As the corporate travel arena has continued to change and evolve in recent years, with it have the roles of travel management company team members, to meet the demands of the reshaped industry. As we start 2017, our Strategic Account Manager Andrew Sison shares some of the responsibilities and actions required,that fit within his own role. These responsibilities enrich a client’s travel programme striving to achieve value creation of the highest quality.
Acting as interface between the Travel Management Company (TMC) and the customer, an Account Manager (AM) will educate and advise their peers in a reservations team, with information on a formulated travel policy. This is to ensure the TMC adheres to a travel booking strategy, as well as detailing new travel supplier agreements to maximise cost savings opportunities. Travel to new destinations, related to a company’s business goals will also be shared with a booking team, so they have a thorough understanding of a travel business mix and knowledge of up and coming trips. Last but not least, storing details of authorised and approved travellers and bookers ensures the account manager is managing policy compliance and controlling access to the travel programme.
#2 Support – Continual improvements
An Account Manager will monitor and supply travel “performance metrics”, which will detail a range of insights into a corporate travel spend. This will include online and offline adoption rates, preferred versus non-preferred supplier usage, achieved savings, missed savings opportunities and new corporate deals added to a travel programme. Overall monetary value savings related to travel programme, based on reductions achieved through discounted rate content, supplier deals, utilisation of redeemed points on corporate reward schemes will also be shared to provide the measurable financial benefits of a business travel programme.
#3 Data analysing
An account manager owns the service level agreement between the customer and TMC and will use monthly data to report on current KPI performance and trends as part of a continuous improvement process.
Using travel spend data, an Account Manager can identify opportunities to introduce new suppliers to a business travel programme. A clear breakdown of data allows Account Managers to work with a travel manager to focus on making cost cutting opportunities against a travel budget. The data can even come in the form of unique reference fields such business units or employee codes to provide exposure to travel spend by different sections of a business. Pre-trip reporting, allows the TMC to work with travel managers at booking level, to act as a gatekeeper to travel policy, improving compliance and identifying corrective actions prior to finalising certain trips.
#4 Supplier Relationship Management
The majority of business travel programmes will whet the appetite of air, hotel, and car hire operators to offer deals or added value benefits to travel clients, to draw corporates to their product. An Account Manager will look to work with relevant suppliers who can add value and savings to a travel programme, rather than diluting a travel programme with lots of unnecessary corporate agreements that result in dissatisfied suppliers due to unused agreements, which then do not maximise any threshold target volumes of where a business actually travels to or stays. This also makes getting future deals from those suppliers much more of a challenge. By using relevant suppliers, this will ensure more time is spent on the suppliers who are the most strategically important and add the most value and savings opportunities.
By speaking to Travel Managers, Bookers and Travellers, added to being aligned with a client’s business objectives, a TMC can get to know their client’s business inside out. This allows Account Managers to make recommendations to improve a businesses travel programme. From consulting on large strategic projects such as globally consolidating a travel programme, implementing a customer’s traveller security programme, reducing the environmental impact of a travel programme to advice on small changes to a travel policy. An Account Manager will provide a consultative approach on how best to manage travel spend. They will also recommend what initiatives have worked for organisations in a similar business sector as their own, whilst recommending new payment solutions or expense management providers to improve a “procure to pay” system and highlighting new travel booking technology relevant for a client’s travel mix. This consultative approach is bespoke and tailored to each of the client’s needs. As an Account Manager, it’s our aim to reduce costs, add value, drive efficiencies, and be responsible for customer satisfaction.
#6 Booking habits and best practice
An account manager will review travel bookings trends including analysing how far in advance travellers book, review the average cost of flight prices on key routes, comparing the cost of booking in different advance bookings periods, highlighting frequently booked trips, as well identifying any peaks in travel costs based on certain traveller booking habits. By opening up travel data, an Account Manager can look to change traveller and general booking behaviours for the better and make expert travel recommendations to booking practices and habits.
#7 Expert on travel topics
Attending industry events such as strategy meetings held by the Guild of Travel Management Companies, reading corporate travel literature such as Buying Business Travel, and listening to Business Travel IQ weekly insights, all play a hand in educating Strategic Account Managers on a range of “travel topics.” These all enable us to become industry experts on travel topics related to our clients travel programmes, which allows Account Managers to provision market intelligence and industry trends to our clients.
#8 Understanding the big picture
Gaining knowledge of our clients up and coming projects and business objectives, can play a key role in ensuring we can identify ways of helping companies with budgets, planning and cost forecasting by working with new travel suppliers, providing awareness to new technology and solutions relevant for customer travel needs, to also anticipating supplier deals for any up and coming travel projects. The knowledge gained also allows us to have a good understanding of the culture and working practices of our client partners.
#9 Business to Business working relationships
An Account Manager will hold key relationships with various personnel across all functions within a client’s business, ranging from an appointed Travel Manager, a key Travel Booker, a Finance Manager, Leadership Team as well as regular travellers to help balance each department’s business aims and enrich a travel programme. Maintaining these relationships ensures an AM can be regularly informed of changes to a travel programme, policy, or plans. These close relationships allow the clients to see the role of a good Travel Management Company, as if working optimally, the TMC should become an extension of their own organisation.
#10 Travel consolidation and using a Travel Management Company correctly.
An Account Manager will promote the benefits of consolidating travel spend through one supplier, to ensure full control and visibility of total travel spend, to leverage the best deals with travel suppliers relative to a travel program. This enables corporates to clearly measure who and what they are spending their money on. From a corporate risk aspect, this enables businesses to keep track of their travellers whereabouts in addition to “traveller tracking tools” available to clients through a TMC’S duty of care products.
# 11 Listen
All of the very best account managers are great listeners. By listening to a Travel Managers challenges and concerns and those from travellers ensures an account manager is always aware of the current challenges faced by their customers, and drives a consultative approach. Whether this relates to travellers finding cheaper rates online themselves, booking through non-complaint channels, providing info on traveller safety information. It’s the Account Manager who will assist in facing any of the travel manager’s problems to assist in efficiently managing their business travel programme.