There are a number of reasons why businesses call us to ask about our travel management capabilities. Most often, it’s because they have specific questions that require answers that only a live person can give. Maybe it’s for someone who isn’t comfortable making online reservations; or they have a traveler who requires a very complicated, multi-stop international itinerary that simply can’t be booked online. Sometimes it’s the person who is so very busy…and they just need someone they can trust to make the trip happen.
These reasons and many others we see are important and need our consideration. But when it’s all said and done, there’s a much bigger picture to consider – the overall productivity loss of your road warriors and/or travel manager when tasked with these unforeseen challenges. We’ve received feedback on how our participation in travel planning has increased employee productivity in the businesses that we work with. Not just with the quick phone call to make a reservation, but we’ve identified additional opportunities through the following three leadership categories; strategy, savings and service.
An exceptional travel management company (TMC) offers strategic leadership. This comes from their ability to help businesses define specific goals and tactics with regard to their travel and entertainment program. Each business's travel and entertainment program should align with business objectives; determining how the program is set-up, the overall travel ecosystem, key travel components and additional customized items that deliver value – first and foremost.
In addition to developing a value-added travel and entertainment program, your TMC should deliver best practices including the technology and modern travel tools available. Online booking, risk mitigation services, and mobile apps have a tremendous impact on making travel easier and more efficient for road warriors. These tools also need to “talk to” your business’ internal systems to deliver appropriate data to those who help to manage this line item - finance, human resources, legal, etc. All have a part in the travel management process and in turn benefit from an organized system that increases efficiency and productivity. Travel technology can improve reimbursement processing, cash flow and meet additional operational requirements that help to manage the overall travel ecosystem. Your TMC can lead this process saving time for employees and increasing your travel program overall return on investment (ROI.)
When your TMC is not offering this strategic leadership, the business’ travel value proposition isn’t strong. Understandably – if the program isn’t strong and supported, why would your travelers adopt it? Taking a strategic leadership approach offers productivity enhancement, best practices, project management and enhances the overall travel program.
Making sure the best value is serviced for every trip can be complicated, and is typically a multi- step process for travel managers. Having one online booking tool that’s supported by a great TMC can make the search for savings efficient and effective. When the right TMC is selected, all the fares and all of the airlines are available in one, unbiased location. The only bias should be through your business’ preferred supplier agreements. Finding the best value should be 50% more efficient when the traveler is directed to one supplier who has both call-in and online options to book travel in an unbiased way. Through this system (online booking tool + TMC), comprehensive fare search and policy parameters are built in to keep travelers within your business’ travel policy.
Savings leadership also helps in change management. If you don’t know how to make changes to existing reservations (and it is inevitable for business travelers), it can be complicated and costly if the process isn’t counseled by a professional TMC. Receiving refunds, providing ticket exchanges and voiding tickets can be very expensive if not supported by a TMC. Your TMC travel expert can direct these changes, resulting in the most convenient and economical option.
Exceptional service should be a “no brainer” when it comes to securing the professional services of a travel management company. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. What employees mostly focus on is the way a TMC can help make a reservation. While this is important, it’s equally as important to develop a service level agreement (SLA) with your TMC. This SLA should include what most TMCs should be able to deliver that would ensure exceptional response times, quality wisdom and direction, professionalism, trust and confidence.
In addition, the other components of service that companies should look for are the strategic advice, savings opportunities and response times from your TMC account manager. These and other key components should be measured and evaluated on a regular basis. Does your account manager follow up on traveler concerns? Do they deliver valuable insights? Is the response time to your business’ finance (or any other department) team appropriate so that critical reports are delivered on time? Does this person provide direction based on weather issues or terrorist attacks while your employees are on the road? The variety of service and level of detail that a TMC offers can provide a service leadership dynamic that is critical to most organizations.
If you mapped out the whole process of travel - from approval to looking up fares, booking, getting travel approved, changing it a few times, all the way through to when that traveler is back in the office – it’s a big job. And those who book travel on their own don’t know any different. If you compare costs between directly securing travel vs. working with a TMC, savings typically comes only when the company directs ALL of their spending to one supplier. They need to first gain status before they received discounts and exceptional service. This may be acceptable for some people, but we’ve found that is usually comes at the expense of higher airfare, hotel and car rental costs.
When you find and partner with that exceptional TMC, their expertise in managing the overall travel and entertainment line item - the beginning and the end of the travel process - is what they do best. This partnership ultimately saves time and money for your business, while providing the level of service that your road warriors depend on.