by Clare Murphy
Travel management companies (TMCs) can provide a number of benefits to companies and other types of organizations both large and small. From cost savings on business travel, to travel policy adherence, duty of care, and more – TMCs can help. But, given the plethora of TMCs out there, how can a company choose the best provider for them?
Set Clear Goals For Your Business Travel Program
According to the Global Business Travel Association, the first step travel managers should take is to define the top five to ten goals for their travel program. This will be different for each company, and will depend on the size of the business, the number of traveling employees and the complexities of the travel program and type of travel.
Define your challenges and let the prospective vendor tell you how they can solve that challenge. Are you trying to save money? Do you want better data? Do you need to better ensure your employees are safe? Do you want an easier way to book travel while controlling certain parameters? Different vendors have different strengths, so in order to find the perfect one, you will need to be straightforward about your company’s needs.
Key Questions To Ask When Choosing A TMC
At the recent Business Travel Show in London, a panel of experts discussed how to choose the best TMC and how to structure the relationship so it fits your company’s needs.
The panel, ‘Choosing a travel management company and other partners’ consisted of experts from each area of business travel from TMC to client, and included Adrian Parkes, Chief Executive of the Guild of Travel Management Companies, David Bishop of the Gray Dawes Group, Nikki Rogan, Global Travel Manager for Synamedia, and consultant Simon Bennett. Their 5 questions to ask when narrowing down your choices were:
- What booking channels are available? TMCs each allow travel to be booked in different ways. Identify how your travelers are currently booking and what channels should be available in the future. Investigate platforms offered by prospective TMCs.
- What is the TMC’s approach? What are you looking for in a TMC? Are you looking for a partner who can guide you to the best solution? The best partners will be those who will learn your business (or are already experienced in your type of business) and can make suggestions that benefit you without you having to ask.
- What technologies do they use? Are they innovative companies who are keeping up with the latest trends? You will likely want to partner with a company that has a robust technology team. After all, employees will want smooth user interfaces and intuitive design to book their travel. The better the platform, the better the adherence to using preferred channels.
- What are the costs, and what are the savings? There will always be a fee, but how can those fees be offset by savings in resources, better rates from travel suppliers, improved control over traveler safety, better policy adherence?
- Will they meet the needs of your finance team? Get your finance team involved and find out what would make their lives easier. More than likely, their answer will be “data.” Look for TMCs who partner with a payments provider offering virtual payments. Virtual payments make use of single-use virtual card numbers (VCNs) that offer enhanced data for each trip or booking for improved spend tracking and reporting. VCNs also facilitate billback to cut time spent managing travel expenses and facilitate adherence to travel spending policies.
The final step before sending out requests for proposals (RFPs) is to narrow your list. RFPs are a lot of work, and you want to be sure before that point that you are considering the very best ~TMCs for you. Ask questions, check references, find out who your competitors are using, and be sure you know exactly what your goals are before you ask for proposals.
For a thorough checklist of selecting a TMC, see this resource by The Business Travel News.
And as a bonus thought, consider this. Your business travel policy can actually have an impact on employee recruitment and retention. For younger generations in particular, business travel is not just a job obligation, but a perk. So when you’re creating your travel policy, consider not just cost savings and the safety of employees, but think about how the policy can attract and retain talent. Read more on Skift here and check out our Bleisure Travel Doesn’t Have To Make Expenses Complicated article to learn how to allow travelers to combine business and leisure travel without creating expense headaches.