When hunting for a replacement corporate travel agency (or getting started with one for the first time), there are a lot of questions you might be asking:

  • Do I really need a corporate travel company?

  • How do I find the company that will meet all of our needs while reigning in travel costs?

  • How will I know when I’ve found the right agency?

As for the first question, yes, you do need a corporate travel agency.

Better yet, you need a solution that combines technology with the human service of booking help and trip support.

As for the second two questions, we’ll be answering those in the bulk of this post.

46% of business travelers have booked outside of policy for hotel bookings, so something is clearly wrong with the business travel industry.

Rogue business travel bookings are a huge problem. With no oversight, out-of-policies bookings only increase.

Read on to understand how a travel management tool or company can help you achieve greater compliance and traveler satisfaction.

What is a corporate travel company or agency?

A travel management company (TMC) is a service provider that books and manages travel for a business. Typically a business will get one or a few main contacts at the agency to help them keep all trips within company policy and to offer the travelers on-the-go support.

There are so many different types of corporate travel agencies that it’s a struggle to summarize their service offerings. Large companies might offer support in dozens of languages but charge for every call. Smaller companies might be hard to reach during off hours and not cover as many languages, but might charge a premium monthly fee that covers all needs.

Here are the factors that corporate travel agencies have in common:

  • Book trips for employees

  • Provide support for cancellations, reschedulings etc.

  • Negotiate group rates and corporate rates

Traditional corporate travel agencies versus new, evolved options

Do you use a travel agency when booking a vacation to Malta? Probably not. And why is that? Because there are consumer booking sites like Expedia and Booking.com that satisfy all of your needs as a traveler.

The business travel industry is evolving in a similar way.

What’s different about how business travel is evolving (compared to consumer travel)

  • Need for smoother, easier travel policy compliance

  • No paying out of pocket

  • Travel spend reporting

  • Automated expensing

What’s similar to consumer travelers’ needs

  • Need for autonomy and self-booking

  • Access to all of the flight and hotel options available around the world

  • Great user experience

  • Great experience on mobile

  • Real time travel support

So you can see that while businesses do have different needs (travel policy compliance and spend reports chief among them), there are a lot of similarities in what businesses and consumers demand.

Just like vacationers, business travelers want to book for themselves, search from all available options, and enjoy a great experience whether that’s on a call with customer support or checking their itinerary on a mobile device.

Here’s the problem: the vast majority of corporate travel companies have not evolved to these new standards. They’re still forcing employees to call a hotline to book a trip and charging for each and every one of those calls.

This is why when you vet your corporate travel agency, you need to look for a combination of technology and human service. Often, these solutions are called travel management platforms.

In 2018 and beyond, a company that can only offer the human element won’t be able to help your business automate travel policy compliance, whereas a company that focuses only on technology won’t be able to support your travelers when they’re stuck in a foreign city and can’t get home.

What to look for in a corporate travel agency and (most importantly) why

To give your travelers trip support and your CFO financial control, you need not a mix of human service and technology as well as these critical factors. Here’s our list of what to look for.

Easy booking experience

Travelers should be able to book for themselves is that is their preference. At the same time, it should be very easy and enjoyable for administrators to book for others.

Consumer-grade travel inventory

Give travelers access to all the flight carriers and hotel brands they want. Lower your travel spend by using low cost carriers like Norwegian and EasyJet. All of the world’s inventory should be available to you as a business without having to use a consumer tool.

No hidden costs

Understand the fee structure before signing on with any travel management company. Look for red flags like charges for support calls or for simple, routine bookings.

Excellent trip support

This is where the human element really comes in. At this point, there’s no amount of technology that can comfort you when your flight has been cancelled and you really need to get to an event. A real live human can quickly find you an alternate route. Look for travel support that is offered 24/7, in multiple languages, and has great reviews from travelers.

Built in travel policies and approvals

What’s the only way to get travel policy compliance? By baking your travel policy inside the platform where travel is booked and getting all of your travelers and administrators to use that tool. Not only do you need to find a tool with built in travel policies and approval workflows, but you also need to make sure that tool hits the above needs for a great traveler experience so that everyone is really onboard.

Travel spend reporting

Getting visibility into travel spend is huge! With travel booked in so many different platforms, it’s very hard to get all the data. Remember that 46% of business travelers have booked on consumer sites. That data is spread all over the place and can’t get accessed until it’s expensed. Look for a company or platform that offers real time reports for your finance team.

Innovative and scalable

Business travel is still evolving. In fact, it’s really just getting started. When vetting travel management companies and/or platforms, it’s brilliant to check that the company is innovative, future ready, and that the solution can scale as your company grows.

We’ve put together an exhaustive list of criteria to help you vet your options for travel management companies and select the right solution.

This is what you’ll find:

  • Guide to identifying and solving your business’s travel management issues

  • Checklist in PDF and Excel format that you can fill

  • Breakdown of all the important criteria

Get started and download the free template today!