Whatever the size of your Travel Account, you as a corporate, have every right to an efficient corporate travel agent. Travel agencies as we well know, come in all shapes and sizes. There are good ones, and bad ones. Really, it is up to you, how you evaluate your travel agent; but if you are looking at the best service for acceptable costs, you’d have to put your travel agent under the microscope.
Live and let live
The yardstick in the case of each corporate may be different. The common denominator however, must be: efficient service, at acceptable costs. It is important for me to mention that you must agree that your travel agent, should make an income from handling your business that cover his costs and allows him to make a decent profit. Too many procurement managers of large multinationals approach the job from a different angle: screw the agent down the the bone, he will in turn screw some one else, to make his own incomes and profits. Wrong. It does not work that way in Travel. Procurement managers taking the ‘beating-their-suppliers-down’ approach, shoot themselves in the foot. You have to live and let live, to get the best out of your travel agent. If you don’t, the agent will find a way to meet your price requirement, but will in the end, be innovatively successful in covering his shortfall and making his profit in ways you will never get to know. Will Mr. Procurement Manager win? No.
The open approach to corporate travel
The best approach to choosing the best corporate travel agent is the open approach. Many agents today are willing to sit down and talk about their costs. In fact they’d be willing to put their cards down on the table, to discuss pricing of the service with a client who is open as well. You can even go further, and discuss how much he thinks he should be making on your account. If treated in a humane manner, it can be a very honest and open discussion. I would recommend that you approach this meeting with a preprepared agenda that you have mutual agreement on.
What sort of agent? Horses for courses!
So much for the basics on pricing. Now, how do you choose the best travel agent? Firstly, you must know exactly what you need from your travel agent. Client requirements today are so varied, that many fail to realise, that it is not every agent that can meet complex needs. Some clients only need basic services: reservation and ticketing. Others will need more. Hotel and car arrangements and more importantly, complex post trip reporting. Not to say anything about pre-trip requirements. In some cases there may be complex Travel Policies to adhere to, as well. As the size of the Travel Account grows larger, and reporting becomes more complex, smaller agencies cannot handle such clients. You’d require an agent with greater IT resources and capabilities. Only the big boys will be able to deliver to such greater levels of requirements in service delivery, and reporting. They would have invested big bucks on IT infrastructure; their capabilities will be superior all round. Many clients think that they would be a lot more expensive to deal with. You would be surprised to learn that inspite of all that they have invested into their professionalism, they will be competitive.
How do you as the client, separate the chaff from the grain, ensuring you get what you are looking for? It is not often that the Procurement Manager is able to deliver to your own requirement. Corporate travel can be a lot more complex than buying automobile tyres, or furniture. You will often have to rely on an an experienced travel professional to handle the process of making the choice. At the very least, he will be able to short list the best corporate travel agents to handle your travel account. Larger multinationals may have such travel professionals on their payroll but others may do well to outsource their needs to a Consultant. Good ones can be worth their weight in gold.
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© Mano Chandra Dhas