Posted in Approval Processes

How to Automate Your Travel Request Process

A business lunch with a client. A taxi ride to the airport. Drinks at the hotel bar with a colleague. A trip for a work conference. All these expenses could qualify for business travel reimbursement. 

But how do you make sure everyone’s receipts and records are all accounted for?

The problem is that many organizations don’t.

In fact, on average, employees fail to receive $170 of expenses per year. 

The issue may lie with your travel request processes.

Manually processing travel requests is a slow, arduous procedure that’s littered with errors. The constant back-and-forth and inevitable delays in processing are costly for the business and annoying for employees.

Digitizing and automating your travel request processes solves these issues.

Read on to learn how to automate your travel request processes so staff are reimbursed for expenses quickly, and travel management becomes far easier to manage.

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What Is Travel Reimbursement Automation?

Currently, 43% of firms still manage expense reports manually. 

Not only are manual processes slow, but they’re also often riddled with errors and prone to lost paperwork.

If you’re one of the nearly half of all organizations that don’t track the costs of processing each travel expense report, you likely don’t realize how costly these slow, error-prone processes are.

43% of firms still manage expense reports manually

Travel reimbursement automation refers to a 100% digitized process that pulls information automatically so anyone can create, send, and process forms quickly. 

Information gets processed with speed and accuracy through business travel request management software that does all the work.

No more sorting through paper files, watching receipts blow away in the wind, or manually filling out an expense envelope where you can barely read your own handwriting because the spaces are so tiny.

Case study 1: Tech company

Software firm, Pivotal, was managing travel requests through email. Not only was this process slow, travel request emails were often buried in busy inboxes and passed over by supervisors, causing serious delays in travel request approvals.

Eager to get rid of these inefficient practices, Pivotal switched to frevvo to automate its travel request process.

Thanks to frevvo’s dynamic forms and complex routing capabilities, Pivotal was able to significantly speed up the travel request process. What’s more, auto-population and auto-validation of forms, combined with HR software integration, eradicated errors in the process.

Plus, frevvo’s dynamic forms are mobile-ready and accessible from any device. This means Pivotal’s staff can now make travel requests from anywhere, and approvers can electronically sign these requests remotely.

Case study 2: Prep school

What do you do when you need a large number of signatures for travel-related Liability Waivers? Gulliver Schools had just this problem. Its students and staff–students needed these forms signed by their parents, while the staff needed to submit travel request forms for the school’s approval.

After they digitized all forms, switched to e-signatures, and integrated the data with Google Apps, it became dramatically easier for staff to sign in to the cloud, submit their data, and track the forms online. 

Similarly, signatures from parents got a lot easier and quicker to collect and were automatically pulled into Google Sheets.

Organizations like Gulliver Schools need to deal with a large variety of forms and signatures. 

Automation through the cloud not only saves time but also improves accuracy by foregoing forms passing from the hands of students to parents to staff and vice versa. Electronic signature automation makes the process instantaneous.

Benefits of travel reimbursement automation

Before we go over ways to streamline your travel reimbursement process, here are a few benefits of automation:

benefits of travel reimbursement automation
  • Faster and more accurate employee requests
  • Easier for accountants to see who submitted the requests & check names on expenses
  • Prevention of expense abuse with digital document signing
  • Reduction in human error with apps that take photos of receipts, so files are digitized
  • Faster reimbursement, so employees don’t feel burdened
  • Software integration removes friction between HR systems
  • Ability to process requests from anywhere

Manual vs. automated process comparison chart

manual vs automated

How to streamline your travel reimbursement process

1. Digitize the process

Manual travel reimbursement processes are slow, error-prone, and susceptible to lost paperwork.

This means staff are either waiting a long time for travel expense reimbursement, or they never get it at all.

For example, 33% of workers don’t claim expenses due to lost receipts. 

By digitizing the process, you reduce the need for manual paperwork, making it less likely that staff will lose key travel reimbursement evidence.

33% of workers don't claim expense due to lost receipts

Not only that, but digital processing speeds up the process and cuts out errors by integrating with existing systems to auto-populate forms with relevant data and automatically routing forms to the appropriate supervisors.

Thanks to higher levels of consistency, fewer data entry errors, and more reliable audit trails, 72% of business decision-makers agree that digital processing makes businesses more resilient. 

Choose a user-friendly software, like frevvo, to digitize and automate your travel reimbursement process.

That way, it’s easy and intuitive for everyone to use, meaning less training and quicker implementation. 

An affordable, low-code workflow automation platform, like frevvo, makes it simple for anyone on the team — not just programmers — to build sophisticated workflows to make and approve travel requests.

2. Increase mobility with mobile-ready solutions

For accurate and fast travel reimbursement processing, access to the automation software on-the-go is key. Ensure that your solution works on mobile devices so that employees can request reimbursement as soon as they get the receipt by taking a photo and pulling all the relevant information into the travel request form.

Having a mobile-ready solution means that you don’t have to rely on managers being in the office to get travel requests approved. 

Travel request approval time is drastically reduced when a manager can approve a request via mobile even while they may be traveling themselves or out sick.

This also reduces the problem of missing receipts, as everything is digitized right away. 

the average worker fails to claim for $170 of expenses each year

As we mentioned before, the average worker fails to claim $170 of expenses per year. Six out of 10 of these claim it’s because they forgot to file their expenses. 

With software that enables workers to claim expenses on-the-go, they can put in travel requests immediately, so they don’t forget later.

3. Route requests automatically

It’s not just travel request paperwork that slows down the travel reimbursement process. Frequently, staff have to wait a long time for supervisors to approve their requests.

Not only do staff often have to submit paperwork by hand, this paperwork sometimes gets buried at the bottom of overflowing inboxes. The same problem occurs when staff submit travel requests by email.

With automated travel request software, you can create complex workflows that automate your approval process so that business travel requests automatically route to the appropriate approver.

Travel request approval workflow on frevvo

Approvers are then automatically notified of each document they need to electronically sign so that they can approve travel requests immediately. If approvers forget, they’ll receive an automatic reminder to let them know that requests are awaiting their attention.

This means staff no longer have to waste their time chasing approvals, speeding up the whole process.

Look at ONEIL, as an example.

Previously, the team had a clunky travel request system built in InfoPath. 

Since switching to frevvo, travel request forms automatically populate to route travel requests to the correct approver. This is done based on the organizational travel request approval structure and cost center data. 

There are no more errors in the documentation, and staff are reimbursed far quicker.

4. Use electronic signatures

Inaccurate expenses can cost you money, but so can expense abuse. Currently, one in five small businesses suffer from expense reimbursement fraud.

Automated forms can safeguard against this kind of abuse by pulling information directly from sources like receipts, but they also come with an extra layer of security through electronic signatures. 

This also prevents faking identities by automatically confirming the signer’s identity and protecting the form from being tampered with by a third-party.

5. Invest in integrated solutions

To save valuable time wasted on duplicate data entry and correcting errors and omissions, use integrated solutions that work across other software you’re using.

For example, you can automatically export data from travel request forms to a SQL database or a payroll system so employees no longer have to manually type in the information. It’s available electronically and can be automatically entered without errors into the form.

It’s also easier for employees to authenticate if the solution is integrated with your existing identity system, e.g. Active Directory. There’s one less password to remember, and single sign-on (SSO) is also often available.

Types of travel request processes

Travel reimbursement requests come in many shapes and sizes depending on your unique business requirements. 

All of frevvo’s forms can be automated, so that employee information is automatically filled in based on the logged-in user. This auto-population feature reduces data entry and cuts out typos.

1. Travel authorization and reconciliation form

You can use a travel authorization form to pre-approve your travel expenses. For example, you can estimate predictable expenses like airfare, lodging, and meals.

Try it now: Travel authorization and reconciliation template

How it’s automated: In addition to pre-filled fields and automatic calculations, if the actual amount ends up exceeding the estimate, your manager will automatically receive a request for additional final approval.

frevvo international travel request form

2. Conditional travel request

This basic form collects the employee and travel details for an upcoming trip for the purpose of an advance. But the routing is dynamic depending on your internal business requirements. 

For example, additional approval may be required for amounts exceeding a certain preset dollar limit. Alternatively, the form may need to be routed to the Travel Desk to make particular arrangements.

Try it now: Conditional travel request template

How it’s automated: After filling out the form, it gets automatically sent to the manager for approval. After that, where it’s sent next is determined dynamically, based on business logic visually designed in the process.

dynamic travel request forms on frevvo

3. Mileage reimbursement

As you can see below, this form is pretty straightforward. You can use it to submit any mileage incurred on a rental vehicle, for example.

Try it now: Mileage Reimbursement Form Template

How it’s automated: The form’s connected to the Google API to automatically calculate the mileage between destinations, so users don’t have to type it in manually. It also calculates the reimbursement amount based on the current IRS mileage rate.

example of travel request digital form on frevvo

Everyone benefits from travel reimbursement automation

Automating travel reimbursement doesn’t just mean employees can get their cash faster. It also helps businesses save time on manual entries and reduces errors on all sides. Not only that, but you’ll see fewer errors and more accurate audit trails.

Gone are the days of long email threads, confusing expense report spreadsheets, and lost paperwork. With automated travel request software, you can streamline your travel request processes in no time at all.

Ready to give it a go? Try frevvo’s 30-day free trial to see just how beneficial modernizing your travel request processes can be. 

travel request processes

Author:

Ashish Deshpande has worked in the process automation space for over 20 years. He has been instrumental in successfully deploying frevvo’s software at hundreds of organizations such as HBO, New York University, and Boston Public Schools. Ashish has contributed to leading publications such as Forbes, business.com and readwrite.com. Ashish received a PhD in Computer Science from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India.

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