How to Choose a Corporate Travel Agency
tl;dr: If your business needs help managing travel, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate travel agency. But how do you find the perfect one?
In recent posts, we explained what corporate travel agencies are, and how they can benefit smaller companies that don’t have the bandwidth, personnel or expertise to manage their own corporate travel programs. In this post, we get tactical: How can you find the right corporate travel agency for your business?
Here are some tips that will help.
Be Clear on Your Needs
Exactly why are you hiring an outside agency rather than handling your corporate travel program internally?
- To reduce your overall travel spend?
- Improve compliance with your corporate travel policy (or create one)?
- Strengthen travel-related risk management? Enhance the travel experience for your employees?
- Streamline the reimbursement process?
- Gain more actionable insight from your T&E data?
What services do you want the agency to perform on your behalf? Knowing what you want to accomplish (and why) allows you to realistically evaluate potential agencies and develop a beneficial service agreement. If an agency won’t customize their offerings to fit your needs, consider that a red flag because that can lead to variable and increased costs.
Look for Relevant Experience
Corporate travel professionals need a somewhat different skill set than those who handle leisure travel. Experience matters, because you’ll be relying on the agency’s “inside” network to get you the best possible rates and deals. Do your due diligence and ask how they will help manage your budget, costs, and avoid expenses. And ask about their success in accomplishing those goals for companies similar to yours in size, budget, and travel needs.
The best corporate travel agency will be one that not only assists up front but is there for you behind the scenes as well. What kind of support will they offer to traveling employees, and how will your people access that? What kind of support will they provide for your travel manager or finance department?
Ask about their reporting tools, metrics, etc. Are they digitally savvy, ensuring maximum efficiency for your travel program? Ask what technology they use and specifically how it will deliver a better all-around experience for all your travel-related personnel.
Look for Appropriate Geo-Reach
If your employees travel only to certain cities or within a certain region, you won’t need an international powerhouse travel agency with dozens of offices worldwide. This approach could add costs and unnecessary steps to getting started for your team. On the other hand, if your employees occasionally do travel farther afield or on more convoluted itineraries, consider looking for a small agency that is associated with a big name. That way you’ll have that broader expertise when you need it.
Along with picking an agency whose expertise matches your geographic profile, you might also want to look for one that specializes in travel for companies in your industry.
Look for Good Communicators
Ask how the agency handles formal reporting for your travel/finance managers. But also find out how they will communicate with your employees, especially if they will be responsible for travel policy training and ongoing updates and reminders.
Meet in Person
hen outsourcing agreements fail, it’s most often due to poor working relationships, not the agreement itself. You need to find an agency that not only provides the services you need at a cost you can afford, but meshes nicely with your corporate culture. In other words, people you like. People your traveling employees will want to trust and cooperate with.
Because relationships are critical to success, ask who you and your travelers will be working with at the agency. Arrange to meet in person, to get a feel for their demeanor as well as their expertise. Do they feel like a good fit for your team?
“Why Your Agency?”
After you’ve covered all the other investigative ground, ask each candidate agency point-blank why you should pick them instead of some competitor. What value do they bring you that others cannot? After all, the most important factor in choosing a corporate travel agency is you.
Even after all your research, you may reverse your initial plan and decide to continue handling business travel on your own. Luckily, technology like Lola makes that process simple, convenient and efficient.
Want to see if Lola.com’s super simple travel management platform is right for you? Schedule a FREE Corporate Travel Assessment with one of our travel experts today.