A proper invoice

There are a few requirements that corporate clients simply cannot do without. A strong wireless network, for example, or acceptance of credit cards. Those who don't meet their requirements will fall through the cracks. The location can only be so central, the service team only so friendly and the breakfast only so good.

text: Anke Pedersen 

Travel managers have long since ceased to be simple "travel service buyers" with the sole objective of saving costs. For a long time, modern mobility managers have been just as responsible for traveller and data security as for staff satisfaction or the harmonisation of booking, payment and accounting processes. "All aspects of travel management are a matter of interfaces within a company," explains management consultant Jörg Martin. "It's like throwing a stone into the water and creating ripples."

That is, unless something disrupts that harmony. Delays on the railway, for example, or airline strikes. It's often the little things that disturb a perfectly thought-out process most severely. An overnight stay is connected to countless seemingly minor details capable of driving both the travel manager and the traveller crazy. Check-in wanted to find out what those were.

Correct invoicing is everything

Brigitte Lehle is Corporate Mobility Manager at machine and plant manufacturer Dürr AG. When asked what the hotel industry could, or rather, should do to optimise interaction with its corporate clients, she gave a lightning-quick response: "Proper invoicing, so that staff don't have to spend ages standing at check-in or check-out waiting for a correct invoice." Lehle: "There are two perspectives here: that of the traveller and that of the travel manager. More than anything the latter wants a proper invoice. Many hotels, however, have severe difficulties selecting the right company name. Often, it just isn't right."

 

Why not?

I ask myself that, too. Our company data is correct in our online portals. Either way, for the tax office, the correct company name and location, i.e. the city in which the company is based, are the minimum amount of information required. Breakfast also tends to be billed separately. But often, even that is wrong.

And what do you do if you receive an incorrect hotel bill?

We're very strict: if an employee doesn't submit a correct invoice, they won't receive anything in return; they won't be reimbursed.

So does that mean that a Dürr traveller has to carefully check whether everything is correctly listed on the invoice every time, because otherwise they'll have to chase it up later?

Yes, and sometimes, that causes such a fuss, I'm really sorry for everybody who has to do it. It's a waste of time, and I don't think that needs to be the case.

How do mistakes get made with company names and/or addresses in the first place?

It's often down to the OBEs (Online Booking Engines) or OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) that haven't received the right information.

But the bottom line is your travellers, who have to foot the bill for other people's mistakes.

We advise our staff to hand in their business cards at check-in, because they contain all the correct information. But that's just an interim process as far as I'm concerned. Really, the entire payment process should be running constantly in the background and should be checked when it's transferred into the expenses tool.

Do you mean that the hotel bill is transferred to the employee's travel expenses claim automatically/electronically?

Exactly. The only thing they'd have to do is cast a glance over the bill: then they're done. Some hotels are pretty cool in that they slip a provisional bill under the door in the evening so the traveller can check it. That way they can make sure that everything is correct before check-out. Otherwise, a digital solution would be ideal.

Do you mean virtual credit cards and Paperless Travel?

Correct. But checking the company rate is much more important to the travel manager. During my time as a sales manager at BCD Travel, we ran a rate audit check with Daimler, and the number of hotels not billing at the agreed rates was shocking. In short, a rate audit of that nature would have to be automated and give an immediate alert if something was wrong on the bill, for instance, when the company rates or inclusive services such as WLAN have not been charged correctly.

Ms Lehle, thank you for talking to us.

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