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Travel & Leisure ... ...
    Accountable travel

2006-03-13 07:51

Editor's note: This week we continue our series on corporate travel management. In his previous article, Tedesco outlined the role of corporate travel managers and how they can streamline an organization's travel and entertainment (T&E) portfolio.

Travel managers need to focus on five key responsibilities:

Establish their organization's travel goals and objectives

Establish and maintain their organization's travel policy

Enable travellers and travel agents to make travel arrangements in an efficient manner

Manage relationships and contracts with suppliers such as travel management companies, airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and corporate credit card providers

Monitor, track and measure the success of the travel programme

In this week's article we look at the role of account managers at travel management companies (TMC). The modern-day account manager is an important asset in any managed travel programme. While their goals and objectives mirror those of a travel manager, they act more as a partner, subject matter expert, and advocate to the travel manager. They are the point person for the travel manager, and they work to ensure that the travel manager has implemented a successful programme within the organization. The account manager, however, represents the TMC and strives to provide support and demonstrate the value of managed travel to both travel managers and organizations.

A good account manager establishes a strong partnership with a travel manager and successfully performs five integral tasks:

Understand end goals

The best account managers will develop an in-depth understanding of their client's business and support the travel manager with an action plan while providing advice, expertise and guidance. A great strategy for the account manager is to develop a plan that highlights the organization's goals and objectives, a proposal detailing how the TMC will assist in achieving them, and a performance measurement plan.

The client should approve of each component to ensure the alignment of key stakeholders. The account manager is then responsible for communicating the key aspects of the action plan to relevant departments to ensure they fully understand how to achieve the organization's goals. These teams include operations, information technology, finance, supplier relations, product development, and advisory services.

Establish a policy

If the organization only has a basic policy or doesn't have one at all, the account manager should work with the travel manager to amend or create a travel policy in accordance with the organization's business needs and culture.

That person should also be able to explain this travel policy to departments so they can load policy requirements into their systems and make sure bookings are made in accordance with the company's guidelines.

The account manager should also stay abreast of policy compliance by reviewing management information reporting and communicating critical takeaways to key stakeholders. They should discuss their findings and suggestions for improvement with their client and develop action plans.

If the account manager discovers that few travellers are booking rooms at client-preferred hotels, for example, they should address this issue with the travel manager. Here is an opportunity to capture more savings, as well as mitigate travellers' risk and security concerns. An effective account manager can propose solutions that will help increase compliance and support the organization's travel policy.

Travellers who strictly comply with an organization's preferred domestic carrier still may not be utilizing the most cost-effective fare classes. An account manager prepares an analysis of traveller behaviour, which helps organizations implement corrective actions and instruct travellers to take advantage of cheaper flight alternatives.

With these proactive steps, an account manager helps achieve an organization's travel policy goals, which delivers direct savings to their bottom line.

Improve efficiency

The top priority for a TMC is service delivery, or the different ways travellers and travel planners make arrangements. A TMC must be fast, accurate, reliable and efficient. Whether bookings are generated over the telephone through travel consultants or through self-booking tools, the process needs to be easy and uncomplicated.

Travel managers should communicate any problems to the account manager so they can resolve these issues with related departments. If the TMC identifies a non-compliance issue, such as too many travellers booking outside of policy or incorrectly use of a self-booking tool, the account manager should communicate with the travel manager and work together towards a positive solution.

Manage relationships

Effective account managers address and meet organizations' needs, are solid communicators, and provide exceptional service. These can form the basis of a strong partnership between an organization and a TMC. Account managers can also manage a client's partnership with travel suppliers (such as airlines and hotels) on behalf of an organization. As TMC "insiders", they have access to expertise and insight that helps them significantly enhance an organization's airline and hotel deals.

Monitor performance

Travel managers and account managers should jointly review management information reporting (MIR). Account managers should review MIR independently, prior to meeting with the travel manager, to analyze and interpret the data.

When the account manager identifies issues or opportunities for improvement, they should communicate them to the corporate travel manager. They may notice that fewer travellers are booking through the TMC, for example, in favour of alternate channels, such as the Internet. This can be identified by a massive spending decline, and raises a number of concerns for travel managers. Travellers who book on the Internet might not be securing negotiated rates, resulting in higher costs. Or they may be operating outside of the organization's risk and security framework. Or perhaps non-compliance is a cultural no-no because it sends a poor message to other areas within the company.

(China Daily 03/13/2006 page6)


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