We often meet with organizations who are looking to improve their travel procurement process. Our conversations usually begin with a deep dive into what is and isn’t working. Service is almost always identified as an area that needs to improve.
In the travel environment, service can mean many different things to different people. Finance has opinions, the travel manager has opinions and the variety of different traveler types also have their own perspectives on service. More importantly, these role players often have different objectives. To top it off, service can be delivered by humans or technology (or both) and there is a difference of opinion as to what great is in those environments.
In an effort to further define what is and isn’t working from a service perspective, we evaluate it in two buckets and then within each bucket are various categories. As we have discussed before, managed travel is the yin and yang between making the company (Bucket #1) happy and making the traveler (Bucket #2) happy. So even in our annual surveys, we break down service scores into these two buckets, and you should too. Let’s take a look at the categories we include in each bucket.
Bucket #1 - Service to the Company - Program Management
- Travel Policy Direction. Ideas, direction, recommendations on what parts of your travel policy can evolve. These could include defining purchasing thresholds, enhanced systems to handle pre trip authorizations, keeping traveler profiles current, how to follow policy and submit expenses, security suggestions and requirements.
- Data Collection and Distribution. Quality and consistent collection and delivery of the data required to manage travel and expense requirements for your business. The right data, consistently collected, delivered into the right person’s inbox for processing. Support to reconcile certain items and the data required to enhance business operations.
- Policy Enforcement. Using systems and automation to enforce your travel policies and collect required data.
- Disruption Management. Keeping the company aware of traveler disruptions and potential threats that may impact the company as a whole.
- Preferred Supplier Strategy Support. Identifying preferred supplier opportunities that the TMC offers or those that the company can enjoy and qualify for to obtain discounts and/or value added benefits from suppliers.
- Unused non-refundable ticket tracking and management. Ensure the best use of unused non-refundable tickets.
- VIP. Taking care of company identified individuals, guests, and projects that can impact business.
Bucket #2 - Service to Travelers - Trip Management
- Quality Online Service. Available to make reservations 24/7 compliant with company requirements. This should include ease of use and be well supported.
- Quality Call in Service. Capability to make and change everything from simple to complex reservations, VIP reservations, support online reservations, etc. Dedicated, responsive, knowledgeable, trustworthy.
- Value. Delivering the best value including comprehensive and unbiased search, low cost carriers, and unique carriers around the world. International rate desk and other value engineering tools in place for air, hotel, car.
- Change Management. Flexibility when plans change, proactive when possible and responsive support to make the change happen easily and cost effectively.
- Disruption Management. Tools that are used to manage public and supplier identified risks in the form of weather issues, strikes, and other threats are assessed. The right proactive outreach is facilitated when advance notice is possible to mitigate disruption.
- Extras. Facilitate earned upgrades as requested, void tickets, add on vacation planning, check in, restaurant reservations, and more.
- Relationships. Confidence gained from a relationship with the service providers either as the company or as an individual traveler.
Evaluating service by these specific categories can help you truly identify what is working and understand the areas where there is a perceived need for improvement. Understanding why one category received a less than excellent rating can help you make the necessary adjustments to improve that rating for either the company, the traveler or both.
A specific answer to the issue of service can make all the difference in the world in your travel program, the adoption of it, company productivity, and business success overall.