We partnered with Uber for Business and convened a roundtable of PA Life Club Members to discuss ground travel planning and how technology and automation can make things easier…
Abigail Jones, GHD
Alexandra Kaye, Quantcast
Christine Harris, Lazard
Claudia Budianto, Uber
Linda Moss, CSGI
Matthew Mintram, Uber
Orlaith O’Brien, Endava
Sandra Cybaite, Taylor Vinters
Sarah Kingdom, GHD
Tell us about your current ground travel arrangements and processes.
LM: It very much depends on location – a lot of our offices have local arrangements with a specific taxi firm. But when staff are out, they tend to use Uber personal accounts, with everything going back through expenses after the trip. It’s like a two-tier system depending on the circumstances.
AJ: For me it’s a mix of policy and personality. If I’m booking for trips in London, I have to use a specific provider. But if staff are overseas or in a city where that partner doesn’t operate they will default to Uber on personal accounts and expense back.
SK: The same – I’ll use our mandated provider for longer journeys and then Uber locally if required. This is mainly due to historical working practices combined with personal preference.
OO: We have a preferred provider that the execs like to use, particularly for pre-arranged meetings, and then everyone else uses Uber for Business. We use our preferred provider for historical reasons – the execs haven’t figured out that they can get nice cars with Uber as well!
SC: We have lots of accounts with different companies. We used two of the big providers for historical reasons, then switched to an eco-friendly partner. However, the cars are only available during business hours, so staff started using Uber and claim expenses back. It’s very convenient for evening networking events and puts them in control. We also do a lot of US travel and the feedback was that they would prefer to use Uber when abroad.
AK: Our team uses a mixture too. I use a particular partner as I’ve had a lot of dealings with them from previous roles, so it’s a habit, really. Cost is important, which has seen us leave some providers. I didn’t actually realise that Uber had a business service and wasn’t aware I could book Uber cars for my exec without access to his app.
Do these scenarios reflect what Uber sees in the market for business users?
CB: Absolutely. We hear a lot that people know Uber as a consumer app, but not so much on the business side, which is interesting. There are obviously some big private ground travel providers inside London, but outside the capital is not so much within their scope. This is where our global footprint becomes compelling for people.
MM: We also hear a lot of stories from people with multiple ground travel suppliers – it tends to be a very fragmented environment, which obviously isn’t great for cost or consolidation purposes.
AJ: Time is also a factor. If my exec lands in Paris, then I might need to find his favourite driver that he had there five years ago! He will use a pre-booked taxi, but if there’s a delay he might not wait for it, which means I’ve doubled my workload unnecessarily. Post-trip admin is also a pain point – with black cabs I get a paper receipt usually with nothing written on it, which isn’t ideal.
CB: At Uber for Business we have an integration with Concur, this means that when someone takes a trip, the receipt is automatically linked into the expenses system and coded – all the trip details are recorded in there.
Would it be fair to say there’s a lot of admin headache in your ground travel set ups?
CH: It’s quite arduous sometimes!
AJ: In general terms I actually find a lot of what slows me down is working with my TMC for overall trip planning – they might get things wrong or don’t respond quickly enough. All the tech and the apps are great, but it’s the human element that often lets things down.
So account management is important?
AJ: In business it can be hard because when you first meet with any potential partner, they promise you the world – then they can let you down. Account manager words and actions don’t match up, which leads to frustration and, ultimately, a toxic relationship.
OO: In fact, when it comes to booking ground travel, you’ll often see the account manager when you’re setting things up, but you don’t ever see them again. And that’s actually okay as you only really need them if there’s a problem – you’re booking everything else yourself.
What is the Uber approach?
MM: My team takes on the account for six months and then it’s passed to a Client Success manager. We also have a business support channel in the Uber for Business back-end – if someone loses a coat in the back of one of our cars, it’s easier to get it back than calling around a lot of cab firms.
When and how do you decide to switch ground travel partners?
CH: For our TMCs we have a review every two or three years. To some extent it’s down to the length of the contract we have with them. But with ground travel we’re far more flexible in terms of who we can use and when we switch. There’s a change management consideration, but the number one factor is always cost, followed by convenience and reliability.
LM: Sometimes it’s also influenced by internal systems for invoicing, expenses or approvals. For example, we use Concur when booking flights, but we use Oracle for expenses.
What are the risk management factors with booking ground travel?
LM: It’s an important point, especially when you consider how crucial safety is when it comes to flights and other parts of a trip. TMCs often have links with travel safety companies, but what about taxis? Until now, it’s just not been visible, so technology is really changing that.
CH: We absolutely have a duty of care, particularly when it comes to our female travellers, and technology can really help with that.
A lot of what we’re talking about in terms of tech is transparency…
CH: Anything that cuts our workload down is a good thing. Ground travel platforms that link into other systems for expenses is a huge convenience.
AK: Until recently I would get travel receipts sent to me via email, that I’d then copy and paste into a Word doc to pass on to Concur, which is just so time consuming. Having a direct integration via Uber is amazing – I wish everything could be like that.
About Uber for Business
Uber For Business handles all your Uber trips in one place. You can choose the payment method that works best for your business, and you’ll never need to deal with a pile of Uber receipts again. Review individual trip times, locations, vehicle classes and your total Uber expenses. Plus, you can generate reports and review a summary of all your trip activity from a single dashboard. For staff, it’s the on-demand trip they expect, but without having to worry about expenses.
If your business would like to take part in a PA Life roundtable, contact Charlotte.Humphreys@palife.co.uk