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Everything You Need To Know About The Business Travel Management RFP Process

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Navigating the Business Travel Management RFP Process

Your journey to find a business travel management company (TMC) doesn’t have to be a turbulent one. Whether you’re developing a travel policy to better manage your duty of care in a pandemic world, consolidating travel services to streamline your program, leading a periodic rebid requirement, or wanting a clearer picture of your travel data to inform your decision making, we’ve broken down the Request for Proposal (RFP) process to help you reach your final destination unscathed.

Step 1: Determine Needs and Goals

The RFP process is like hiring a new employee. Before you jump to requesting resumes, you need to develop a job description to advertise for the most qualified candidate, one who is interested in a long-term relationship with your organization, meshes with your institution’s culture, and performs at a consistently high level.

Similar to collaborating on a job description for an employee who will work with multiple departments in your organization, you need to assemble a team to conduct an internal evaluation of your company’s needs and expectations for the TMC position, both current and long term. Include all of your travel stakeholders—or a representative from your stakeholder groups—as well as upper and middle management who have a vested interest in developing your travel policy and fulfilling your travel program.

In light of the recent pandemic, we recommend including HR to review duty-of-care needs and traveler well-being.

Your evaluation team should look something like this, depending on your organization’s structure and travel needs:

  • Travel manager
  • Travel arrangers/schedulers
  • Frequent travelers
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CTO
  • CFO
  • HR

Conducting an internal evaluation of your company’s needs and expectations will prepare you to engage with TMCs. The process will help you determine whether a Request for Information (RFI) provides the insight and direction you need to “hire” a best-fit TMC for your company or whether your needs require a formal RFP.

Once you’ve agreed on position requirements, give them a hierarchy based on a percentage or points system. You’ll use these criteria to rank the RFPs during Step 6. Include the criteria and ranking in your RFP so TMCs better understand your program needs and can respond accordingly. An example ranking table is given below.

Step 2: Research TMCs and Develop a Prospect List

Now that you’ve developed your job description, you need to find likely candidates. As with Step 1, doing your homework here will produce the best outcome.

A Google search for “TMC” may overwhelm you with choices, so consider asking other businesses who their travel partners are and reach out to travel industry leaders, such as SAP Concur or the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), to ask for recommendations from their TMC networks. Develop a reasonable list of prospects to continue to vet. It’s easier to begin with more prospects during this step than it is to fall short at Step 5 or 7 and have to repeat the process.

Now you can Google those candidates and assess whether they might be a good fit for your organization. Start with the candidates’ websites and review their corporate backgrounds. Are they an award-winning firm? Do they maintain their accreditations and memberships in significant travel industry groups? Is their client list impressive? Have they been in the business long enough to weather changes in technology and the travel industry? Use this background information to trim your list as needed.

Because representing your firm in the best possible light is easy on your own website, also consider what others say about the TMC. Look for mentions in travel industry/business media and on their client’s websites, check their LinkedIn profile, and review their company ratings on Glassdoor or a similar site – because how the TMC’s employees rank the working relationship is significant to your potential partnership. If the TMC is difficult to work for, they are likely difficult to work with.

Start conversing with the TMCs on your list. Ask each one some standard questions formulated during your research and request a standard proposal from likely candidates. The TMC’s standard proposal, like a resume, presents all the benefits of working with them—services, technology solutions, experience, work history, etc. This provides more information to help you weed out TMC candidates so you don’t end up with a mountain of RFIs and/or RFPs to review. Why waste your time if you can determine early on that it’s not a good fit?

Step 3: Refine Prospect List

Now that you’ve found some solid candidates, narrow your list to a manageable amount. A good rule of thumb here is to peek at the back of the book (which we would never do with a novel) and work backwards. Take a look at Steps 4, 5, and 7, and estimate how many prospective TMCs you want to include at each stage of the process, ideally ending up with two or three candidates to “interview,” that is, to demonstrate their capabilities and answer your final questions.

If you’ve already ended up with a short list and your preferred candidates are sure to meet your criteria, skip Step 4 and move on to Step 5, the RFP.

Step 4: Send an RFI

Step 4 is like getting a massage: You want to make sure those knots receive the most attention. Structure the request around your organization’s most important issues and hot buttons, such as data collection and visibility, online adoption, duty-of-care, and unused ticket tracking.

From these responses, you can quickly evaluate the TMC’s value propositions and create a shortlist of companies with which to continue. Some companies can make a final decision from these RFI responses, but if that’s not you, move on to Step 5 – the RFP.

Step 5: Write/Revise and Distribute the RFP

The RFP process is not a one-size-fits-all document: If you’re 6’6″, you’re probably not buying a suit off the rack unless you have some tailoring done. Your RFP needs a custom fit, too, because your organization has its own culture, travel policy, and technical requirements.

There are dozens of RFP templates online (we provide one, below), and you may even have a serviceable RFP that just needs dusting off and some pandemic-related adjustments. However, it’s important to compare your template, if you decide to use one, with the weighted criteria you developed during Step 1 to ensure those criteria are covered .

Ask TMCs for additional information on these criteria. For example, if data-driven reporting is critical to keeping your program on track, in addition to asking about available reporting tools, ask for examples of the reports you need most frequently and the time frames for data population and report turn-around. If your travel bookings haven’t conformed to policy, ask what specific measures the TMC recommends implementing to improve policy compliance and how those measures function with an online booking tool and a full-service travel advisor. And if you’re having a hard time retaining your most frequent travelers, ask how you can increase traveler well-being to save rehiring and retraining costs.

Getting in-depth answers to your most vital concerns is essential in the RFP process, so request additional information to inform your decision, such as:

  • Technology overview
  • Example reporting
  • Service level agreement
  • Client success stories
  • Implementation plan
  • Account review example
  • Organizational chart

Make sure your published RFP timeline is reasonable and allows for a question and answer period. Your firm needs time for internal communications, executive approvals, and input from other departments, as appropriate, as well as their ongoing projects. Establish a realistic schedule, then pad it with a week or two to give your team some leeway. It’s easier to add time upfront than to communicate schedule changes to multiple TMCs, issue RFP addendums, communicate new deadlines to your team, and reschedule meetings.

Example RFP Schedule

Step 6: Rank RFP Respondents

Using the criteria established during Step 1, rank your proposals by percentages or points. You may have a clear winner at this point and can proceed to contract negotiations and award.

However, if a few firms are closely ranked, gather your evaluation team and develop a final set of questions for the presentation/demonstration phase. Again, weight your questions so you can tally scores during Step 7.

Step 7: Request Demonstrations and Rank Presenters

If you followed Step 3, you should have a two- or three-firm shortlist from which to select your TMC. Unless you’ve been given carte blanche, utilize the main decision makers from your evaluation team as your presentation panel. Use your weighted criteria from Step 6 and the total proposal score, as well as any internal conversations around the potential working relationship, to guide your award decision.

Step 8: Select TMC

Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated the RFP process and are ready to implement your new travel program.

We suggest you debrief the TMCs who presented to your team. Explaining why you didn’t select their services helps them strengthen their programs, which may benefit you in the future.

Need Additional Assistance?

If you have questions about the RFP process or Christopherson’s consultative approach and solution to travel management, please contact our business development team and download our sample RFP to help you get started.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”center” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][nectar_btn size=”large” open_new_tab=”true” button_style=”regular” button_color_2=”Extra-Color-3″ icon_family=”none” text=”Download RFP Template” url=”https://staging.cbtravel.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/SAMPLE-TMC-RFP-TEMPLATE_Provided-by-Christopherson-Business-Travel.pdf”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Categories
Business Travel

A Millennial Friendly Travel Policy?

While attending the GBTA Convention in Boston this past month, I was both expectant but still a little surprised about the buzz around the concept of millennial business travelers. After all, millennials have been in the workplace for roughly 15 years. During this time, this generation is still inspiring new ideas to pop up.  While there, I attended a couple of education sessions focused on travel policy. One session that I found particularly interesting, featured a panel of two travel managers.  They presented and answered questions on their individual company’s travel policies, including millennial travelers.

Millennial Friendly Travel Policy

• There is a common assumption that millennial travelers are collaborative and like big open public lobby spaces where they can relax and catch up on work. Actually, some are introverts and still appreciate having a work station in their hotel room.
• Millennials have a need to personalize everything and are more likely to dine out in a unique restaurant or go sightseeing on a business trip. It tends all about the experience for these travelers but, as this generation gets older and takes on more personal and familial responsibility, we might begin to see a shift in the “bleisure” time.
• Millennial travelers are 60% more likely to pay for an upgraded hotel room or seat on their flight. This one is actually true and they seem to be willing to treat their comfort as a personal expense.
All of this comes down to one word- OPTIONS. Build a policy that works for your company, is good for your bottom line and vendor relationships but also provides your travelers a few options and you will have happy travelers.

 

Categories
Travel Management

Closing The Gap on Travel Policy Perception and Reality

Not surprisingly, one of the hardest feats of an effective travel policy is an active implementation. No matter how well planned or laid out, there always seems to be a disconnect between the company’s travel policy and the travelers who use it. Unfortunately this beast isn’t just compliance, but also what the travelers believe the policy allows. A new report from the GBTA Foundation and HRS recently provided data on just how large this perception gap is. Unfortunately, it’s larger than most of us had hoped.

According to the report, 96 percent of North American business travelers say they are knowledgeable about their company’s travel policy. On a broad scale this looks pretty good, right? The inconsistencies come down to the smaller details of the travel policies. For example, half of the surveyed travelers said their policies are mandated. According to the travel managers, it is really only a third. Another example of dissonance is ride sharing. 24 percent of travel managers say ride sharing is prohibited under their travel policy, while half as many travelers believed that as well. It sounds like a no-brainer, but most often a lack of communication causes this disparity.

These travel policy miscommunications may be costing your company money

Noncompliance of any kind can run up travel costs. Without a constant eye on expenses and billing, things can get out of control quickly. But something often overlooked is the value lost caused by this policy miscommunication. For example, 89 percent of the travel managers surveyed had negotiated free wi-fi in hotels for their travelers. Unfortunately, 22 percent of the business travelers were still expensing for wi-fi. The report concluded that they were simply unaware of the negotiation.

How to increase travel policy communication

One key discovery in this report is that perception is more important than reality when it comes to relaying travel policy guidelines. If your traveler does not see or recall seeing an email sent with pre-boarding information, was it helpful in the end? Understanding how your travelers and company as a whole can best understand your travel policy decisions can improve compliance. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, age and generation has been found to play a factor into how information is best communicated. This report found Generation Y and younger preferred being about travel policies directly. GBTA Foundation hypothesized it may be the employee’s first introduction into business travel policy, and they want to fully understand the process. Understanding how your travelers work best, and their comfort level with compliance will certainly get everyone on the right foot.

Closing the gap between traveler perception and policy reality

Increased communication and through the right channels will hopefully improve your own compliance. Here are a few other tips to close this gap even further.

  • Set up an approval process ensuring the travel policy is enforced.
  • Alert travelers to noncompliant behavior before they book.
  • Keep happy employees by taking note of their traveling preferences.
  • Use different channels to communicate and disseminate information. 

Read next:

Categories
Travel Management

Senior Level Employees Are The Most Frequent Expense Fraud Offenders

With our clients being travel management professionals and their business travelers, we understand how cognizant you are of staying on top of your travel budget. It can be a difficult and time consuming task. It can also be upsetting when business travelers take advantage of, or completely disregard, the travel policies in place. That’s how we felt reading this recent study analyzing reimbursement fraud in more than 114 countries.

The study was conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), analyzing data from more than 2,410 cases between January 2014 and October 2015.  They found that top executives were the biggest culprits of expense reimbursement fraud, accounting for about 24 percent of the cases. “The correlation between authority and loss most likely occurs because high-level fraudsters tend to have greater access to their organizations’ assets than lower-level employees, as well as a better ability to evade or override anti-fraud controls,” according to the report.

Expense reimbursement fraud was most prevalent in the technology field, found in 27% of cases examined. Following the tech industry, incidents of fraud were also high in religious charities and social services sector (25 percent of cases), manufacturing (22.9 percent), construction (20.9 percent), and health care (20.1 percent).

Small businesses with less than 100 employees had higher incidents of fraud, at 16.7 percent. Fraud culprits were also typically male. Globally, the rate of men involved in fraud cases was 69 percent, although it was 56 percent in the United States. Expense inaccuracies remained undetected an average of two years before they were found.

Studies like this exemplify the importance of having a clear travel policy with approval processes determined. Software like our PolicyLogic helps companies so travel policies have to be applied at or before booking. For example, first-class seating can be restricted. If a first-class seat is booked, the travel manager is notified and the ticket has to be approved before being issued. Such approval helps eliminate expense fraud opportunities. Your company works hard to keep to a specific travel budget; it’s beneficial to make sure there are checkpoints in place too.

Christopherson is a corporate travel management company, specializing in proprietary travel technology and expert customer service. Learn more about our award-winning team by contacting us.

Read Next: Christopherson Business Travel Helps Companies Achieve Maximum Travel Policy Compliance

Categories
Travel Management Travel Tips

5 Tips for Managing Business Travel Expenses

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Here are five tips for managing business travel expenses.

Most companies, with more than a few business travelers, implement some sort of managed travel program and travel policy. Unmanaged travel can potentially become a huge expense and managed programs and policies provide ways to reduce those costs.

While business travel does account for a large portion of some companies’ expenditures, travel managers may find that their more experienced travelers are often the most budget travel savvy. In fact, I recently heard about a frequent business traveler who was recognized at a company event because he had eaten a significant portion of his business travel meals at Costco, thus falling far below the provided daily per diem.

However, while it’s great that particular traveler was aware of the per diem and is clearly motivated to comply with standards, I don’t think employees should be made to feel that they can only have a hot dog and soda for dinner in order to stay within a company’s policy.

In lieu of $2.00 dinners at Costco, here are some other ideas to implement in your company’s travel policy to save money:

1) Book travel in advance.

Sure, prices fluctuate and often change at the last minute, but by booking in advance, your traveler will have a greater variety of flight options, including those that cost less and best fit into your traveler’s schedule.

2) Provide travelers with a wireless hotspot.

Doing this will prevent business travelers from having to incur internet connection fees at airports, coffee shops, and hotels.

3) Increase meal per diems to allow for snacks.

Allowing business travelers to purchase a beverage and snack at the airport gift shop will come out cheaper in the long run than having to purchase food in-flight.

4) Restrict rental car usage.

If your business traveler is taking a one night trip to attend a meeting at, or near, the hotel they’re staying at, it may be more cost effective for them to use a taxi or shuttle service.

5) Encourage employees to call their travel agents if they need assistance.

A travel professional is more versed in booking travel and finding lower cost options, and in most instances, the cost savings that result will far outweigh the transaction fee.

Categories
Business Travel Travel Industry

New Airline Ancillary Fees

Airlines continue to implement new ancillary fees and increase charges on existing fees. It’s important for companies to update their expense policy to address these costs and equally important for travelers to be aware of what their company will, or will not, reimburse.

IdeaWorks Company recently released a study of airline ancillary fees which has sparked a couple of interesting articles worth reviewing:

  1. Ancillary Fees Up but Companies Less Likely to Reimburse, Fox Business
  2. What Airline Fees Are Coming Next?, USA Today
Categories
Travel Management

Managing Your Hotel Policy

Managing a hotel program can be a daunting task, but an unmanaged hotel program can be costly to a company’s travel budget.  Travelers don’t seem to want to be told where to stay or how much they can spend, but mandating a hotel program can provide savings in several ways.  If you arrange travel through a travel agency ask them for assistance in creating a company travel policy or fine tuning your existing travel policy.
With a detailed travel policy and the assistance of your travel agency, you will be able to ensure that your travelers are booking preferred hotels and you will be able track your hotel expenditures by hotel property and hotel chain.  With this valuable information your travel agency/account manager will be able to build relationships and negotiate rates on your behalf.
Providing preferred supplies with anticipated revenue you should see lower rates, additional amenities that would typically come with a price tag attached and better service from hotel staff.  As your travelers become familiar with your hotel program and follow the guidelines presented, and if permitted to join hotel reward programs, their experiences will improve and they will soon see personal benefits and the overall value to the company.
If your current travel agency does not provide this service through a dedicated account manager, please feel free to contact us.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Categories
Travel Management

The Truth and Consequences of an Unmanaged Travel Progam

As I was talking to a valued client last week the question came up as to why did their company need to have a managed travel program.  What are the advantages?  Are there cost saving benefits?  Will their travelers really follow a managed travel program where they acutally had to adhere to guidelines and rules?  They expressed their doubts and concerns that anyone would follow their travel recomendations without “mandating” they do so.  They are the type of company that does not mandate.  I returned to my office and pulled up a grid that we use when comparing distinctions between Managed vs Unmanaged travel with regards to travel policy compliance and enforcement.  The grid compares the two travel programs and the  possible outcomes or should I say… consequences.  I would like to share this grid as it could help you  as it did them when putting together your companies managed travel program.

Travel Issues
Managed Travel
Consequence of Unmanaged Travel
Finding the lowest fare Christopherson Business Travel will search for the lowest corporate policy fare and notify designated approvers when a travel is out of policy. “Lowest fare” may be defined by the traveler, and not by corporate policy. 
Securing corporate discounts Consolidated data provides spend detail & improves negotiating leverage with suppliers Suppliers unlikely to grant meaningful discounts based on non-detailed general ledger data.
Risk Management Christopherson Business Travel’s AirPortal® can find travelers when a crisis develops. Corporations are at legal risk when employees traveling on corporate business cannot be accounted for.
Non-Refundable Tickets Christopherson Business Travel’s AirBank® automated unused ticket program ensures that all dollars spent are re-used and not lost. Unmanaged travelers will forget to rebook non-refundable tickets prior to travel date, and lose the full value of the tickets costing the company thousands of dollars.
Ticket cancelation flexibility Christopherson Business Travel can reserve fares on major carriers via Worldspan, Sabre, and Apollo allowing your company to void tickets by the end of the next business day avoiding the full ticket price loss and the exchange fee cost. Voiding tickets via airline websites or online booking engines is most often not possible. Once issued and the trip is canceled, the ticket funds are “tied up” and not eligible for use until you travel again. A change fee is then charged ranging anywhere from $50 to $200.
24 Hour Emergency Support Christopherson Business Travel is available 24/7 for support of GDS and tickets booked online Unmanaged travelers are on their own. Many suppliers are no longer open 24 hours.
Online Booking Products Christopherson Business Travel’s ResX, Cliqbook, and Get There are booked via AirPortal® and are travel policy based and promotes compliance through high tech high touch filtering Online supplier sites are consumer based and not travel policy compliant.
Hotel Reservations and No-Shows Christopherson Business Travel can find space in sold-out situations and often arrange waiver of no-show bills Stand alone travelers have no leverage in sold out situations and rarely can negotiate a no-show waiver – adding more costs for the company’s bottom line.
Groups & Meetings Christopherson Business Travel will insure that groups travel on group fare discounts and that meetings are budgeted at lowest possible costs. Unmanaged travelers will fly independently at higher fares and pay “rack” rate for meetings when purchased on one-off basis.