09 June 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Communication breakdown with suppliers is the biggest problem facing travel buyers, according to the founder of the Travel Business School.
Speaking during an online forum, Russell Hart said this problem ranks above service and financial underperformance as reasons why travel contracts fail.
Hart, who has more than 20 years experience of travel buying, made the statement following an online seminar he conducted with purchasing managers entitled 'how to solve your purchasing problems'.
He told supplymanagement.com: "I've undertaken numerous travel reviews so I can safely make this assertion on the evidence I've encountered.
"If you have a good relationship with your supplier, you can solve just about any problem. When the relationship has broken down, there is nowhere else to go but to seek a new supplier."
The seminar explored how purchasers could measure service performance and where to focus to reduce costs.
On the former he said: "Many travel managers feel vulnerable because they, as the custodians of the travel contract, have no way of justifying how good the service provider is. There is too much 'perception' and not enough hard evidence. As a consequence, travel purchasers constantly have to defend their decision to keep faith with a supplier.
"Rather than defending their decision, purchasers should go on the offensive. They need to demonstrate the service provider is contributing to increased business performance and use tangible evidence to prove it. For example, a regular service questionnaire asking the right questions should be implemented."
He said key stakeholders should be asked to complete the survey and award a score for each question they are asked. The results can then be analysed for an overall satisfaction rating that can be continuously worked on for improvements.
"Targets can then be set for the supplier to meet with consideration given to penalties/incentives," said Hart, "An entire business plan could be created to meet this objective."
He said this process demonstrates to senior management that their travel purchasers are not just focusing on reducing cost but also on raising standards.