According to TMC Finder (yes, there really is a search engine for everything), there are more than 150 travel management companies in the UK alone. However you slice it, that’s a lot of competition for any TMC, but are there simple ways to distinguish your business from the rest of the field?
1. Improve your Itineraries
We covered recently how common business travel complaints can be solved with a perfectly prepared itinerary, but the subject bears repeating. As any seasoned business traveller will tell you, the quality of an itinerary can be the difference between a friction-free trip and a stress-induced breakdown over continental breakfast in the local Novotel.
With the stakes that high, how should you go about improving your itineraries?
Missing Trip Details
Few things are more likely to bring the average business traveller out in cold sweat quite like missing trip details. Whether the missing details are down to parts of the trip being booked off-policy or human error, it’s vital your travellers have everything they need when they need it.
Anyone over a certain age will remember the early days of the internet before we knew what apps or document consolidation were. Business travel often meant pooling together 5 or 6 different emails — one for insurance, one for the hotel, one for flights — with half of them disappearing into the junk folder because of spam rules no one remembered setting.
Unfortunately, it’s still not unusual to see this sort of thing delivered to corporate travellers’ inboxes — multiple itinerary documents delivered at different times and festooned with irrelevant third-party advertising. So, simply providing itineraries that are consolidated into a single, easy-to-read document, free of superfluous advertising, can make a big difference for your travellers.
Make it Available Anywhere
While there will always be business travellers who prefer the tried-and-tested method of a printed itinerary tucked in a back pocket, this simply isn’t the case for the majority anymore.
According to the GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index, 64% of all business and 72% of Millennials use mobile devices to check travel itineraries one or more times a day during trips. This means it’s vital your travellers can access their itinerary from their device whenever they want to. In practice, this means delivering everything they need in a single document, in a format that can be easily understood at-a-glance.
Fortunately, all 3 of these requirements can be met using a single piece of kit. Itinerary creation tools like our Itin to X allow travel consultants to send easy-to-read, branded itineraries in a single PDF, word doc, email or web format, straight to your traveller’s smartphone.
2. Embrace Bleisure
According to 2016 research from Collinson Group, almost three quarters (72%) of business travellers now bolt-on additional leisure days to their trips. So to say bleisure is popular is an understatement.
"However, business travel as a whole has been caught sleeping by the trend and large swathes of bleisure activity is happening "off-policy". This has led to confusion over duty-of-care and how best to offer travellers access to non-business content.
With so many TMCs struggling to get to grips with bleisure, adding leisure options to your offering is a great way to stand out from the competition. Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to provide your travellers with access to the additional content that they’re likely to use for leisure.
This could be something as simple as including a ‘things to do’ section in your itineraries or it could be using a GDS bolt-on like the Expedia integrator. Equally, embracing sharing economy options like Airbnb is a great way to cater to travellers’ leisure needs.
3. Give Your Travellers Choice
Following on neatly from bleisure, another area in which you can easily differentiate your TMC is in the choice you offer travellers.
This means going beyond the options offered by your GDS — an approach which is relatively simple but employed by surprisingly few TMCs. Giving your travellers more choice is common sense; would you rather have the choice of 175,000 properties (the average figure for the GDSs) or that figure combined with the extra 350,000 available through Expedia’s EAN inventory?
We’re guessing it’s the latter, and your travellers are likely to feel the same way. Not only do third-party integrations augment what your GDS can offer with more accommodation options
4. Reduce Trip-Friction
There are any number of things that can go wrong with business travel, and a key aspect of helping your TMC stand out is simply minimising the likelihood of your travellers being hit with delays or hitches in their trip.
No one wants to turn up at the airport only to find their flight has been cancelled or delayed for six hours. Likewise, no one wants the stress of ringing the Chinese embassy 2 weeks before a trip to try and get an emergency visa because
These sorts of issues are often the difference between a productive business trip and a sweaty-palmed nightmare, and in the past avoiding them often meant time-sapping admin for travel consultants. No longer. Instead, there are several tools available to help you automate vital admin tasks and ensure every traveller enjoys a positive experience, including:
- Automatic visa checking — Cutting out the sluggish manual work normally associated with checking visa requirements, these tools automatically inspect booking files and determine which countries, including transit points, are being travelled to, as well as passenger nationalities.
- Seat availability checkers — Automating your seat-checking not only saves time, but it also helps get your travellers the perfect seat at the perfect price. No more squeezing your clients into
economybecause that last business class seat was taken before you could react.
- Automated ticket checking — Again, automating your ticket checking process reduces the likelihood of your travellers turning up to the airport without the right ticket or to a cancelled flight — without time-consuming manual intervention.
5. Get Travellers the Best Deal
It might sound silly, but nothing is more likely to get your clients coming back time-and-again than a good deal. We all like to feel we’ve got more for less, and business travel is no different.
This doesn’t have to mean spending hours trawling through your GDS to find the best deal for your travellers. GDS add-ons like our PNR watcher, allow you to set criteria for each traveller and sit back while it keeps track of your clients’ individual needs and the latest route deals — meaning that providing great value to your travellers is easier than ever before.
For more on how GDS add-ons can help set you apart from your competitors, take a look at our range of time-saving, customer experience improving products.