Woman in an office, Managed Travel Programs: Keys to a Successful Partnership

If the idea of changing your travel management company (TMC) fills you with dread, take some advice from Socrates when he said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Yes, there will be a period of upheaval, but that period will be finite. And once it’s finished, you’ll find the transition has more long-term benefits than short-term stumbling blocks.

Think of change as an opportunity — the opportunity to build the travel program you really want. Take a look at the Top Signs It’s Time to Move On below. See any that apply to your situation? If so, use them as a guide as you begin your search for a new TMC. Frustrated by poor customer service? Look for a TMC that provides dedicated account managers. Tired of antiquated technology? Add online booking and mobile apps to your must-have list. Remember, not all TMCs are the same — there is a great fit for you out there.

Top Signs It’s Time to Move On

• You don’t hear from your account manager. A healthy relationship requires good communication, your manager should proactively check in with you on a regular basis.
• Your travelers are grumbling about customer service. One of the primary benefits of working with a TMC is knowing your travelers are always taken care of. If that’s not the case, it’s time to consider moving on.
• You’re not receiving regular data reports and your travel policy hasn’t been reviewed in years. If this is the case, your business is not their priority.
• You’re not saving as much money as you hoped. Maybe you’re not getting the best possible rates or excessive fees are eating into revenue. A good TMC exists to save clients’ money.
• You’re not getting the guidance you need to continually improve your travel program. Your account manager should be providing you with real insights into how to manage your travel spending more effectively.

What to Look for in a New Partner

Finding the right partner is the key to a successful travel program. The best programs are a true partnership between the TMC and the client, and that relationship requires a certain amount of synergy. In addition to the considerations below, think about the culture of your companies and how they’ll mesh. Will you be their largest client that they struggle to keep up with, or one of the smaller ones that fall through the cracks? You want a just-right fit — a TMC large enough to accommodate your needs, but also values personalized customer service. The right TMC will genuinely care about your business, goals and objectives, not to mention always go out of their way for your travelers.

Factors to consider when evaluating a new partner

• Do they have the support and technology your travelers want such as 24/7 live assistance, online booking and mobile apps, automated expense reporting, preferred seat and disruption alerts, proactive itinerary changes and traveler tracking?
• Do they offer the services you require such as a dedicated account manager and implementation manager? What about automated low fare monitoring, unused ticket management and a web reporting platform with smart data such as travel expenditure tracking, savings targets and real ROI on travel spend?
• What types of data and reports do they provide and how often? Do they offer spend analysis, proactively suggest targets for improvement and offer employee training?
• Do they have the knowledge, experience and skill set you require and will they advise you on issues such as developing a viable travel policy, improving compliance and Duty of Care?

Making the Change

At Travel Leaders Group, we have decades of experience helping clients successfully manage the transition to our company. Our dedicated implementation managers work one-on-one with clients to develop a program tailored to their needs. From a robust discovery phase through implementation and post-transition support, we guide clients every step of the way with expert knowledge, insight and advice. With Travel Leaders Group, you’ll have the support and service you need to create a travel program that exceeds your expectations.

In our experience, there are two primary factors all successful transitions have in common: engaged clients who work in partnership with their TMC and clients who have allocated the appropriate time and resources to support the effort. What can you do to ensure your travel program is a success? We’ve compiled seven steps that will help make your transition as smooth as possible.

7 Steps to a Seamless Transition

1. Establish Goals and Stick to Them

As with any project, you can only succeed if you know where you are going. Set clear, achievable goals from the outset. Do you have specific cost-savings targets? Are you looking to increase efficiency? Have recent events got you worried about Duty of Care? Make one or two a priority and adopt measurable benchmarks to ensure they get met. Repeat as necessary.

2. Assemble Your Dream Team

Transitioning to a new TMC is no different from any other company-wide initiative. You need to assemble a team of dependable stakeholders and assign them clearly-defined roles. Make sure the team includes at least one frequent traveler and listen closely to what they have to say. Future compliance depends on their insider knowledge.

3. Set Timelines You Can Meet

Once you have your team in place, set feasible timelines for what needs to be accomplished. Be sure to take into account other projects that might be happening at the same time and what kind of internal review process your company requires. Set regular check-in times to keep your team focused and schedule your launch so that it doesn’t coincide with a busy travel period, giving yourself leeway to work out any kinks that might arise.

4. Start a New Relationship

No one knows your business better than you do, that’s why open and honest communication with your travel management company is essential. The better your new TMC understands your business, the better they can serve you. Consider organizing an in-person meeting with key stakeholders from both sides. After all, you’re laying the foundation for a healthy long-term relationship.

5. Get Those Above Onboard

Senior management support is essential for the success of any travel management program. If the people at the top don’t take the program seriously, neither will anyone else. Include the higher-ups early on, take their advice seriously and broadly communicate their support. If possible, have an executive sponsor the initiative.

6. Gather the Troops

That fear about your road warriors not getting onboard with the program? It’s legitimate. But it also has a solution: communication. Include them in the discussion from the beginning and make sure they understand why this transition is good for them and the company. Remember, no one likes surprises: make sure employees know about changes, and the rationale behind them, well before they go into effect.

7. Have the Right Training in Place

Give your travelers the training they need to make the program a success. Consider your corporate culture when deciding on the best method, whether it be face-to-face meetings, recorded videos or WebEx sessions. Make information accessible via searchable PDF’s and enlist a few road warriors to receive early training so that they can share what they know with those around them.

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