Here’s a compilation of thoughts from members of The Company Dime‘s Editorial Board of six travel buyers.
The last three years put everyone to the test. It’s not that we don’t enjoy challenges; we thrive on them. But it’s time to focus on the future and do what we do best. Enough firefighting and bickering.
If we’re in a new normal, it better include the familiar things we’ve always expected. But since it’s new, there’s plenty that can change and improve to help us and corporate travel at large. Change can be good, but a little stability would be welcome this year.
We want the basic blocking and tackling that comes with managed travel, like properly staffed travel management companies and well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable agents. We want less volatile travel pricing. We want transparency, honesty and professionalism in our dealings with all suppliers. We want industry associations to keep trying new things and pushing meaningful discourse.
• Could suppliers please stop asking us how much our companies will travel in the future? We understand that’s valuable information, and we recognize that the more you know about us, the better you can serve. But there’s much we don’t know. Many of our companies still are recovering, working through budgets, scoping out operational needs and assessing opportunities. We’ll tell you what we know as we learn it, but your frequent questioning won’t speed that up.
• To whatever extent possible, can suppliers maintain their sales and account management teams? New reps calling on us every few months makes it difficult to foster trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. We also want more thoughtful approaches to quarterly business reviews. Reps reading from slide decks during presentations wastes time; we can read. Suppliers should send those decks in advance and invest in their people’s presentation skills. This allows for more meaningful discussions on opportunities and issues during QBRs.
• Incessant cold calls and email solicitations from suppliers have to stop. Marketing is a fact of life. Any good supplier should have a healthy prospecting strategy. But it needs to be thoughtful and polite. Bombarding us repeatedly won’t get you our business. CRM systems easily help organize all this. Use one. And marketing messages sent directly to our traveling employees are an absolute no-no.
• We don’t want NDC discussions in every forum before realizing or at least understanding when benefits to corporate programs will emerge. Any NDC framework and process must allow for easily bookable corporate discounts, policy application, full agency servicing and complete reporting. Airlines have their reasons to make changes to the retailing environment, but don’t expect us to fund those changes, or encourage our TMCs and booking tools to foot some of the bill, if the value for us isn’t clear. We get the notion of bundles, but many of our travelers — by virtue of their loyalty program status or our preferred agreements — already get much of what has been contemplated.
• We don’t want surprises for our travelers when they show up at their hotels. If your property is undergoing renovations, please update your website accordingly.
• We also don’t want surprises when travelers book. Resort and urban fees at hotels, carrier-imposed surcharges, add-on restaurant fees, a litany of car rental charges and other “junk” fees should go away. We’re sure all consumers are with us on this one. So is President Joe Biden. It may be too simplistic to suggest suppliers price their products and services inclusive of everything, without special items broken out. At the very least, they should clearly display all added fees at the time of booking. When they are hidden, comparison shopping — along with transparency and trust — goes out the window. With some effort, we might try to steer business away from suppliers that levy egregious, unsubstantiated fees.
Happy new year!