Organisations change travel management company for a variety of reasons: A new chief executive, mergers or acquisition activity, or underperformance from the incumbent. There is almost always resistance to change, and the process can often be lengthy and complicated. However, the benefits of change can be substantial: Financial, process efficiencies, and improved traveller satisfaction. Effective change management can help make the transition as smooth as possible and it requires travel managers to engage both travellers and internal stakeholders, who need to be involved before and during the decision-making process. Informing them of a change that will affect their lives without consultation is unlikely to receive a positive response. Once the decision has been made to explore the feasibility of change, identify and recruit your key internal stakeholders to a committee to manage the project. Work with them before you start a Request For Proposal (RFP) to identify your objectives and rank your priorities. Does traveller feedback show they want more user-friendly business travel technology or better access to content? People naturally dislike change and business travel can be emotional. No matter why the company wants to review the travel management company contract it’s necessary to take account of traveller feedback when searching for the right partner. After the new travel management company is appointed, follow our three steps to ensure the transition is a success.
Involve travellers and stakeholders in the implementation plan
Work with them to ensure you are making changes that will be welcome – maybe you’ll be introducing an integrated travel platform? The timetable should allow sufficient time to iron out any glitches and provide any training or support. Stakeholders should both represent departments that have a vested interest in the travel programme (IT, HR, Finance) as well as those that have frequent travellers. If the programme covers other locations, those regions or countries should also be represented in this committee. Any change in the travel programme will need to take account of the various sites’ environments and the different expectations of its travellers in terms of personal service or automated tools. Every key stakeholder should know their role and who is responsible for what. The business travel management landscape is changing rapidly. You need to ensure that your other decision-makers are not only looking for what stakeholders and travellers need at present but also in the near future. Changing travel management company can be a time-consuming and costly exercise but the benefits should exceed the investment. You should look to identify a travel management company that can deliver the programme the stakeholders want and has up-to-date business travel technology with the capacity to deliver what travellers want.
Communicate effectively to get everyone on board
Never underestimate the importance of communication. Changing travel management company will only work if all stakeholders – whether travellers or other managers – are on board. Introducing a new travel management company may be accompanied by other fundamental changes such as introducing an integrated travel and expense management system. New processes or tools need to be communicated, explained and supported. Think about any new tools from the user’s point of view. Are they user-friendly and intuitive enough that a non-travel professional will find them easy to use, or do you need to produce a simple, downloadable instruction manual or provide online or virtual demonstrations? Consider tasking a member of the project committee with the responsibility of answering user queries. Changing travel management company should be a positive experience to be embraced rather than feared. A new booking tool could enable user-friendly access to a wide range of appropriate content through a single channel that was previously only available from a variety of different sources. Business travel is changing and will change even more in the future. Make sure you have a travel management company equipped for the future of business travel.
Review your travel programme
Having a new travel management company is a good opportunity to give your travel programme a health check. The composition of your teams and processes may need updating. New business travel technology is likely to mean a more integrated travel programme. This could be an opportunity to streamline steps in your process such as pre-trip approval or reconciliation and payments. This could affect what is expected of individual team members. Appointing a new travel management company is a good opportunity for updating Passenger Name Records (PNRs). Frequent flyer programmes and special service requests such as seat preference, meal requirements and, if appropriate, assistance should be included. In addition some countries demand further personal information, such as the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which will include passport data.