Buyers across the board agree; tendering for a new Travel Management Company (TMC) is an expensive, time consuming and often confusing endeavour! And yet, the decision reached will have a long-lasting impact on your business, your team members and end-users. At ITM’s “Inside the Mind of the Buyer”, industry leaders such as Arriva PLC, Incisive Media, and KKR & Co Partners LLP shared their advice on how to run a successful tender process and ensure you select the right TMC for your business.
Where to look…
A good place to start is Buying Business Travel’s 50 Leading TMCs. Published annually, this concise list gives a flavour of what is on the market, providing inspiration for a little website trawling. To try to assess whether an agent may be a good fit for your business, check the travel management company’s own website to get a feel for the company, see who they are already working with and read reviews on their service. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, industry events, such as The Business Travel Show, can provide an ideal setting to meet a range of TMCs in person.
Of course, many partnerships are relationship driven and word-of-mouth continues to carry weight. Most buyers cannot help but be swayed by personal recommendations from industry peers, or are drawn towards the TMCs they know personally. After all, you want to work with a company you can trust. But it is important to also check what else is out there, and balance your initial inclinations against an up-to-date view of what’s on the market. This is why TMC’s value their reputation so highly and will be in the spotlight as often as they can, as the exposure following an industry award or a record-breaking year can draw the attention of buyers and encourage them to consider new options.
What to look for…
Naturally, experience and knowledge are two key pre-requisites for any Travel Management Company you are considering working with. Once you feel reassured of their ability to deliver the services you need, take some time to consider whether they are a good fit for you. Do they understand your business? Are they flexible and able to shape their service offering to your requirements? Can they offer you a proactive service, led by an experienced Account Manager who will support you to achieve strategic savings that grow as the relationship develops?
Consider the technology on offer too. A TMC’s booking tools can be paramount to the success of the travel contract, especially if your team primarily book online or if achieving higher online adoption is important to your savings strategy. The TMCs you are considering should demonstrate initiative, a thorough understanding of booker requirements and a commitment to continually improving their technical offering. For example, NYS Corporate have launched several enhancements to our booking portal this spring, including a brand new flight booking tool; ConneX Air (developed in partnership with Vibe) and our unique meeting management tool; MeetingsPro (developed in-house).
How do you prepare for an RFP?
Any business looking to employ a Travel Management Company should take the time to engage with stakeholders, such as PAs, key bookers and regular travellers, to ensure you have a thorough understanding of their requirements. Involving your end-users from the beginning not only increases the likelihood of making the right choice for your business, it also sets the groundwork for a successful implementation and a profitable relationship with the new TMC.
And remember, it is not all about monetary savings. You need to consider the traveller’s safety and ability to be productive while away from the office. From a duty of care perspective, ensure the TMC have a reliable Traveller Tracking Tool and have processes in place to ensure an effective response in a crisis situation.
In order to make that crucial final decision, you may want to consider:
- The Implementation Plan: See whether their proposed implementation works for you and check the agency’s ability to flex it to your requirements. The relationship has to be on point from the very start. In particular, you can’t put a price on the value of face-to-face meetings. See Elaine Kerrigan’s Top Tips for a Smooth Implementation for further recommendations.
- The TMC’s Final Presentation: Review the content of the presentations and also take some time to consider whether it was well presented. Had the TMC’s representatives done their homework? Were they informed, passionate and capable?
- Leverage and Buying Power: What buying power does the TMC have and have they demonstrated an ability to secure the best possible rates for your business? Don’t be swayed too strongly by the difference in booking fees, which are often minimal anyway, the TMC’s ability to achieve value-for-money and strategic savings will have a greater impact on your bottom line.
- Management Information & Savings: Travel spend can often feel out of control. For a TMC to be fully effective they need to provide transparent data on your spend and be able to tailor their service and tools to maximise savings for your business. Working together with a clear mandate and a common goal, is the foundation of a successful TMC relationship.