If you’re looking for a new partner to provide travel management services for your business, you may be wondering how to choose the right one. Selecting the right Travel Management Company (TMC) to support your company can often be a complicated and long drawn out process, especially when the service offerings of each TMC appear so similar you feel like you’re playing a game of spot the difference! So how do you dig deeper to find your perfect supplier?
Here are five things to consider when choosing your next supplier of travel management services or evaluating your existing provider.
#1 Values and Culture
The culture and values of a business can give you a great insight into what they’re like to work with, and it’s important you look into this before you meet with a prospective supplier. Look into things like company structure, ownership and the knowledge and experience of the people within the business. Don’t forget to check their approach to social responsibility too; this can be an excellent indicator of an organisation’s culture, particularly the level of engagement in the local community.
Similarly, the TMCs you have on your shortlist should be asking the same questions to you so they can provide a proposal tailored to you and your company’s needs, rather than a standard one size fits all solution. A good TMC will take the time to understand your business goals and priorities for managing travel, and this should show in the solutions they put forward when submitting a proposal or presenting to you.
A good cultural fit between two companies working together can make a huge difference to the success of the partnership. Moreover, knowing that your chosen TMC partner understands and cares about the needs of your business helps to build trust right from the beginning. Check out their case studies and ask them to provide a couple of relevant customer references during the evaluation stages so you can speak to their customers directly about their experience.
#2 Service and Commitment
Promises of an excellent service are always nice to hear; however, you need to make sure your chosen TMC will be held accountable to those promises. Most good TMCs will happily agree to a Service Level Agreement (SLA), and it is best practice to have one in place as part of most travel management services contracts.
An SLA defines the minimum service level you should expect from your TMC and allows you to monitor performance by measuring achievement of the agreed service levels. It is vital you agree at the contract negotiation stage exactly how the SLA will be measured, what data will be captured and how, and also how performance will be reported on.
Ask your prospective TMCs for examples of existing agreements and performance reports that they provide to their current customers so you can make sure these are in line with your expectations. As well as reports on performance, service levels should regularly be reviewed at meetings with your dedicated Account Manager.
#3 Knowledge and Experience
Understanding a potential TMC’s expertise is crucial in appointing a TMC you can trust and rely on. Naturally, you need to know that the people dealing with your travel bookings or tasked with saving you money are experts in their field, so it is important you take the time to conduct some due diligence. How many years experience do their business travel consultants have on average? How experienced is their proposed Account Manager? Do they invest in their people with travel-related training and career development? Is their staff turnover below or above average? How many other clients will the proposed travel team look after?
We recommend asking for the CVs of the proposed people who will work on your account including the Travel Consultants and Account Manager, better still ask to meet them first. We think it is good practice to introduce our customers to their proposed Account Manager before a contract commences to make sure there’s a good personality fit as well as having the necessary skills to be innovative in the management of their corporate travel needs.
You only have to glance at the ‘Top 50 Travel Management Companies List’ in Buying Business Travel Magazine to see that TMCs come in all shapes and sizes and no single TMC is right for every type of customer. Which one is the best choice for your business, will depend on the level of service and support you need.
Let’s say your company spends £300k per year on business travel and your TMC turns over £400m each year, you probably feel like a small fish a huge pond! Which clients are going to get the most attention? The larger ones of course. If you moved your £300k of travel spend to a TMC who has a turnover of £20m, it is likely you will be considered a much more valuable customer and get the time and attention you require. Buying power often comes up when discussing topics such as this, and it is worth remembering that most reputable smaller TMCs are members of large global networks that means their customers benefit from tremendous buying power as a result.
For multinational businesses, there is the question of whether to use a global, regional or local travel management company? Most of the larger TMCs offer a branded global solution; however, many smaller TMCs can also provide a worldwide solution through networks such as Uniglobe bringing the the best of both worlds.
If you are speaking with TMCs about the possibility of using their services, you will probably be evaluating their transaction fees to understand their pricing structures. However, it is critical that you have a thorough grasp of what they’re going to do in exchange for these charges. While TMC fees are typically transactional, the services they provide go way beyond the transaction itself, and this is where a good TMC delivers value.
- How will they help streamline the process of booking travel & processing expenses?
- How will they assist in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your employees?
- How will they reduce the total cost of business travel?
- Will they be available to support your travellers 24 hours a day?
- How will they work with you to continually improve your business strategy?
As you evaluate your potential suppliers, ask for examples of how they have delivered value to similar businesses or companies that have a similar travel spend profile to yours. Their track record will speak volumes and give you the assurance you need that you've found the right partner.
For a more detailed round up of a TMC can add value, check out this post ‘10 ways a travel management company will add value to your business travel programme’.
The five tips above should help you on your journey to find the perfect TMC, which turns out to be a valuable and collaborative partner.