Selecting a Corporate travel agency is the most important 3rd party selection you have to do for your company. Corporate travel (T&E) is the second largest controllable expense after payroll. It is not an easy decision to make. A large number of companies conduct travel RFPs every one or two years.
Corporate travel agency is not just any travel agency. It is not leisure tourism. Corporate travel management companies need top level professionalism, attention in the details and a strong software infrastructure just to name the basics.
The travel partner is not a provider like the dozens of the partners a corporation has. It is a totally different case. It is a partner that can provide you with cost savings (directly and indirectly), and can radically influence the travel experience of your employees. Save money and provide excellent travellers’ experience. That is what you want.
How should I select my travel partner?
10 points to make the right decision for you:
Set the fundamentals right before starting. Do all these question to learn about the corporate travel agency that you assess. Every simple question that gives you a clear picture about who they are.
- Years of experience in corporate travelling
- Since when they are IATA accredited (this is a prerequisite).
- How long have they be serving similar to yours travel needs. This cannot be built in 2-3 years. The agency has to be tested in difficult travel situations. Strikes, severe travel interruption (COVID19, Volcano in Europe etc.)
- What are the top 5 accounts they have? How many accounts they have in total (good corporate travel agency have a minimum of 100 accounts)?
- Direct contracts that they have (with hotels, transfer agencies etc.). How many and what sort of.
You need to know who they are serving. Are their current clients similar to your company? They might be much bigger or much smaller. Do they serve travel needs similar to yours?
2. Letters of reference
Ask for 3 letters of reference from their current clients. Select a range (pick one of the top accounts, one middle one and one small one).
If the travel agency comes back quickly with 10 letters of reference (although you just asked for 3) is a good sign.
3. Clearly separate in your mind, the Online Travel Software company from a Corporate Travel Agency
Don’t get carried away by start ups providing fully automated online solutions supported by a strong marketing push. They will not do the job you need. There is a big difference between a corporate travel agency and a software house. The agency must have a multi year (more than 10) experience in the field. If an experienced corporate travel agency provides an online corporate booking tool (like Figame.com does) is one thing. Coming out of nowhere and providing an online booking tool for corporations is quite another. The software might be great but it cannot serve demanding corporate accounts. It is not what you need.
4. Financial situation
You must be certain (as possible) that the travel services being offered to you, will not be suddenly interrupted. The corporate travel agency must be financially solid. Ask for financial results for the last 3 years. Your financial department will assess and give the green or red light.
5. Reply time
Ask them what are their reply times to any request. They should have a clear view of their target times and on the percentage they get successful. Do they know why there might be delays and why? They should be able to answer immediately. If they don’t provide exact time frames it means they don’t know. This is not what you want. They must be fast and precise.
6. Ask them to form your travel policy
Making corporate travel savings might sound like a challenge. Set you travel budget objectives and ask for them to build the travel policy for your company (free of charge). Ask from them a detailed presentation where they will show how the objective will be attained. Be prepared with tough questions tailor made for your company. This is the golden rule when it comes to saving money and to selecting a corporate travel agency.
7. Ask the CVs of the operators that will serve your account
See who will be the 1st line people that you will interact with. See their studies and their experience. Check the head of operations and your account manager thoroughly. Organizing a meeting with the operators and your travel managers is certainly an add on, when making such an important decision.
8. Request for an online booking tool demo
Ask from them to present you with the online booking tool they have. If they don’t have it is not good. See how easy it is to use. Make some test bookings.
9. Examine their reporting system level
Check their reporting software. Everyone says that is strong in reporting but is that true? Can they do a bottom line analysis? Can they present how many days in advance you make the booking? What is the average travel spending of their clients? Are you in the right track? Selecting a corporate travel agency depends on the software they have.
10. Travel insurance packages
How much aware they are with travel insurance policies? What they provide you with? Ask them for more. Some Corporate Travel agencies are also travel insurance brokers. They must be good at it also. Corporate travelling includes trips in countries where your travelers must be well and safely insured.
Make them work hard for getting your account and your trust. For established corporate travel agencies your account will be one out of many. Make them show how much they want you. If they actually do, they will perform to the highest standards to make you their client. But they have to gain it. Yes it is a big analysis but it needs to be done. Be very precise because something can always slip through the net.
Hiring a corporate travel management company can really reduce your overall business travel spending and improve the service level you get. Experts in the field, like Figame.com will work together with all the partners of the global organization that we belong, to implement the tailor made service each organization needs. Outstanding travel management service will reduce your costs and your stress and save the working hours devoted to travel of your employees. Good luck!