Post-Pandemic Wanderlust? Using Your Best Judgment for Business Travel: An SAP Concur Podcast Conversation with Acquis

As business travel becomes safe again, organizations are empowering their employees with greater autonomy to use their best judgement and comfort levels to determine when, where, and how to meet with clients and team members. Get thinking about your post-pandemic travel program by listening to a candid and jovial conversation between Danny Smout, Principal Solution Consultant at SAP Concur, and Hansini Sharma, Practice Lead of Corporate Travel for Acquis Consulting Group. “Sometimes some of the smallest edits lead to the broadest strokes of impact. This is one of those times where we have an incredible amount of opportunity to do that,” shares Sharma. Fine-tune your organization’s travel program to today’s travel standards to have the greatest impact.

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Transcript:

Danny Smout:

Hey everyone, welcome to the SAP Concur and Acquis joint podcast. Where, we're talking about what's going on with travel these days. My name's Danny Smout. I'm a Principal Solution Consultant with SAP Concur. And joining me is Hansini Sharma from Acquis. Hansini you want to say hi?

Hansini Sharma:

Hey Danny, thanks so much for having me today, as he said, my name is Hansini Sharma. I work for Acquis Consulting Group and I lead our corporate travel practice and separately I'm a hugely avid traveler. So, this is a fun topic for me and very near and dear to my heart personally and professionally.

Danny Smout:

Awesome and for those who haven't had the pleasure of working with Acquis, do you want to give a quick one line of what Acquis can do?

Hansini Sharma:

Absolutely. Acquis Consulting Group is a boutique management consulting firm. We're based in New York City, but we have colleagues all over the world. We do work across multiple areas, but I think what's of interest here is that we've been working with SAP Concur for many years now. And we have supported Concur teams with implementations, change management and product management, and a lot of strategic work throughout the years.

Danny Smout:

Awesome. Sorry to put you on the spot, but that was a good elevator pitch of what Acquis can do that. So, that's awesome. So as I said, I'm a Principal Solution Consultant with SAP Concur. My role is I speak to clients and basically help them out with the challenges they've got, whether that's through our Concur product or service, or just an idea or best practice. So what other clients are doing, it's fun. So basically, if you read between the lines, I listen to what other clients tell me, and then tell my other clients that and pretend I came up with that idea. So, Hansini, you said you're an avid traveler, what do we think after the pandemic is said and done...and we're kind of, on the downward spiral, latest news aside, we're starting to see some companies starting to travel again here at Concur, I don't know if you'll see in that trend as well. What do you think is going to be different when we all start traveling again?

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah, it's really interesting. I am working, just thinking about my clients right now, I'm working with one client, who has a very strict, no travel mandate in place, still. In fact, they have no plans to return to the office anytime soon, which I think is probably amongst the strictest I've seen and most rigorous, if you will, regarding COVID precautions. But a lot of what I'm seeing is kind of nice in the sense of, I think about like a pre-pandemic world. And I think personalization was like the hottest word; any conference I went to, so many webinars were talking about personalization and travel, and I think that was important then, and it's more important now, but ironically, I'm seeing the most personalization of travel I've ever seen now. So for me, what that looked like is people are being offered choices. If they need to travel for work, they're being given the option.

Do you think that it makes sense to go in person? Do you feel comfortable going, could this be a meeting? And we're giving people the option of kind of making their own business decisions and that's translated a lot into the way people are booking travel and how they're choosing their carriers and their suppliers. And I think that's really nice because it kind of empowers the person who's traveling to feel really comfortable and confident in the way that they're conducting their professional lives. And I really liked that and I think it's paving the way for a much broader conversation about how we continue to build managed travel program by offering people the option to make the decisions that they feel are best for them at the time. Whereas I think in the past there's been, not that companies forced people to do things they don't want to do, but I think there's been the like little nudge-nudge, like, "Hey, you should really go on this trip". Like you should really, really go on this trip. And I think it's nice to be able to have some of that optionality added back in.

Danny Smout:

Yeah, I think in a lot of clients that I've been speaking through, there's a huge focus on employee experience, especially when it comes to traveling and stuff. So with me, or with companies kind of saying, "choose your best guess. Like, could this be a Zoom?" And that was always a rule, right? Every travel policy I've ever seen from any of our customers said, "if it makes more sense to do a Zoom don't travel" and everyone was like "yep, screw that. I'm going, I want to travel".

Hansini Sharma:

Really? I just didn't see that very often.

Danny Smout:

I just don't think anyone did, I just think anyone was like, "yeah, no, an in-person is always going to be better". So, we're going. Like, it was just a company's kind of disclaimer to try and save some money, which kind of leads me on to my next question for you, Hansini. Do you think the companies want us to start traveling again, given that, they still make money without travel, like some companies where the saving a ton with not having to spend so much money on people traveling around? Yeah. I know you're a big fan of in-person and as am I, and there's a lot to be done there, but do you think our companies want us to start traveling again?

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. It's funny. So, I went to-quick note about myself-I went to business school at NYU and studied finance and I have a number of friends whose careers are in financial services. And if you've been reading news, there've been some heads of some major financial services companies in the world who have had made very strong statements about the return to work and the return to travel. I don't think anyone wants to necessarily follow in those footsteps in the same way that has been maybe strongly set. But I think there's this general desire to go back, to go back to the office and to get back on the road. Because generally, there's no true replacement for face-to-face interaction. So it's kind of this newer balance with all the people I've spoken to, everyone wants to do the right thing. And the right thing in this situation is a big gray box.

No one knows the answer. I think we can agree on the extreme, like no one should be forced to travel, but maybe for the most part, we don't need to have super strict mandates in place that no travel and no access to the office is allowed. But finding that middle ground of like pushing people towards, getting back out there, re-integrating into professional society, industry events. I think it's a tough balance, but generally I think people want that to happen. I think we're seeking some sense of normalcy and something that reminds us of a world pre-March 2020.

Danny Smout:

Right. Just even if it's just to get out the house. And finding an excuse to wear some of those clothes that you bought that you never got to wear from a business standpoint.

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. I have a really lovely shoe collection collecting dust at the moment. I started wearing them around my apartment, just like with my sweatpants, just because I feel like they've gotten lonely. I'm here for that.

Danny Smout:

Do yourself a little fashion show. I found a box in my closet, not too long ago that had all nice clothes in it and stuff that I'd never worn and was like, all right, gotta’ do a bit of a fashion show. So, my TikTok and my Snapchat users got the benefits of that. You think our customers want us to go visit them? You think there's an urge for them? Those that are in the office, you think they're ready to receive us if we didn't want to go there?

Hansini Sharma:

I think so. I actually had a colleague go on a business trip a couple of months ago, and this is super nerdy, but I love a good whiteboard session. And there is just no virtual replacement for a good whiteboard where you get to stick the post-it notes on there, draw a bunch of weird pictures, take a quick snack break and come back to it. There's just no replacement for it. And this colleague of mine went in-person to this client and just had a great experience. And he shared his experience with the company later and said that the type of work and collaboration that they got done in that amount of time is just like, could have never happened virtually perhaps they would have gotten 70% there if they really made an effort. But sometimes that extra 30% is really what takes something from good to great.

Hansini Sharma:

And I think that people, to your point, just want to see each other again, we've been stuck at home with the same people or by ourselves for so many months now, that when you spent so much time with someone virtually, at some point you just want to like meet them and like go grab a beer and hang out and do the things that you would do in person gripe about the colleagues that you don't like.

Danny Smout:

Right. Exactly. And that's the way I think, like I've worked remotely since 2013 and I have best friends that I speak to everyday for multiple hours, that I've never met in person and between work and then also call of duty. I have a bunch of people that I've never met that I speak to all the time. And it's just crazy. Like I speak to, I think I've spoken to you in the last couple of months, more than I've spoken to my actual parents and stuff like that. And it's strange that we've never met, even though we live kind of close, but we, it'd be weird for us to have met because of the restrictions, but the same with our clients. Right. I mean as people that want to help our clients out in a consultative manner, they need to see that we're humans, right?

And we can smile and whatever else, and yeah, you can turn your video on, and have a green screen behind you. So, you're on like a fancy beach or maybe wear a funny hat, but there's nothing like getting in the room. Like you said, a bit nerdy, but standing up, writing on a whiteboard, spit-balling ideas, showing off your fancy shoes, whatever you need to do, to walk with the clients and get them engaged. Because as much as we get Zoom fatigue, they definitely get Zoom fatigue as well, right? And we've got stuff happening in their lives with their kid's homeschooling and dogs jumping around and Amazon guys showing up every five minutes. But I will say, one of the things I do like about this, no travel stuff is I routinely would get up at 4 AM, get on a plane, fly to Boston or Chicago, have a one-hour meeting, two-hour meeting with a client, have a great time, shake hands, kiss babies, all of that fun stuff, get back on a plane, fly home, right?

So, I got home at like midnight, right? So, I'd spend like a full 20 hours out wearing a suit, productive day meeting with one client, right? Flip side to that, I could speak to five or six different clients, not have to wear pants and just sit on Zoom at my desk all day. So, you think there's going to be some of that when we do start traveling again, you're going to get those people that are like, "Hey, I can be productive with Zoom". And, going back to the, "it's the people's choice". So, the person's choice and giving them the choices. What do you think? Do you think there's going to be a lot of people that are like, "no, I'm stuck in my house now- Zoom works for me just fine. I've got a fancy camera. This is where I'm staying". Or you think a lot of people are out there, like "get me back on the road. I want to get out"?

Hansini Sharma:

I think we're going to have a mix of both. But I think that the people who want to stay home, aren't going to be asked to travel, which I think is awesome. In so many ways, when you travel to a destination to meet a client, it's so much more than the act of like getting on the plane and, making it there and having the meeting, it's kind of an attitude thing. If you don't want to be there, it's very apparent and it's much easier to have a productive conversation if you're in this frame of mind that enables that conversation. So, I think there's going to be a lot of people. I think about my aunt, her office is not too far from her home. She actually was just a few minutes away from my parents' house in Plano, Texas. And she loves the work from home environment.

I mean, she'd go on a business trip if she needed to, but they recently shifted to her organization recently shifted to two days a week back in the office. And for her, it's been a big shift, like a big change for her that she wasn't like mentally prepared for. And obviously she has completely adapted to it and it's fine. And she really doesn't complain about it, but she didn't want to go back. She felt that they were just as productive virtually, everyone was happier because they didn't have to go into the office and deal with the commute. But I think there's going to be a lot of people like my aunt who might have to do the one or two days in the office but are likely not going to be the people who are called upon to go on multiple business trips in a year.

But I think it's going to give the people who do want to travel a new-found appreciation for business travel. One thing that is sort of like tangentially related to this is we keep forgetting that like companies still made a lot of money in spite of not meeting face to face. And I think some people argue that, that means we probably don't need business travel, but in some ways I think that it's like heightened our appreciation for the in-person interactions that sure we've been able to make it work, but we really miss the interactions. But more importantly, from a travel management perspective, I think that actually helps people be a lot more strategic with the way they spend their travel budget. So I think what I'm seeing with travel managers and hearing around the industry is that people are being a lot more mindful and strategic about how they're leveraging their partners.

Like, what are the key aspects of the tools that they're using? I've heard so much more about like reconsidering the use of NDC technology or integrating that into Concur with the solutions that you have or thinking about direct connect or just really taking this as an opportunity to be creative and the way that they're solutioning their program. And I think that is kind of what the next stage of travel looks like. Not your very traditional ways of travel, which I think certainly have a place and will continue to stay in place or will be the thing that people do for a long time. But I think people are a little more open now to other solutions that augment their existing experiences. And I think that's going to make it a lot easier and better for people to travel moving forward.

Danny Smout:

For sure. I 100% percent think that this pandemic, as bad as it was, and what, all of that stuff, this is the opportunity that we can have. We always call it like the compelling event or whatever sales process. This is the compelling event for companies to now readdress what's happening when it comes to employees traveling, for sure. So, before the pandemic, I was on a plane every week, it got to the point where I was like "ugh, I've got to be in Chicago. I've got a fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, ugh, I've got to do this", but now I'm like, "let's go eager, chomping at the bit. Let's go, let's kill this. Let's wow the client with these new shoes that I've got, or this whiteboarding that I've been training on and planning to do for these years", but now I want to do it in person and, I want to meet this person that I've spoken to every single day for the past six months.

And it's given me as a traveler kind of a little bit of an impetus to like "yeah, let's do it. Let's hit the reset button and let's go". And I think before the pandemic from an organizational standpoint, we always talk about the internal corporate battles between the millennials and the more seasoned employees. And I think after this, the millennials are going to win and get not, I wouldn't say win, because it's not a war, but or a competition, but the millennials are going to get more of this say in how things work. Because some of these more seasoned people, being polite, have had to get to grips with how Zoom works, how they can do Microsoft Teams on their phone, as well as on the computer, webcams, all of this stuff.

And then viewing like "Hey, this is a somewhat easier life". So, then the millennials can come in and say, "Hey, instead of the rule, 'always have to book through the corporate travel tool,' I shouldn't be saying this as a Concur employee, but always have to use our preferred vendor.

I think customers or clients are going to start realizing like, hey, giving our employees flexibility, keeps them happy and they can move and kind of have that feeling that they can do what they want, still within the boundaries of rules, but still make their own choices of how that works for them. I've seen some policies that allow for a combined business and leisure trip and stuff. I always used to play it that, I'm going to stay the night after my meeting to refresh after the meeting, which happens to be a Friday, so I could spend the weekend in Chicago. And then I'd pay for the hotel myself. The flight home was on the company because the flight out and back, and in an old world that used to be, we need to see how much it will cost it from you flew back on the Friday versus the Sunday night and you have to pay out the difference.

But now I think we're going to see a lot more of like, "hey, if you're going do it and we trust you to make the right choice and not screw the company", because at the end of the day, if I'm out selling a couple of million dollars a year of software to clients or services to clients, why can't I just extend my flights a day and pay for the incidentals myself and things like that. So, I feel this opportunity that COVID presented, again, it wasn't a good thing, COVID, but the opportunities that can come out of it are going to be great. Do you see any other opportunities that might come out of this with the flexibility and kind of rethinking how travel is going to happen?

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah, I resonate with-so many of the things that you just said resonate so well with me. And there's three things in particular, I'll start with the most, something you said towards the end was about trust. I think that so many programs fail or struggle because there's no trust between the company and the employee. They operate under the assumption that the employee, to your point, is trying to screw them over, trying to make a quick buck, not expending things correctly, but that's not the case. I think that's the exception, that's not the rule. And I think we have, to your point exactly, I think COVID is, a post COVID world will create more of a sentiment of trust because we now have this universally shared experience where we were all exposed to the same risk factors and we're making decisions together. Whereas in the past playing field wasn't even. And I think that's going to, as I was talking about earlier, it's going to be an opportunity for people to be a lot more strategic about how they're managing their programs.

Because something that hasn't changed is, at the end of the day, for a managed travel program, you need compliance, forget cost savings. All of that is kind of secondary to actually getting people to follow the program that you have put in place. When you follow the program, your duty of care is comprehensive when you follow the program you're consolidating spend, which enables stronger negotiation tactics, which in turn will also lead to cost savings. When you follow the program, you have great data and analytics. And when you follow the program, you're able to provide comprehensive feedback to your travel manager to continue to iterate on it. So, I think that we're going to see more of that, hopefully, because I think people will start to realize the work that goes into building a program and keeping you safe. And a couple of other things you said, it's funny that you mentioned millennials.

I actually had a conversation earlier today with someone about this and how millennials adapted a lot more quickly to someone who's virtual technology because of what they're used to. I'm kind of on the fence. So, I'm in my thirties, I split between two generations, I think. And it was very easy for me to transition into using all these tools because I used them prior as I'm sure you did as well, but I haven't enjoyed it.

I actually hate working from home. I love being in an office. I go in really often, even now, since our office has been open, there are days where I'm the only one there, but I'm on a smaller team as well and in New York City. But there's something about being in an office, makes me feel more professional and more focused. And I just, I like the environment. So, I think that there's a lot of good things that came with this replacement of like in-person interactions with technology and that some of the millennial style of working of, not just working the nine to five and getting work done when you can get done, has been good in some cases, but I'm not sure that that should be the standard moving forward.

I think we've allowed our colleagues and companies have allowed their employees a lot of flexibility in this time because we need it. And because it's what we needed to make it through this, it's what we need to continue making it through this. But realistically, looking forward, these scattered working hours, that doesn't really work when things return to whatever this new normal is going to be, or maybe that won't work. I can't say that it won't, but I think we're going to have to pick and choose what we want to take with us, because I think some of it has been very good and some of it has been time appropriate given the situation that we were in. So, I'm curious to see how that will play out. But I do imagine that we will over time revert back to some of the more traditional constructs around our working day. So while I think that there's going to be a lot more personalization and a lot more flexibility, I think there will be some balance back to what we used to do.

Danny Smout:

It's interesting, back on that flexibility point. When you were saying, it's been tough, you want to get as many people in the program as you can. So, you can optimize your duty of care, to optimize your vendor negotiations and stuff. Historically, the theory behind getting as many people in your program was you have to do this, you have to book this way. And as humans, we're pre-wired to, I want to say kind of rebel, if you see that button that says, do not push you're hundred percent want to push it. It's in your every being of your nature to press that button, but you have to refrain. So, a lot of companies are kind of flipping out around now and saying, okay, rather than saying, "you have to do it this way"

"Let's find a way of incorporating the way that you want to do it into our program, which is going to help", with the direct connect, with the direct suppliers that we have through concurrent and stuff, people can have that semblance of freedom in the booking process, but that's still within the program, so they can still get that data to better negotiate and have that duty of care and stuff. And, duty of care is important, with what we just went through. Companies need to be able to look after us and make sure we're doing okay, which is good. And then the millennials point versus the non, I can't give out my age for personal reasons just because I like to pretend I'm younger than I actually am. But I'm also thirties, and I'm right on that cusp. And I think, you agree, I'm not in witness protection or anything before anyone starts trying to Google me.

But I definitely agree, like before the pandemic, the millennials were all about the meetings and stuff, and we want to get back to traveling. And maybe it's the older generation that has learned to use the Zoom and is happy with Zoom now and doesn't want to get traveling. So maybe there's been a bit of a flip that the other ones that want to use the technology and the millennials like, "oh, Hansini, we want to go back on the road and meet people and have these sessions". So be interesting to see what happens when we come out of it. You know, all things are looking positive with the way that companies are approaching the return to office, return to travel things. So if we were to travel, start traveling today, do you think companies are going to have to sit us down and teach us how to travel again? What to pack and how to pack? Have you seen any of that out there?

Hansini Sharma:

You know, it's funny. I think it's actually like a two-way retraining. So, I think there's some guidance that's required from the company and to the traveler. And yeah, honestly, I could use a checklist or two of, don't forget to pack these four things because I never had to pack them before. So it would be nice just to have a friendly reminder, but I think something kind of slightly off topic, was the question you asked me just now is more of, travelers aren't asking for different things now than they were two years ago. I think there's just been a huge shift in priorities because of everything that's happened in the last couple of years, people have always wanted flexibility. Leisure trips are not new, we've been talking about this for years. Flexibility in travel not new, personalization not new, these are all topics we've been talking about for many years, but I think our priorities before were compliance, mandates, getting people to follow the policy.

And Danny, you said it just because that's what was in place. And now, what companies really value is duty of care. Are employees safe when they travel? What is our responsibility and role in ensuring their safety and comfort? Even beyond just like their fiduciary obligation to keeping their employees safe and happy. I've heard of some companies who were allowing their employees to use their TMC services for personal travel, because it's a great perk to offer, because they leverage the company discounts, but it also offers kind of this added layer of protection to the employee because there's a duty of care aspect that comes with travel management company booking that doesn't come if you just go to whatever online travel agency or direct to supplier. So, I think that what we're seeing more than anything is employees are almost retraining companies and travel programs on here's what we really want.

Here's what we've always really wanted. And we think we can get there. And I think on the other side, companies are also taking this as an opportunity for them to rethink from a business perspective. Like, "should you be traveling? What do you value in your customer relationships or even colleague to colleague when you need to meet, you're based in New York and you need to meet a colleague in San Francisco, could it be a Zoom, could it be a meeting?" So, I think it's a sharing of information that we're, again, I think this is the catalyst of these conversations has been this shared experience that we've had over the last year and a half. That's enabling us to have these conversations now, information sharing and learning from one another and what we actually want out of a managed travel program.

Danny Smout:

Yeah. I love that idea. I'd never really thought about that. It was like the travel is teaching the travel teams, kind of what we want and how we want it. And the travel teams are teaching us kind of make sure you pack more than two pair of underpants and upon travel and, Lysol wipes and stuff like that. Back to that duty of care thing on the company's allowing people to use the corporate travel tool to book personal travel. I was actually working with a couple of companies that were really into like duty account and stuff. And they told me that, "I'm that corporate insurance," so if you're on a business trip and there's a lot of laws in place in Europe for this, if you're on a business trip and something happens to you, your company is liable for your safety, your executives and C-level employees could go to jail. If they don't do everything that they can to help you.

So, they have these insurance policies in place through these different vendors that can send in SWAT teams or medical professionals or a helicopter to rescue you or whatever else is part of their insurance package and stuff. And one of the companies was telling me, it's not that much more to add personal travel to that policy. And for a company that's a huge incentive, if you're going for a new job and they say, "Hey, Hansini, next time you go to Antarctica, you can book your trip, maybe not Antarctica. You can book your trip through your corporate travel agency and get our corporate rates and stuff. Obviously, you have to pay for it yourself. And if something happens to you or someone in your party while you're there, we'll send the Acquis helicopter to rescue you because we value you as an employee. Regardless if you're traveling for business or pleasure, we still want to make sure you're good".

And that'd be a huge thing for companies to be able to offer. And in the information that I've got that doesn't really affect their insurance premium, that much to have that coverage. So that would be awesome. And then if, SAP Concur ever rolled that out, that's when I might go to Antarctica just in case, and then say, "Hey, send me a Concur chopper to come and get me". I'm over this.

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. I mean, I think you make a really good point if this has shown, if I've learned anything throughout this year and a half, from a professional perspective, the company that you work for and the way they show that they care about you is so important. I think about all the different things Acquis has done for us over the last year and a half. And it's really special. It's so unique whether it's inviting a comedian to an all-hands meeting, to just lighten the mood, sending us random gifts for no reason, other than it's just nice to get something in the mail, that's not something you bought off from Amazon. Just the random virtual events. We've had cookie decorating classes for kids. We had a virtual wine and paint night. We've had bourbon tastings. I mean, we've done trivia, we've done so many different things. And it's these little things that add up. To create a travel program has so much control over people's general satisfaction and an organization.

And I don't think they realize that very often. And I think, the examples I gave about Acquis there obviously it's not travel related, but when you have the opportunity to do something like this, where you can allow the personal touch to a very professional offering, I think that goes a really long way. And that's really important for people to know. I mean, that's how you earn loyalty. That's how you increase employee satisfaction. And I really liked that people are thinking about doing things that way but related to this is something I've thought a lot about again, in this conversation I had earlier today is that there needs to be a collaborative approach to this across the industry, for companies to be able to allow their employees, to book personal travel through their TMC accounts. There needs to be kind of a shift in the way TMCs have their business models.

I'm not saying anything earth shattering, but I guess the onus is on all of the suppliers and the buyers to figure out a way to make this work. So, I think there is a general responsibility for everyone to kind of step up and figure out how we can make corporate travel better. Only one piece in this value chain, all the responsibility can't be on them. One because it's too much work and two, because it's impossible. But I think the travel industry is very unique in that one piece doesn't work without the other. You can't just extract one piece altogether and be like, "oh, that's it", now all of the air is just going to be the way this airline does it forever. It just doesn't work that way. We kind of are a house of cards of sorts that if like the airline industry just like decided to stop serving the corporate travel market, I mean, you're out of luck and that's really unique to the travel industry.

Other industries have multiple economies of scale and supply chains that support them, whether it's people, whether it's actual physical goods, but we don't have that. And so, there is a shared responsibility that moves us forward. That's to me what the next phase of travel is, what is everyone going to do in terms of stepping up to this next phase of duty of care to technology innovation, to program transformation. And until everyone kind of lays their cards on the table, I don't know that we have a clear view, but I am very optimistic from what I'm seeing and hearing. And a part of that people, that are thinking that way and putting their talk into action.

Danny Smout:

Yeah, it definitely seems like the opportunity from this, the opportunities to change from this as being adopted by the airlines and the TMCs. Kind of reminds me of that meme. It's like, "oh, no, United need to bail out and stuff". And it was like, "yeah, I don't feel sorry for them. They tried to charge me $50 to bring an extra apple on the flight or something at one time" and an oversized bag fee and stuff like that. And I think we're going to see a lot of that changing and being more transparent in the way that the fares are coming out. So, question for you. If Acquis gave you an Acquis-branded face mask to wear on a flight, would you wear it?

Hansini Sharma:

A hundred percent. Acquis actually already sent me two, and I've worn them on planes before-actually, I have a picture of me in one.

Danny Smout:

Oh, wow! Okay. Well maybe that could be the thumbnail for the podcast then.

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. Happy to send it over. I've got my Acquis mask on and my University of Texas, I'm a Longhorn through and through, my baseball cap on which I always travel with, that hat has seen five continents itself, probably needs to be retired soon, but for sentimental purposes, it remains atop of my head any time I'm traveling.

Danny Smout:

That's awesome. Your hat has been to more continents than most people I know, that's impressive. So, SAP Concur haven't given me a mask, but I did have the option to receive one. And I absolutely would not wear it on a flight, not because I'm not proud to work for SAP Concur, is an amazing company, amazing products, but I just get hounded on the flight, like "Hey, you work for SAP. Can you help me with my expenses?" Or, "Hey, last week I tried to charge this and my manager rejected it. I hate your tool and stuff". So I would just buy a nondescript maybe from like some kind of a boring company or something mask. So people would just leave me alone.

Hansini Sharma:

My own friends call me sometimes when they're doing their expense reports, because they can't figure it out. As I always tell them; this is a you problem, not a me problem because it's not that hard. So, you can do it.

Danny Smout:

I like it though. When I see someone on the flight, doing their expenses on their phone and stuff, I never tell them, "Hey, that's the company I work for". But I do be like, "Hey, that's pretty cool. How do you do that?" And stuff just to try and pump up the company a little bit. But yeah, I'm an AirPods in, watch something on my iPad or read a magazine, kind of a flyer. So actually, speaking of magazines on a flight, I learned an interesting couple of interesting statistics yesterday about air travel in that, United reduced the paper density on the in-flight magazines by one ounce per magazine, recently. And they were able to save over $200,000 worth of fuel just because their planes were a little bit lighter. And United also-everyone knows that guy years ago took one olive out of the American Airlines salad and saved a ton of money.

They saved a ton of money, but United made the magazines a little bit lighter and then saved a ton of money from that. They also painted the planes, remember they used to be like solid blue and other more white. White paint is actually lighter than blue paint. So, they can save a ton of money by painting their planes white. So, from now on, I'm only going to buy white cars, because I'll save some money on gas. But it's funny, like when you think just the changes like that, but the amount that they fly, how much money they can save just by removing an olive or taking a page out of the magazine and then to one extreme, all Nippon Airlines in Japan used to ask everybody to go to the bathroom before they got on the plane, because they calculated, their scientists calculated there was up to 240 pounds worth of urine in people's blotters, sorry to take it down this route, on the plane, and if that was expelled before they got on the plane, they could save a ton of money.

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. I mean, I think you've hit on a really good point. Those really subtle changes have lots of cost savings. I think this can be extended to so much more, they're such subtle changes that you can make that are probably imperceptible to most, if not all. Because I doubt anyone is counting either the paperweight or the number of pages in the United in-flight magazine. But I think sometimes some of the smallest edits lead to the broadest strokes of impact. This is one of those times where we have an incredible amount of opportunity to do that.

And I think we also have a general sentiment of patience in the sense of the flexibility of, trial and error. So, I don't think airlines are going to get it right every time. I don't think any travel supplier or travel buyer is going to get it right the first time. But I think we all have the same shared mentality that, "let's move forward. Let's figure out how to change a little bit. Let's figure out how to be better and could a couple of different things to trial. And if they work great, if they don't, we'll try the next one," which is unique. I don't think we've always been given that latitude in the past.

Danny Smout:

For sure. Yeah. And thank you for bringing it back to the topic at hand, as opposed to random plain facts. Definitely, we're going to see a lot of changes over the next couple of months when companies start to travel again and loosen up some of the restrictions. Hansini, thank you for your time and your pearls of wisdom. Based on my introduction, I'm going to take all of your comments and points, pretend they're my own, when I speak to my clients, that's kind of what I do. But thank you for your time. Thanks to Acquis for sending one of their best and brightest and funniest to speak with us about kind of the, what the hell is going on with travel topic.

Hansini Sharma:

Yeah. Thanks Danny so much for having me today. This is a lot of fun and you should keep the airlines jokes coming, are not the jokes, the random facts back coming-I love them. The Nippon one is unique-but very interesting. I'll keep that in mind next time I fly.

Danny Smout:

Thank you. Check that magazine out and see if there's any less pages next time.

Hansini Sharma:

I'm definitely going to do that.

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