How to procure the right travel partner

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EuanMcNeil_100.jpgThey say people do business with people they like. That may be true in organisations that have a rather flexible approach to procurement, but in the world of travel management it's often more to do with the bottom line than who plays a better game of golf...

Selecting the right Travel Management Company (TMC) to support your organisation can often be a daunting and drawn-out process, especially when you struggle to differentiate the services offered by each TMC, says ‎Euan McNeil, GM FCM Travel Solutions South Africa, a division of Flight Centre Travel Group. "The secret to finding the right match for you is to understand that what you put in, is what you get out."

"By spending time shaping your Request for Proposal (RFP), you stand a much better chance of receiving a meaningful proposal from TMCs that will help you select the best partner for your business," says McNeil.

But having a tip-top RFP isn't the only secret to selecting the right TMC for you. McNeil offers a few tips on what to look for when you're in the selection process:

1. What's behind the name?

There are many tried-and-tested brands with global influence in the travel management space. It is however important to look beyond the name and at the company's cultures, business and goals.

Consider the company's ownership structure and the knowledge and experience of its people. Do not be afraid to ask for references because selecting a TMC is not dissimilar to hiring a staff member. While things may look good on paper, the proof is in performance and being able to prove it.

Is the prospective TMC partner asking the right questions? You do not need a one-size-fits-all solution and if the company is really interested in your business, they will want to get to know your business in-depth - your goals, your structure, your needs.

Important considerations in South Africa include their approach to B-BBEE and their approach to social responsibility - their level of engagement with the local community and how this compares with your company's approach.

It is almost worth saying that beyond business, there is a real need for the two companies to have a cultural fit; that you can rest assured your chosen TMC partner not only focuses on the job at hand, but pays extra attention to detail to ensure your needs are fully understood and cared for. In other words, their success is your success.

2. Committed to service

A contract signed is a promise kept. You have to ensure that your chosen TMC will be held accountable for their level of service beyond the signing of a contract. Ask to see the TMC's Service Level Agreement (SLA) and understand fully what the consequences are of non-delivery.

Here are some minimum requirements for an SLA:
• The minimum service level agreed upon and expected between the two companies
• Clear guidelines to monitor performance by measuring the achievement of the agreed service levels
• How and when the SLA will be measured, what data will be captured and how performance will be reported on

A good TMC will be able to provide you with examples of existing SLA agreements and reports.

3. The right size

TMCs come in all shapes and sizes - yet another reason why you should look beyond a one-size-fits-all approach when selecting your TMC partner.

The right choice for your business will depend on the level of service and support you need.

If you are a multinational corporation, an added consideration may be whether to use a global, regional or local travel management company. Most of the larger TMCs offer a branded global solution, however local TMCs may also provide a worldwide solution through established networks. You'll need to understand the extent to which you require on-the-ground assistance across borders when appointing a TMC partner with whichever profile.

4. Value vs fees

While you should not select your TMC partner on pricing alone, there is definite value in having a thorough grasp of and evaluating transaction fees to ultimately understand pricing structures.

More importantly, remember that cheaper isn't necessarily better in the long run. Some key considerations to look at when considering pricing structures include:
• Which procedures and systems do they have in place when it comes to duty of care?
• What type of support is available to your travellers. Do they offer 24/7 full service support?
• Do they understand the hidden costs that can be associated with travel procurement?
• Are they looking proactively and strategically at ways of reducing your costs?
• What level of proactive data analysis do they offer to help you make strategic decisions?

A partnership made in heaven is one where your selected TMC partner is driven to achieve your goals, taking care of your travel management so that you don't have to.

Contact FCM Travel Solutions for your enterprise corporate travel requirements.

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