Tips for a smooth travel management transition

Hermit-crab-smooth-travel-management-transition

Organizations change travel management company for a variety of reasons: a new chief executive, mergers and acquisition activity, or under performance 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 traveler satisfaction.

Good change management can help make the transition as smooth as possible and it requires travel managers to engage their travelers and internal stakeholders, who need to be involved before and during the decision making. 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 an RFP to identify your objectives and rank your priorities. Does traveler 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 traveler feedback when searching for the right partner.

After the new travel management company is appointed, follow our three steps and the transition will be a success.

1. Involve travelers 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 program (IT, HR, Finance) as well as those that have frequent travelers.

If the program covers other locations, those regions or countries should also be represented in this committee. Any change in the travel program will need to take account of the various sites’ environments and the different expectations of its travelers 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 looking not only for what stakeholders and travelers need at present but 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 program the stakeholders want and has up-to-date business travel technology with the capacity to deliver what travelers want.

2. Communicate effectively to get everyone on board

Never underestimate the importance of communication. Changing travel management company will only work if all stakeholders – whether travelers 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 assigning someone on the project committee the responsibility for 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 in a single channel to a wide range of appropriate content that was only previously accessible through 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.

3. Review your travel program

Having a new travel management company is a good opportunity to give your travel program 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 program. 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 PNRs (passenger name records). Frequent flyer programs 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 authorization (ESTA), which will include passport data.

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