A year on from launching its Neo door-to-door service, it seems KDS has slotted another piece of the corporate travel journey into place.
The travel and expense management company is claiming to have an expense management service that travellers will actually want to use.
KDS has followed the same principles as for the Neo product in terms of bringing some of the consumer-like interfaces into the experience.
Speaking during the KDS Now event in Paris this week, chief executive Dean Forbes, said the objective was threefold:
- Get rid of the mountains of receipts most frequent travellers carry around with them
- Create a user interface that moves away from the Excel-type list format
- Avoid the estimated afternoon per week travellers are using to fulfill an expense claim
The development has two elements - Neo Receipts (ready now for iPhone devices) and Neo Expense (in pilot and for release at the end of March).
Neo Receipts is based on Optical Character Recognition which captures data and turns it into text. It enables travellers to take a picture of the receipt and upload it to their expense system as a line item.
While other technologies also enable this, Forbes says the difference here is in the lack of "manual intervention and unnecessary steps", in the process.
The service also provides travellers with a choice of icons to attach to the expense - lunch, taxi etc., and asks them to confirm the figure/amount on the receipt they are claiming.
Another interesting element is a button within the application which enables travellers to confirm if the expense has just been occurred because if it has, the system can tell from the phone the country, currency, date and time.
To address the need for improve user-experience in the expense claim, KDS has developed a system making the calendar the basis for the expense claim. Why? Because travellers spend time going from receipts to calendar and back again trying to work out expenses.
The calendar-based user-interface provides immediate context for travellers on when and how they incurred the expense as well as icons for what it refers to instead of line items of data (which travellers can also go back to if they prefer).
There are other bells and whistles such as colour-coding for out-of-policy spend or which elements were booked in Neo and safe-guards raising any compliancy issues.
Forbes also took the opportunity to unveil several enhancements to Neo such as bookings using voice recognition on mobile. KDS has worked with Siri-developer Nuance to provide a handheld travel arranger.
Interesting that KDS is backing voice recognition on mobile. Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a KDS partner, has also been making developments along similar lines with its virtual assistant concept. It's fair to say Siri hasn't exactly driven the masses to talk to their phones for search but perhaps it's ahead of its time.
So, answering the question - what's the point? Forbes says:
"We have to try and get ahead of these curves. If we put it into the hands of the user we can figure out the application of it. People talk to their phones and at some point in time the balance will shift and it will become a norm. We will be right there ahead of the game."
It has also brought ground transportation (mostly from Google) from more than 500 suppliers in 53 countries into the system enabling travellers to see public transport options.
This is also a significant addition and we should expect more of this sort of content as multi-modal startups gain traction and companies look for booking systems to mirror how travellers behave.
The second two enhancements include the addition of, via a desktop plugin, a Neo button to Outlook calendars, which initiates a search for the travel components, to take into account the fact that most bookings start outside of an online booking tool.
"It's also cool from a programme standpoint because when you put the trip planning next to meeting planning, travellers can see that if they move the meeting by a couple of hours, they don't need an overnight stay. It enables them to make smarter decisions."
Other potential future areas where Neo might pop up include company intranets and CRM systems.
And finally, more options of flights and hotels following feedback from users and companies, although the system still highlights elements any increases in overall cost as well as the most compliant hotels choices plotted on a map.
While the company always said policy would be at the heart of Neo and with the safe-guards and flags still in place, additional choice often means maverick behaviour. What Forbes says however is that even with more options built in, about 80% of the four 'core' options (quick, cheap, recommended and green) are booked with just a 'one-click adjustment'.
Here's a clip of Neo Expense:
NB: Travel to the event was supported by KDS.
NB2: Global travel image via Shutterstock.