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Monday, 14 February 2011

Data, data, everywhere, but not a report to run...

In a world where organisations seek end to end travel and expense solutions, often using multiple suppliers the missing link is usually the detailed payment information. In response, Visa and MasterCard introduced a solution, which allows merchants to submit additional data to the card issuers regarding a specific transaction (P Card). This additional data may include; tax amounts, product codes, descriptions, shipping information, etc - this is called; Level 3 data. The banks display this information on customer's statements. This provides an enhanced level of service from both merchants and banks enabling the end customer to account for their purchases automatically, potentially right through to the corporate ERP system.

So why do you still only receive basic statements (transaction date, merchant narrative and the charge amount), you ask? Well it seems whilst transaction fees from the banks/issuers are lower to merchants if Level 3 data is provided. The implementation process is both expensive and complex for small-mid size merchants and even larger ones don't hand off this data for "strategic" reasons.

Historically airlines do provide Level 3 data; the lower transaction fee is very enticing due to their volume. The data made available by airlines includes the traveller name, ticket number and route information. After looking at a number of examples of airline data we discovered some airlines are very consistent in the data they provide. However, some airlines provide a poorer level of data for instance Route information from some airlines were "XXX-XXX", rather than "MAN-JFK". This complicates the situation even more.

This lack of transaction level data received from their suppliers frustrates Business customers. To compound this Merchants tend to provide the data via email or post, which arrives in different formats and on a timescale that suits the merchant. Manual intervention is then required by the customer to reconcile all this non matched data to monthly bank statements.

An implementation barrier exists for banks and issuers which hinders the success of Level 3 data - the inability to push this as a solution. With the number of merchants' they deal with, where and how would they start? After all they are financial, not technology companies. Their core business is the transactions themselves - not optional data.

CSP puts business customers on the front foot, ensuring critical data is passes to Conferma at the point a virtual card is deployed. This gives our customers centralised, standard, well formatted, upfront data with visibility of incoming charges, proactive not reactive.

Together with our partners, we're bringing our customers a level of data and insight that is unprecedented in the industry.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Simplifying Travel Settlement

In travel, the majority of booking methods require a form of guarantee, primarily a credit card. This is how you're expected to book via the GDS, self booking tools, OTA’s or even over the telephone. When a card is available, it works pretty well; its quick, secure and all the backend processes work (for example, non-arrival or cancellation charges are billed back to the right travellers payment card). The suppliers like it, they don't have to chase an agent or traveller for payment as they refer back to the guarantee.

The problem comes for those travellers who aren't in possession of a corporate card. In a world where business is global and more employees, from all levels of business, have to travel - booking can be a pain. Where corporate cards are not available to the employee, an immediate barrier to travel is raised. Of course, the barrier can be overcome via varied clunky options. The traveller could chase down another colleague to use their corporate card (security alarm bells!), but what payment card is the checkout charge going to be settled with? Even agency level guarantee’s, such as IATA, doesn't solve non-corporate card holder travellers having to settle on departure. The traveller could choose to use their personal payment card and place a claim into accounts at a later date; not only is this problematic for the traveller, it also creates more work for your accounts department!

Without your own corporate card it is becoming more and more difficult to access efficient and simple business travel processes. By removing these barriers to travel your business could be better connected and more prosperous (your accounts department might also be happier?).

Billback powered by CSP embeds a unique virtual card into travel booking processes, enabling staff within a business to book travel and not have to worry about settlement. The card is never visible to the traveller or agent, increasing the security of the process. Card transactions are matched back to the original booking data which provides the greatest level of detail for reporting. The information is uploaded directly into the corporate or agency back office.

Last Friday we announced with we're partnering with Sabre to provide virtual payments directly into the GDS' flagship application, Sabre Red, empowering more travel agents to take-up CSP than ever before.

With both our travel agent, financial and technology partners we're enabling better business by simplifying travel settlement.