Getting the Most out of Your TMC – Part 1: Online booking tools (OBT's)
Cutting-edge travel technology is a game changer, but it’s only as effective as the team that implement and configure it. Like picking a dream football team, even the best players - or in this case the technology tools - will only ‘gel’ if they work well together and complement each other.
So you need to ask whether your travel management company (TMC) has the depth required to provide your organisation with a true end-to-end technology solution. Are you getting a bespoke platform tailored to your organisations needs? Does your TMC provide regular technology reviews and ongoing support?
Below we highlight what you should expect and the questions you should be asking your TMC about today’s travel booking tools.
The power of integration
While online booking tools (OBT) gain a lot of attention, they need to be implemented as part of a wider strategy. A customised travel Hub or Portal lies at the heart of an integrated travel technology solution - and also works hand-in-hand with other tools such as an OBT. This centralised platform should deliver full program visibility and be the ‘go to’ place for travellers and bookers for all vital travel information - including policy guidelines, supplier information, booking preferences, traveller itineraries, pre-trip approval, Visa requirements, business meeting options and after hours assistance.
Customisation is the key
Great advances over the last few years have seen new generation OBTs harness artificial intelligence to deliver truly bespoke and scalable solutions. A professional TMC understands that OBTs are not a static, ‘plug and play’ solution. This technology needs updating, maintenance and reviewing to ensure it continues to serve you - as both a booking and comprehensive administration tool.
Does your TMC have a trained back office team with the technical skills to customise your OBT? Will your OBT allow you to change and personalise cost centres, filter suppliers, customise the display, identify unused tickets and capture valuable reporting data? Will your TMC support your OBT in utilising the richer data which will be available with the arrival of the NDC?
The support you need
To make sure you’re getting the most from your OBT, you need a TMC committed to ongoing support with continues long after the implementation phase. So make sure you partner with a TMC that takes a proactive approach to keeping you up updated with innovative tech changes and tools.
Does you TMC provide collateral to clearly explain new processes? Or do they offer face-to-face training? Is telephone training available to support new staff?
Changing with the times
Depending on the dynamics of your business, a TMC should schedule regular technology reviews which might be six monthly, yearly or two yearly. During this audit your account manager can assess the performance of your OBT and discuss the need for updates, such as loading new suppliers or cost centre codes. If major new processes need to be implemented, a timeline can be devised to manage technology updates and the deployment of a thorough rollout strategy across the business.
Does your account manager review your OBT to identify gaps or to update features based on changes in your organisation’s travel behaviour or protocols? Does your TMC offer client visits and road shows with refresher boardroom sessions to explain new tech? Do they have the internal knowledge to efficiently integrate new tools, such as expense management and reporting, without costly downtime?