"How do business travel agents add value versus booking travel directly on the web?" This is one of the questions I'm often asked when speaking with an organisation who books their business travel activity without using a Travel Management Company (TMC).
Whilst the Internet has brought us many benefits, technology alone cannot replace the knowledge, expertise and personality offered by an experienced business travel agent. So if you travel or book travel for business, here are 15 reasons why you need a business travel agent in your life!
#1 You can't build a rapport with the Internet!
While technology does its best to mimic real human interaction, (most of us have used a chatbot at some point) with all the will in the world, it's just not the same as speaking to a real person. Your travel consultant knows the business travel products they are recommending to you inside and out; they'll make recommendations based on your unique preferences and their insight into your likes and dislikes. Nothing beats having a friendly and familiar person on the end of the phone whenever you need them.
#2 They will save you time by doing all the hard work for you
Instead of spending countless hours researching for the best price on your next trip. Save time and pass the booking enquiry to your dedicated business travel consultant who will recommend appropriate options and costs for business trips. The time saving by doing so allows you to concentrate on your core business responsibilities. It can be easy to forget how much time is worth in monetary terms, so here’s an example:
A Sales Director books all their travel themselves on the web. To keep things straightforward, let’s assume their time is worth £100 per hour to the company.
If they spend 30 minutes looking for and booking their business travel, the cost to the company is £50 in lost time. Not forgetting, the time needed to claim expenses and the other implications of booking travel ‘off contract’.
If they had sent their request to their business travel agency, and they paid a service fee of let’s say £10. That’s £40 saved straight away not to mention the value (that’s not always easily visible) that comes from reduced rates, management information reports, cost saving identification, traveller tracking, 24-hour support and crisis management to name just a few.
#3 They can hold airline seats without committing to buy them
Instead of purchasing your fare immediately on the internet, which commits you to the restrictions that some tickets come with, a TMC can hold seats for you using their “global distribution system”. This means you can change or cancel your flights up until your fare expires, giving you the opportunity to fine tune any last-minute adjustments to your trip without incurring a cost.
#4 They consider the bigger picture
If you've selected the “lowest priced” airfare on the internet to your required location, when you get there you could find that you’ve arrived at a major city's regional (low-cost) airport that’s an hour's taxi ride away from where you need to be! This means inconvenience, lost time and often a huge taxi cost. There are lots of airports that cleverly incorporate the city into their name, despite being a significant distance away from the city centre and this can mislead travellers who do not check distances before they book their flight. An experienced business travel consultant will make you aware if you are travelling to a regional airport to prepare for any additional travel time you'll incur to get you to your actual destination.
#5 They consider other travel methods at the same time
You might be looking to travel between city pairs that offer various methods of transportation. For example, if you need to fly between London and Paris, rather than just searching for a flight between the two cities online, your travel consultant will ensure you take into consideration other means of travel such as Eurostar which means you have covered all travel types for your trip.
#6 They're your personal 'travel' assistant
Good business travel agents don't just book individual trips in isolation; they ask about your schedule so they can combine arrangements to make life easier or save money. For example, you've just booked two return rail tickets for two consecutive days travel into London on the internet. If you'd booked through your TMC, they would recommend staying overnight in London so you could merge two trips into one, which means less travelling and cost savings too as there's no need for that second rail ticket.
#7 They provide personable and friendly support
Whether you need advice on a new aircraft, information on how many times a flight touches down en route, or local area information such as etiquette and weather, your travel consultant is at the end of the phone with their knowledge and expertise whenever you need their support.
#8 They'll align themselves with your company objectives
If you use a TMC, they'll take the time to understand your organisation's business travel needs, from regular destinations to project work that will impact on demand to ensure you're aware of travel supplier deals relevant to your travel patterns such as negotiating discounts or signing up to hotel and airline loyalty schemes. They'll also help you optimise your business travel programme by recommending cost reduction strategies.
#9 They will negotiate airline route deals and hotel discounts
If you regularly book with the same airline, hotel or car hire company, you could be able to secure a discount such as an airline route deal or corporate hotel rate, with the goal securing discounts, enhance conditions, free perks and upgrades. If you use a TMC, they will monitor your buying patterns and flag up any cost saving opportunities and better still, they'll deliver them for you too!
#10 They'll be there for you 24/7, whenever you need them
If it's 9 pm local time in your destination and you need to change your plans immediately, and you’ve booked directly online, your options to amend your plans aren't always simple. To change a flight with an airline over the phone, it could take you ages to get through especially in the event of an unforeseen incident. With a TMC's 24-hour department, you can relax knowing you have 24-hour support to change your plans or even hold alternative travel options for you.
#11 They'll proactively advise you of cancellations and delays
If your plans are affected by a delay or cancellation, they'll be proactive in letting you know and coming up with an alternative solution for you. They'll also help apply for refunds and process any compensation claims to which you may be entitled
#12 They'll assist you with your duty of care
A TMC will notify you of any bookings requested to high-risk destinations to ensure travel is approved. They'll also assist in advising the traveller of any risk-mitigation strategies they should be aware of along with the latest passport and visa requirements, which they can process for you too. Traveller tracking and crisis management also means they’ll be there for you and your travellers in the event of a crisis.
#13 They'll give you visibility of business travel spend
If your travellers are booking multiple flights across different internet sites, it can be hard to keep track of where you are spending money, which limits your ability to have full control of your travel spend. Detailed management information reports and real-time data dashboards give you in-depth insight into your business travel habits, so you can spot trends and opportunities to improve.
#14 They'll provide innovative payment solutions
TMCs provide payment solutions such as lodge card solutions and credit accounts that help give you full control and visibility of where you are spending and improves your company's cash flow. They can also arrange hotel bill back which means the traveller doesn't have to settle the bill when they check out, instead the hotel sends the invoice to the TMC to pay, who is then paid by the corporate client. This solution also means you can add meals and other sundries to your rate, all itemised on your bill saving time in submitting additional expense claims.
#15 They'll ensure travel policy compliance
TMCs will ensure all bookings comply with your travel policy by encouraging and enforcing your rules. This is a crucial tool in keeping business travel costs to a minimum, and you can rely on your TMC to share reports with you that show who is trying or succeeding in bypassing the rules.
Above are just a few examples of the importance of business travel agents and TMCs. Can you suggest any more examples of how a TMC/Business Travel Consultant outweighs booking directly on the web? Comment in the box below we would love to hear from you.