You only need to speak to a handful of people responsible for travel within their business to understand that their experiences with corporate travel agencies is a completely mixed response. While some enjoy a fantastic relationship with their preferred travel management company, some are at the end of their tether, with unfulfilled promises, poor service levels and a general feeling of dissatisfaction. So how can you stop this happening to you and your travel management company? Here are four quick tips to help set your partnership up for success.
#1 Agree expectations at the beginning
Make sure you and your TMC understand your roles in the partnership right from the start. How many times have you had a disagreement with someone because they haven’t met your expectations, but they didn’t know what they were? The same applies to business partnerships, every party involved needs to understand their role and what they need to deliver as well as how their performance will be measured.
#2 Define processes for the unexpected
There will always be unavoidable circumstances that cause change, whether you like it or not. The key to not letting these events derail your partnership is to know in advance how you will handle them. For example, in the December 2016 issue of The Business Travel Magazine, an anonymous buyer shares their frustration about their account manager being changed far too regularly, with little say in who their replacement will be. Agree on a process for this exact scenario, if the Account Manager must be changed, agree how many years experience their replacement must have, will you have a say in the decision? Can you meet them before they’re appointed? Preempting scenarios such as this one will go some way to avoiding the frustrations of situations that feel like they’re out of your control.
#3 Get to know each other
Business relationships aren’t supposed to be clinical, we all know relationships are at their best when we understand, like and respect each other. Make an effort to get to know your TMC’s employees at all levels. Introducing your bookers and travellers to the TMC’s operational team can really help establish rapport, and a good personality fit with your Account Manager is as equally important as them having the right skills to advise you properly. Good business travel partnerships are based on trust, and trust, openness and honesty between a company and its TMC are crucial. Once you’ve established that, you’ll have a reliable partner, who listens to your business’ needs and helps you achieve your objectives.
#4 Ensure value is easily visible
If you’re already using or considering using a TMC, it’s an absolute must that you can see the value they deliver. This goes way beyond booking your travel for you, it’s about working with you to achieve your objectives, whatever they may be. Whether its saving money, improving the traveller’s experience or increasing productivity, your TMC should find ways to help you hit your targets, but their work and its results need to be visible and measurable. Agree exactly how value will be measured whenever you set a new objective, because if you don’t, how will you quantify if your TMC is adding any? If you’re going to pay a TMC for their professional services, you must be able to see a return on that investment.
When it comes to building a solid relationship with your TMC, remember it’s not all about products, solutions, data and statistics. Of course they help, but it’s people that make the real difference to a great partnership. Working with people that have a deep understanding of your business, culture and values can be really rewarding. Remember we’re all human, and it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference.