Daimler aims to take the complexity out of corporate travel

Travelers often think it’s important to see all the available options for a trip, but a new project at Daimler, the huge German car and truck manufacturer, gives the lie to that assumption.

Called the FiveStar Model, the project brought together three of Daimler’s travel technology partners – Amadeus, BCD Travel and AirPlus – on a mission to simplify the travel booking process.

Daimler’s travelers often visit the same customers in the same places, Kathy Jackson, BCD Travel’s executive vice president of global client management, said. Internal travel is even more repetitive.

When a traveler flies from Stuttgart to Cologne three times a month, leaving on a Monday at 7 am and retuning on Tuesday at 4 pm, there’s little point in weighing all the options.

The first step in taking the clutter out of the process was for Amadeus to design an algorithm to identify the best trip package for the traveler. That was one of the biggest challenges for the project, Jackson said.

Based on a traveler’s historical behavior, corporate policy, corporate supplier strategy and preferences, search results would serve up only the most relevant air, hotel and car rental components – or, more ideally, the “best trip.”

Once travelers select travel dates and trip components, AirPlus steps up to the plate with virtual account numbers to take care of payment throughout the whole process.

Automated invoice reconciliation throughout the trip and via mobile further simplifies the trip and reduces the time needed to process travel expenses to almost zero.

In fact, Jackson says, the FiveStar model reduces the entire search, booking and expense reconciliation process to three clicks: enter the request, confirm the trip details and submit the expense summary.

She says the key thing to achieving success with a program like FiveStar is a willingness to reduce complexity. For a multinational company, that means procedures and processes, from booking to support, must be the same “no matter where you are. The processes are not going to be different in any other country”.

The rewards can be significant.

Daimler travel manager Bernd Burkhardt says a company of Daimler’s size loses about €25 million in productive working time each year when travelers spend too much time on administrative tasks like booking, paying and completing expense reports,

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