Everyone is swamped and emotions are running high in travel. Industry veteran Brad Seitz, now head of travel, facilities and sustainability for workforce management firm Pro Unlimited, is not alone in accusing travel suppliers, particularly travel management companies, of playing a blame game in laying responsibility for some service woes at the feet of their corporate accounts.
As the world opens, the traveling infrastructure is imploding right before our eyes. Each day we receive notices of flights and trains cancelled, employee strikes and unheard of wait times at airports. When calling an airline, don’t be surprised to hear: “Thank you for calling, your wait time is five to seven hours.”
Because we are in the travel industry, we know what is going on in the world and, in some cases, how to avoid the hot spots. Dublin? Amsterdam? London? You may want to rethink using those airports. But travelers are awakening from their two-year hibernation, possibly thinking that everything is back to normal. Every day I hear comments about high prices, limited schedules and difficulty getting preferred seating.
And now, our suppliers who have been asking for two years when we will start traveling again are blaming us for their woes — like we have a crystal ball! Suppliers are saying we should have alerted them that traveling was starting up again. Like anyone told us, anyway!
In talking with my travel manager colleagues, I have learned service deficiencies are happening even when clients gave their TMC an idea of their return-to-travel plans, if not detailed data on organizational activity.
Maybe it is time for the customer to rise up (hum a tune from “Hamilton” here) and remind suppliers of a few things:
Travel managers/buyers are elephants. We do not forget. For all those TMCs that are telling us this is our fault, remember that. And please realize that we like to talk to each other about our experiences.
Travel managers are compassionate. We will defend just about any of our suppliers to our travelers when things go wrong or otherwise need defending. But there is a limit. When you do not use your intelligence to fix problems, you may not get much defense from us.
When are the prices you charge too high? Sure, we understand that you are trying to make a profit, but re-read the fact that we are elephants. If we think you are price-gouging, we will remember.
Travel managers like advance action. When a flight is cancelled on the day of the trip due to staffing shortages, did the airline not see that coming? What about when the airline boards a full plane only to cancel the flight before take-off due to crew time regulations? Why board in the first place?
Be transparent. Please communicate with us — honestly and openly. We understand our world is different. Maybe it’s time for our suppliers to recognize that fact and work with us differently. Stop telling us how great you are and be honest with your issues.
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Our post-pandemic traveling world is like nothing we have experienced in our industry. Now is the time for suppliers and buyers to work alongside each other to understand what is going on and prepare our travelers for what is out there. We all have businesses to run effectively and profitably, but the situation today seems to be a little out of control. Suppliers should look at themselves in the mirror before pointing fingers at their most important customers.
Edit: The Company Dime regrets using an insensitive and outdated phrase to describe open business communications in the original version of this post. It has been modified.