with Neo is to integrate more bookable ground transport suppliers as the final piece of the puzzle to complete a true “end-to-end” travel service.
“The end-to-end experience is particularly important for people travelling to new destinations,” says the firm. “Ground transport in a serviced environment is an area that’s lacking. Neo has the capability to change this. At the moment, the tool shows a great end-to-end journey and we are working to make sure we have all the suppliers in place to service every part of it.

“The ground transport is very fragmented and is in the “too difficult pile” for a lot of people, but we know we can make it happen. My ideal scenario is the tool returning the best-value recommended trip including the most appropriate car provider.”

This is another example of a corporate customer working in partnership with a travel technology supplier to keep evolving the tools to meet their changing needs and priorities.

“Our philosophy is very much about programme management, rather than just being a buying process where we have a tool delivered to us,” sums up the firm’s Global Business Services and Travel Leader. “That’s why we want to work with solutions like Neo which have a very progressive approach.”

Neo Account Manager’s view

“When we introduced Neo in 2014, this firm was a partner and pilot customer who played a valuable part in its development through a consultative partnership approach.
We are working with a forward-thinking travel manager, who was an early proponent of the door-to-door vision, which reflects the customer’s progressive culture when it comes to managing the travel programme.

The customer has an innovative way of communicating with their users, including intranet pages and an internal programme for education and the sharing of best practices.

The firm’s travel policies are integrated into the tool and that’s how they manage things. Neo provides the technical capabilities to assign costs correctly so they go upstream into the accounting process.