How to Choose a Business Travel Agent or TMC
How to Choose a Business Travel Agent or Travel Management Company
Choosing a TMC can seem like a daunting task, especially to those who have never used one before. With so many potential suppliers out there, just how should you approach making the decision about who to entrust with your business travel spend and management?
Buying Business Travel recently published their annual league tables of travel management companies. This year CTM moved up a few places to number 28 in the top 50. Of course such tables only tell part of the story, since they’re scored largely on turnover and other key financial performance figures and can't fully factor in customer satisfaction, but they can still be a useful barometre.
Here’s our quick overview of some of the key issues to consider.
Of course our raison d’etre is always to maximise the value of your travel spend, so you should naturally expect to see some savings when using a business travel agent, but cost is just the tip of the iceberg. We expect you will need to know what booking fees are applied to different types of travel product and how these are managed, but the overall value of the service a TMC provides is more of a key differentiator.
Duty of Care
Duty of care is always paramount and should be a cornerstone of any business travel agency’s service. At a bare minimum, your TMC needs to know who’s travelling where and when. How comprehensive is their duty of care offering? Do they work pro-actively, informing travellers ahead of their trip of any potential issues to be aware of? How rigorous are their traveller tracking systems?
Many clients will understandably seek out a TMC with specific experience in their sector. You need to know that they understand why and how you travel for business, so it always helps if they have managed accounts in your industry. We know for example that accountability is a key concern for public sector clients and that our pharmaceutical clients value our expertise in organising travel for international meetings events and conferences.
24 Hour Support
If your staff are on the road a lot, travelling in different countries and timezones, it’s important that they know that they can get access to services round the clock. It’s worth asking your potential TMC how they handle out of hours enquiries. If they outsource this you should ask who will be fielding calls and emails, what sort of travel training have they had and where in the world are they based.
A reputable business travel supplier should have good relations with a strong and wide-ranging network of suppliers, to ensure they can offer you the best prices and extensive options to choose from. We offer product from over 400 suppliers to ensure we can give you the best possible value.
The service you can expect from your TMC hinges greatly on the quality of your account managers. You need experienced and level-headed people at your disposal who can trust to look out for your interests and troubleshoot any issues calmly for you. People who follow up consistently and are willing and able to provide some intelligent insights and analysis of your travel patterns and spend.
Ask your potential supplier what they offer in terms of proactive account management. How often will they review the service? Also do you know the seniority of the person who’ll be handling your account day to day, and how much access you’ll get to them?
Management Information and Reporting
Management information is obviously key to analysing and controlling your travel spend. Will your business travel agent give you access to detailed reporting that can be broken down into different cost centres and how easy is it to identify any trends at a glance?
People matter, but so does technology. At CTM we’re fortunate to have access to our own in-house technology team who are constantly developing and enhancing innovative solutions and booking tools which clients can use to book their own travel securely. Ask your potential TMC how reliable their systems are and also how agile they are. When it comes to implementing any new features you might request, what sort of timelines can you expect?
How seriously does your potential supplier take your data security? What robust measures and systems are in place to safeguard this?
Frequent flyers will naturally want to make the most of any loyalty schemes they’ve joined. Can your TMC integrate any points earned from their corporate bookings, with both business and personal accounts?
These days many senior executives travelling long haul want to extend their trip and spend a few extra days exploring a destination at leisure. Does your TMC have the capacity to accommodate this leisure travel too?
Want an independent view? Have a read of Buying Business Travel's recent article on choosing the right TMC for your business.
Are you reviewing your business travel agent soon or perhaps you’ve reached the stage where you can no longer deal with business travel in-house and would benefit from some assistance?
Why not check out the full range of our services and then drop us a line for an informal chat?