Corporate travel programs generally aren’t known for quickly embracing new suppliers and technology, but that hasn’t been the case with ride-hailing apps.
According to a recent report by Certify, which analyzed more than 50 million expense reports in 2017, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the corporate travel receipts it reviewed were for Uber and Lyft. And as a just-published survey by the Business Travel Show reveals, 58 percent of travel buyers who were polled agreed that alternative accommodation and transport providers such as Airbnb and Uber are a benefit to their program — which is up from 37 percent the year before.
So what’s behind the swift implementation?
First, there’s the convenience factor. With this on-demand service, travelers don’t have to waste time hunting down a cab or waiting in a long line at a taxi stand. Plus, there’s never any miscommunication about the final destination, even when the traveler doesn’t speak the native language, since all translation is done right through the app.
Because many of these apps list a price upfront before a booking is confirmed, passengers also can rest assured that the driver won’t be doing multiple laps around the block to jack up the cost. Even if it were a concern, passengers can verify where they are by viewing the map in the app displaying real-time route information.
On top of that, there’s the hassle-free expense process. Instead of travelers dealing with paper receipts, companies can receive a monthly invoice for all their travelers’ rides as well as have their data linked directly to other expense platforms, such as SAP Concur and Certify. And with the dashboard tools available to corporate clients, travel managers (TM) easily can view travel spend and trip activity, including individual trip times, locations and vehicle classes.
Incorporating it into the policy
Despite the number of business travelers using these ride-hailing apps, according to a new Global Business Travel Association report, 41 percent of corporate travel policies still do not address their usage.
It’s important companies add such language to their policies, not only so travelers have clear guidelines to follow, but also so you’re covering your bases in terms of cost-savings opportunities and safety precautions.
While the costs of taking a ride-hailing service often can be less expensive than a traditional taxi, that may not be the case when surge pricing is in effect or when hidden costs like tolls and airport surcharges are taken into account. You may wish to educate your travelers about how those fees are calculated and encourage using other modes of transportation during peak travel times that incur a higher fee — or even set a spend limit that travelers cannot exceed (which Uber allows companies to do through its customization tools).
Companies also may wish to set up parameters regarding which level of rides travelers can book (e.g., UberPOOL vs. UberX vs. UberBLACK) since each is priced differently.
As we noted in an earlier Atlas article on implementing an Airbnb policy, establishing liability isn’t necessarily clear-cut with sharing economy services. It may require the counsel of your legal department to find out who’d be responsible if a passenger were to get seriously injured during a ride — the ride-hailing company or your own organization.
Another thing TMs should stay on top of: where ride-hailing services have been banned. A number of airports, cities and even entire countries have restricted the use of ride-hailing companies, so alternate solutions may be necessary. (Check out this list from RideGuru of airports around the world and its passenger pickup policies.)
While Uber may be the most well-known company, there are other suppliers you may wish to add to your program, depending on which countries your travelers are visiting the most.
In Europe, they may be better off seeking a ride from mytaxi, while in China Didi Chuxing is the hands-down favorite. (Didi Chuxing also just acquired 99 in Brazil and is quickly becoming Uber’s largest competitor in South America.)
If you wish to do a cost comparison of different services around the world before officially choosing which ones wind up in your policy, RideGuru has a very helpful search function.
Plus, with the apps able to pinpoint a customer’s exact whereabouts and notify them when their driver is nearby, travelers can wait safely inside the hotel or office building until their ride pulls up.
Still, there are a few safety precautions travelers can follow when using such services.
For instance, before getting in, travelers should verify that the automobile’s make, model and license plate matches the information displayed in the app as well as greet the driver by name to ensure they’re entering the correct vehicle.
Especially when in an unfamiliar city, passengers may want to keep track of where they are heading by following the app’s real-time route information as well as give someone in the organization a heads-up on their whereabouts using the in-app feature that allows them to send their route information and estimated arrival time.
While rare, problems with ride-hailing services occasionally happen. In case your travelers have any issue with a service, be sure they have the emergency contact numbers of the ride-hailing service itself as well as those for your own security team readily available.