Seven steps to find your perfect travel partner

Choosing a travel provider can be daunting.

Like any buying decisions, you need to ask the right questions, listen for the answers, and make informed choices. Get it right, and your travel management company (TMC) will be a real asset.

So how can you make sure you engage the right TMC? Here are a few handy hints to get you on the right track.

1. Look for a partner, not just a provider. Integration between provider and customer is vital to the success of any travel programme. They should be an extension of your team, connecting with how you work and your objectives. Travel teams should provide support and familiarity, factors you’ll appreciate in times of crisis.

2. Challenge them to solve your travel pains. Too often, procurement exercises are focused on hypothetical ‘room rates’ or ‘best practice answers’, neglecting the specifics of what you need. TMCs should be challenged on how their solution will realise your travel programme goals, delivering return on investment.

3. Read the signs. It’s important to understand how you fit in with any TMC’s plans. Will you be their biggest account? Or smallest? Beyond just asking them, take into account how detailed or generic their RFP response is, to the content, tone and their body language during presentation.

4. Procure like a pro. It’s vital you furnish providers with accurate data, informed future plans and clarity of service expectations, to ensure a complete, specific response. Equally, don’t be afraid to ask them tough questions and challenge them for suggestions on what they would do for you.

5. Make decisions based on fact, data and instinct. Data is a powerful narrative to any procurement exercise, for instance customer retention rates or average service adoption tell the story of how a provider is doing. But don’t rely on figures alone. Ask TMCs to substantiate claims, through testimonials and case studies. Ask for references and to talk to similar customers about their success.

6. Does their offer match your requirements? Your travel service shouldn’t be an off-the-shelf solution. It should be unique to you to deliver to your specific objectives. Rank the most important parts of your travel service and score against them. Communicate this to them, tell them what’s important to you.

7. Buying too much jeopardises value. What you don’t need is as important as what you do. Is a dedicated service with consultants solely assigned to you of value? How about monthly face-to-face management information (MI) meetings? Or would online MI reporting be suitable? Remember, every line item has a price, and while most enhance the service, it’s important to identify if they add value or jeopardise return on investment.

Simon McLean is executive chairman at Click Travel

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