GoldSpring Consulting’s Kathy Kent and Will Tate sketch out the foundations for going global with corporate travel management companies.
Global is a frequently used term to describe a corporate travel program and its travel management company support. When you hear “global” and “TMC,” what model comes to mind? Everything from every country is the same? All major things from every country are the same? All major things from all major countries are the same? Some major things from some countries are the same? Illuminati, New World Order or Robot Domination?
Buyers consider all of these models (except maybe the last ones) when thinking through what global is, how it is executed and, most importantly, why it matters. Let’s step through this together.
What Is Global?
A global travel program implies common standards, systems, policies and processes. It can indicate a shared corporate culture around the world, with sensitivity to different aspects of local business. In this sense, global represents commonality. Just for fun, contrast this with “international,” which implies flag-planting around the world and is more about presence than commonality.
Global aligns strategy, personnel, consistent service delivery, technology deployment, cost management and market growth. A global approach to travel program management can help streamline processes, increase operational efficiencies, provide a consistent traveler experience and accomplish uniform reporting and progress evaluation. But to what degree? It gets complex.
There is a myriad of program options and configurations. How a buyer approaches the decision process may reflect the difference between true global program optimization and a watered-down version of “global” that incorporates some consistencies but doesn’t account for a lot of regional nuances. We see that in many cases, when an organization does not account for one piece of the puzzle, the True Global picture gets obstructed.
How can buyers be efficient yet exhaustive in their global execution and emerge with a True Global operation? Start with these steps:
1. Define global for your purpose.
2. Align with company stakeholders and the organizational culture.
3. Define what you need from your TMC provider.
4. Weigh and evaluate the options.
5. Decide on the best fit for setup and support.
It’s in steps three and four where buyers begin to veer away from their True Global course. Needs are often defined but, mistakenly, become fluid when bumped up against what TMCs can actually provide.
This happens especially when teams are boxed into binary pass/fail evaluation measures, meaning TMCs must meet certain requirements with current operations or the bidder disqualifies them. These may include areas of data security and data privacy. Think of these as non-negotiable table stakes suppliers need to get in the game.
We need to go deeper. To get to True Global, program requirements and a TMC’s ability to deliver can be measured against more than 200 elements across 18 categories (profile management, mobile, reporting, etc.). There can be a tendency to look away from this complexity and focus on the squeakiest wheels, issues du jour and high-profile must-haves (e.g., stakeholder cries for consumer-like booking interfaces or the latest travel apps). Underlying implications with big impacts get overlooked.
For example, profile management and its dependent technologies are vital to the traveler experience. This experience can be less than optimal depending on the ownership of the profile (TMC, online booking tool or combination), which can be further complicated by profile elements that are truncated upon data consolidation.
Another area for deeper consideration is mobile booking. In many key markets, mobile booking for air, hotel, rail and car is a highly desired feature but varies widely in availability. Given the TMCs’ emphasis on mobile over online booking systems, these availability differences can impact both the traveler’s experience and cost management.
Also consider reporting. Program consolidations often default to the smallest number of reportable fields available (if one office can provide 20 data fields and another can only provide eight, then just those eight fields are consolidated). Sometimes a TMC chooses not to consolidate any reporting from an office due to poor data quality.
The best approach is to prioritize different items with multiple levels of requirements (critical, important, useful, etc.). Then document, weigh, score and analyze results for outlying implications and make data-based decisions.
Why It Matters
Here’s a practical, tactical, multi-stepped example. In one program setup, sustainability initiatives may require train over air for certain trips. Travelers may prefer online or mobile booking over calling. TMCs, too, may prefer the operational efficiency of supporting online booking. Given these priorities, booking trains via a mobile channel or online booking tool is a key value proposition that seemingly would rank highly in the evaluation process. But we also know capabilities vary widely — geographically and from one TMC, booking tool or mobile app to another. We need tools to see through the multi-faceted lens here.
Evaluating the important (your “must haves”) and the useful (your “nice to haves”) requirements is an important part of the journey on the global road. Assigning levels of priority to more than 200 global elements bolsters an analysis that separates the “global” from “international” in a structured approach. This granular level of detail helps buyers isolate what really matters. While clients differ on areas to emphasize, interest is most often grouped by impacts to duty of care, traveler experience, operational performance and supplier programs — all interconnected by deploying the right technology.
True Global approaches to key travel management components like duty of care information and related support, consistent service delivery and standardized technologies can help manage compliance and savings opportunities. This ultimately yields a superior managed travel program that is simple to communicate, maintain and improve.
If reading this inspired you to take a deeper dive into global capabilities, welcome to the enlightened. If not, the flat earthers have much to share.
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