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Corporate Travel Management: 9 tips for purchasing business travel services

17th July 2014

Business travel services procurement can be challenging when it comes to finding the perfect match as your business travel management supplier from the wide choice of business travel companies available in the market place. Plus, there are many points to consider when selecting a business travel management company, such as the capability of the online travel booking system, value added services such as account management or specialist business travel services, reservations services, management reporting (MI) and in particular Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). So, how to best assess which one of the business travel companies you’ve shortlisted for your tender process will deliver the unique business travel management services you cannot find anywhere else within the industry? How can you ensure you get the business travel agent, that delivers the fully integrated personalised business travel services you are looking for.

To help you find your ideal business travel services supplier, we’ve compiled 9 useful tips for procurement and sourcing professionals, including questions you can ask, helping you find the right business travel agency for your corporate travel management needs.

purchasing business travel services - corporate travel procurement tips1. Know your business travel spend

Analyse your company’s business travel spend and split the total travel spend into the different categories. For example, you may wish to divide spend related to business travel into categories, such as hotels, flights, rail, meetings & events, car hire and ancillary services and link these spend areas to your business units, office locations. If you are already working with a business travel company or have a business account with your main business travel suppliers, ask them for your travel spend data. This way, you are able to further refine and get a more accurate analysis of your travel spend data for each category.

2. Understand your business travel spend category

Knowing your travel spend is a good starting point, but you need to clearly understand your spend categories as well. For example, if the category is air travel, you will need to understand the travel patterns and booking processes.  So, look at areas like you historic business travel expenditure, booking volumes, spend by category / sub-category, division, department, traveller, your spend by business travel services provider and future projected business travel spend. Some useful questions travel buyers can ask are: Who is currently booking business travel in the organisation (i.e. centralised travel bookers vs. employees booking themselves online)? What is the booking volume for long-haul flights vs. the number of short-haul flights booked? Look at no shows and find out what the reasons are for this (if possible). Are you booking a lot of multi-trip complex travel itineraries? Do your travel bookers have a preferred airline they mainly book flights with? How many executive travellers do you have flying business class or needing VIP travel services? Also, think about minor things like corporate mileage schemes and how or if they are used by your travel bookers?

3. Assess the market & shortlist of your preferred business travel services suppliers

Whether you are looking to move from unmanaged travel (DIY) to managed business travel or you are seeking alternative business travel company to your existing incumbent agency, you should undertake a market assessment to understand the key business travel marketplace dynamics, the tools available and current trends. For example, you can gather ‘should-cost’ information from the main part of the key services you require, take a look at third-party suppliers and evaluate any risks or opportunities.  Once, you’ve analysed your market, simply survey both your potential alternative suppliers and your incumbent business travel company, if you are currently using one. This way you can drive further cost reductions, drive continuous improvement efforts and better assess capabilities of business travel services provider, whilst verifying your current spend information using the data that your current business travel services providers have from their booking systems. As a result, you are able to assess if your shortlisted suppliers can deliver what you want them to do and encourage the right travel management company with the right structure to respond to your request for proposal. Once you’ve received all supplier responses, you can start separating the wheat from the chaff by take a closer look at the business travel companies you’ve shortlisted.

4. Check if the TMCs share your corporate culture

Every organisation has its own corporate culture and it is important for achieving a sustainable programme that your travel management company shares your corporate culture. Working with a TMC that shares your culture, can facilitate decision-making processes. For example, if one of your core values is standing behind the quality of your products or services, so you would expect your TMC to deliver outstanding customer services and innovative business travel solutions. Check if the travel management company invests in its employees? You have to invest, to being able to deliver the best business travel management solutions, in terms of service and product quality. Continuous investment in training and professional development of employees means your staff can deliver the outstanding customer service solutions your clients expect – and above. Does the travel management company invest in employee engagement and professional development? What’s it like? How does the company measure it? How do they drive employee engagement, for example through active involvement or teambuilding events? At Flightline Travel Management, we put people at the heart of everything we do, which is why we are Investors in People (IIP) accredited and why our employees love working for us and always go the extra mile.

5. Ask how are your preferred business travel companies committed to sustainability

Whether you are purchasing business travel services or any other service, it is vital to know how your preferred business travel companies are committed to sustainability. Make sure the supplier you are partnering with and you share the same vision and commitment to sustainability because without that your goals may not be achieved. Ask the selected business travel companies for their sustainability policy. How does the supplier understand sustainable procurement in business travel? Ask how they work with suppliers and clients to reduce their Co2 impact and support their wider communities. Can they provide a track record of working closely with clients to reduce the carbon footprint?

6. TQM: Ask how service and product quality is managed

Nobody likes to buy the pig in a poke. So, make sure you know who you are dealing with because the success of your business travel management programme also depends on the quality of the account manager looking after your business travel needs. Make sure you meet and get to know your Account Manager and his/her team.  Find out how long have they been with the travel consultants team. What are the key drivers for them to deliver first-class business travel services? Do they have work ethics and values that are close or in line with your corporate values? What makes the travel agents team different to those from other business travel companies?  How do they measure customer service quality and ensure outstanding customer experience with every service interaction? Are they using Total Quality Management (TQM) approach? Maybe watch out for quality assurance standards or performance frameworks such as ISO and Investors In People (IIP). Both, are good indicators that a business travel company has a robust TQM system in place.

7. Size of the travel management company is important, but it’s not always the key

Size is a factor many global corporates consider when choosing a TMC. However, is the size of a TMC really that important? Because what may seem to be a mismatch at the first glance, could actually turn out to be the better solution, provided objectives are clear and agreed. For example, in today’s business travel market, especially large corporate TMC’s tend to offer lower transaction fees, but are you sure they deliver the service and value you expect? In fact, depending on your corporate objectives, your global travel policy may be better delivered by taking a regional approach and work with local business travel agents providing usually higher service levels whilst having the same or sometimes even more purchasing power than large TMC’s. Large global business travel companies usually work with the largest accounts, for them it is not profitable or even feasible to offer the same personalised service to global clients as it is to SMEs. Independent TMC’s like Flightline Travel Management, are part of purchasing consortia such as the Advantage Business Travel Partnership enabling them to access the best fares available in the market using the purchasing power of a global consortium. At the same time, they deliver the quality of  service you expect from leading business travel companies.

8. Ask how the account management team is organised and look at response times

Account Management teams can have different structures depending on the client especially when it comes to providing a business travel reservations team. Some travel management companies may organise their customer service team by travel category. So, they have a specialist team for specific for hotels, flights, rail and corporate meetings & events services. As a result, you will deal with a different team for each service required for the same trip. Then you may a have those business travel companies that will assign you a dedicated account management team offering a unified team experience, as opposed to large global TMC’s with many different office locations spread across the globe – not always ideal for a smooth communication and collaboration. For example, Flightline Travel offers companies a dedicated account manager with a dedicated team of experienced reservations specialists caring for all your corporate travel needs. From simple single trip enquiries to the complicated business travel bookings consisting of multi-sector complex travel itineraries.  By having several people with years of corporate travel management experience in arranging the most complex itineraries ensuring you get the most convenient route and best deals for your business travel. People with over 21 years of experience corporate travel experience, such as Debbie or Janet from Flightline Travel Management, have the knowledge and can manage the most complicated trips and consistently achieve their targets. It’s all very well having top performers and great online booking tools, but what about last minute bookings or urgent enquiries and questions your travelling employees or travel arrangers may have about flight times, train bookings or specific routes? How quickly problems are solved, if your traveller has problems with the check-in for a specific hotel? Can your team manage these customer enquiries instantly and provide business travel services with a quick turnaround? For example, at Flightline Travel Management we answer 98% of your calls in 8 seconds so no query gets missed!

9. Ask for the business travel agents’ track record

Many travel management companies promote the number trophies and awards they’ve won. However, make sure you do not get blinded by it. For example, having a business travel consultant of the year award does not necessarily mean you will have this specific person in your assigned team. When evaluating business travel companies look for sustainable business relationships and ask them questions relevant to your key KPIs, such as: What are their adoption rates for online booking tools? What do their clients say about their business travel agents team? What is the company’s staff retention rate? Have they previously delivered business travel services within your industry? If possible, can you visit one or two existing clients and speak to them about the service they receive? If their clients describe the business travel services provider as “speedy, extremely helpful, accurate and always friendly – simply all-round excellent service” like ours do – then you know you have chosen the right business travel management company. In addition, you should ask your preferred business travel companies how long their customers stay with them. And find out what the company’s staff turnover is? At Flightline Travel Management, we have 98% client retention rate which means our customers renew their contracts with us year on year. Plus, we have one of the highest staff retention rates in the industry, which shows that our business travel agents team stays loyal, some of them are with us for already over 20 years.

Flightline Travel Management – Your partner for leading business travel services and solutions

Flightline business travel agents  have been delivering smart business travel solutions, technology and superior customer service to the SME sector, large enterprises and business travellers around the world. We are a full-service travel management company helping forward-thinking companies to drive policy compliance and cost savings, whilst delivering personalised business travel services and products to smart business travellers. Flightline Travel Management helps travellers travel faster, safer, comfortable and within policy while benefitting from a productive business trip. Discover how our business travel services and solutions help you better manage corporate travel and achieve your company goals, please talk to one of our business travel consultants by calling 01844 299750 or enquire online.

For business travel news alerts please connect with us on Twitter @FlightlineTrav1.


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