Your TMC’s financial position can have a major impact on the health of your travel program. Know the signs and get the answers.

Ask any corporate travel manager what the most important part of running a successful travel program is and they’ll tell you…a great travel manager. But a close second is a strong partnership with a great Travel Management Company (TMC). This is because TMCs serve as the backbone of the corporate travel program. Whether it’s providing the service travelers use on a daily basis, the technology travel managers need to make decisions, or the guidance to navigate uncertain waters, the relationship with your TMC is vital to the health of your travel program.

As the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the historically stable relationship between company and TMC is being tested like never before. The root cause is that many TMCs finances  the future of your travel program depends on how you respond to these challenges. In this article, we look at four ways fallout from the coronavirus pandemic can impact the relationship with your TMC, and what you should do about it.

Are You Experiencing Decreased Levels of Service?

It’s no secret that employment across industries took a substantial hit from the coronavirus. It’s also no secret that the travel industry faced the worst of it. With revenue falling more than 90%, companies had no choice but to reduce their workforces. While some TMCs were in a strong financial position and able to retain enough employees to continue servicing clients, many were not. This led to smaller agent teams supporting the same number of clients, resulting in a noticeable drop in service levels.

Fortunately, ADTRAV was in a very strong financial position when the pandemic hit, enabling us to retain the necessary level of agents to support our client base. In fact, we retained more agents than our financial models suggested just to ensure adequate staffing for when travel returns. If you’ve noticed that service from your TMC isn’t what it used to be, maybe it’s time to start asking why and if it’s something your organization is willing to tolerate.

Has Communication With Your TMC Become More Inconsistent?

If you jumped in a time machine and went back to March 2019, you probably had several meetings each month with your TMC. They knew exactly what was going on within your travel program, and you had a good idea of the current and future plans of your TMC.

Fast forward to today. Do you still have the same open line of communication with your TMC? Do they know and understand what your organization is going through? Are they making an effort to understand? Do you have a grasp on their plans? Does it feel like a healthy partnership? Answering no to any of those questions could be a red flag. With the current state of travel, communication is more important than ever. That’s why ADTRAV has held periodic client advisory meetings throughout the pandemic. Every few months, a group of our most engaged clients are invited to an all-day strategy session with our leadership team to discuss how we can best work together to support each other. Maintaining this level of close contact has been vital to the recovery strategy of both parties.

To quote Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” COVID-19 definitely punched us all in the mouth. Whatever plans you had before with your TMC are out the window. It’s now about working together to implement and align strategies. During these times, you should have more communication with your TMC, not less. If your TMC has seemed distant as of late, it might be time to start asking questions.

Have You Noticed Any Lagging Technology?

In today’s increasingly connected world, technology is ever evolving. Gone are the days of releasing one big update every year. To keep pace with innovation and customer expectations, TMCs must push every day to improve their solutions. They must be laser focused on delivering exactly what the customer needs. It takes people, equipment, and time, all of which add up to money. The simple fact is that developing cutting-edge software is expensive. So when cash flow takes a hit, so does a TMC’s capacity for innovation. TMCs who were stretched thin financially when the pandemic hit now find themselves being forced to vastly slow down or even completely suspend software development. This means that in a time when the travel industry is in dire need of streamlining and automating as much as possible, some TMCs are unable to deliver. Because of the vital role technology plays in our clients’ travel programs, our technology team was identified as an area that must be preserved, and fortunately we were in a position to afford it.

Is your TMC still innovating? Are the solutions your organization needs being delivered? Are new ideas and ways of doing things brought to the table? Or maybe they’re shying away from technology requests and conversations? If so, it might be time to ask for clarification on the technology strategy moving forward.

Have Longstanding Relationships Vanished?

Nothing brings more synergy to a business relationship than truly knowing your counterpart. A strong, established relationship makes communication more open, support more enjoyable, and mutual success more attainable. Having an account manager that understands your situation enables effective liaising between you and your TMC. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in record layoffs in our industry. Relationships built on years of experience simply vanished overnight, as well as the familiarity and rapport that cannot be captured in transition notes. This can be incredibly disruptive to a travel program. That’s why ADTRAV decided at the beginning of the pandemic that our account management team would be preserved at all costs. We knew our clients would be tested like never before and we wanted to be there for them.

Do you have a champion at your current TMC? Someone you consider more a friend than a contact? A person you can have an honest open dialog with, and who will give you sincere feedback? Hopefully you answered yes to all of these questions. If not, ask yourself why. Is it something you can fix or is it a symptom of a larger problem with your TMC?

Getting Back on Track: It’s Everybody’s Responsibility

At the end of the day, we are all involved in the recovery of our industry. TMCs, airlines, hotels, car rental companies, CVBs, and even the travelers we support all play a part. ADTRAV believes the TMC’s role is to help organizations feel as confident as possible about travel. More confidence means more willingness to travel. As travel increases, our industry will start getting back to normal. So take a long hard look at your current relationship with your TMC. Even if you’re one of our clients, ask the hard questions and identify areas for improvement. Now is the time to have an open dialogue with your TMC.

Ready to explore your TMC options?