Making the jump to a new travel management company (TMC) can be a difficult initiative to execute successfully, but businesses are increasingly finding themselves in this position as they retool their corporate travel programs to adjust to the realities of a post-pandemic world.
A travel partner who once met the needs of the business pre-COVID may have since changed pricing structures or reduced staffing levels, resulting in increased wait times and degraded service levels for travelers. Particularly now, as airlines continue to roil from a wave of flight cancellations and schedule changes, it’s critical to have a travel partner in your corner who can deliver responsive service and provide you with the right tools to stay on track with budgets and goals.
Whether you recently made the decision to switch to Direct Travel or are considering making a move in the future, here are our top tips for business leaders beginning a relationship with a new TMC and how to manage those changes internally.
Set Expectations for the Transition
First and foremost, set the stage in a realistic manner with high-level stakeholders, HR personnel, and business unit managers. Shaping reasonable expectations is key: Although business leaders understand that a significant change will improve business activities, many employees will hold onto silent trepidations about new processes and policy. This resistance often results in booking out of policy, elevated stress, and a decrease in cooperation.
When making the move to a new TMC or implementing significant travel policy changes, take time to consider how change is viewed, communicated, and received. Apply these best practices from change management experts to ensure a smooth transition when restructuring programs and improving policy:
Listen more/talk less. Gather valuable employee and stakeholder input. What do they like/dislike about the current travel program?
Thoroughly explain the reasons behind the acquisition of a new TMC and/or major changes to policy. Present data sets to stakeholders that support the shift.
Make policy and program changes that clearly support key business units and outline how employees will be able to accomplish more within the new processes.
Implement major changes in stages to give adequate time for teams to prepare.
Once you’ve taken these steps, it’s much easier to gain buy-in from employees and stakeholders, establishing an alliance that is ready for change with excitement and optimism.
Fulfilling Duty of Care
When switching to a new TMC, prioritize continuing to fulfill duty of care standards throughout the transition, which is a moral and legal obligation. Change management that supports and encourages traveler buy-in—and booking through a trusted travel partner—helps businesses stay on top of their responsibilities to employees.
When employees book through their company’s preferred suppliers, they benefit from strong relationships with suppliers and negotiated rates that cater to the business traveler. Often, this may include benefits not available with regular tickets, such as no-change fees, flexible fares, and unused ticket credits in the event of cancelation.
Aside from the financial implications that come from out-of-policy bookings, non-compliance can lead to decreased visibility into the locations and safety of employees on the road. In a post-pandemic environment, safety concerns linger as new travel demands and measures emerge. Travelers need immediate information regarding risks and disruption to travel, which is why at Direct Travel we’ve partnered with Crisis24 to enhance our platform to keep employees informed about severe weather, terrorist threats, transportation disruption, and political instability.
Events affecting travelers can happen anytime, anywhere. By working with TMC resources (as well as internal duty of care processes across your risk, HR or travel departments), you can better align business objectives and provide support for travelers.
As part of bringing on a new TMC, take the opportunity to evaluate new ROI opportunities, including identifying potential supplier savings options and finding ways to increase policy compliance through tools and automation.
In preparation for major changes within your travel program, all essential departments need a structured financial outline regarding the requirements for significant shifts in policy. The goal is always a “win-win” partnership by finding a TMC that is an ideal fit for your organization. After a review of existing supplier programs and agreements, your new TMC should be able to pinpoint trouble areas and evaluate current policy (i.e., how it measures up to meeting needs across the board.)
It’s also essential to invest in a tech stack and tools designed to enhance logistic processes, saving travel managers time and angst. This may include unused ticket tracking, the use of AI chat assistance to make itinerary modifications, or gamification to encourage compliance.
Taking Care of Business
A trusted travel partner who can meet your business needs is backed by a team who understands your current travel program inside and out. This means having a firm grasp on benefits and deficits as well as company culture, mission, and goals.
At Direct Travel, we are committed to helping you achieve goals while staying on track with travel spend and budget. Our expert advisors are dedicated to understanding your current objectives and identifying stretch goals. We look forward to learning more about your organization and providing you with high-touch service that moves your travelers forward and accelerates business growth.