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TMC service level crisis driving travel buyer dissatisfaction

It's a volatile time for the global business travel market right now, with demand surging, businesses under the cosh thanks to inflation, a doom-laden media and here in the UK, a revolving door at Number Ten.

Meanwhile, travel buyers’ biggest concern across the globe, is around poor service levels from TMCs. In some cases it is now taking TMCs a full day, or even overnight to respond to traveller’s queries.

That’s unacceptable!

In June 2022, TMC headcount was estimated to be 20% lower than pre-pandemic.[1] TMC owners are scrambling to replace the talent they lost during lockdown, with mixed results. Whilst sympathetic during the pandemic, travel buyers no longer accept underperforming from their TMC.

For example, some corporates’ TMC service level agreements are running at just 30%. They're not being given the service they need to support their business, which is really disappointing for someone like me who has been in this industry a long time and takes great pride in it.

Many TMC front line staff now are inexperienced, so service levels previously provided by skilled travel consultants are no longer available. That means its taking longer to resolve queries, especially with ever-changing air and rail schedules, so frustrations are escalating.

The return of business travel wasn’t meant to look like this...

Thankfully, not all of us are falling down on the job. During the pandemic, our founders Chris Thelen and Julie Cope entered the market, recruiting experienced staff discarded by other TMCs. As a result, the company has both the human resources and expertise to deliver the travel management service every travel manager deserves.

Supply-Demand Squeeze

There is a real sense that travel buyers’ patience is running out. Many companies are now out to RFP. During 2021, 28% changed their TMC, whilst a further 36% planned to do so in 2022.[1]

Every corporate I speak to is acutely aware of the impact of availability (or the lack of it) on prices, but that hasn’t yet translated into travel being cut back. However, there is a growing sense of caution.

Inflation and the Bank of England’s gloomy forecasts are not helping. For example, one TakeTwo client has paused a major recruitment drive due to the economic uncertainty, but will be pressing ahead again in the New Year.

Flexibility versus Rigidity

There is a lot of debate around the relative merits of rigid and more flexible travel programmes. However many companies are struggling to achieve the transparency that is essential to managing travel costs and the associated risks.

My sense is that organisations believe that, to keep control of traveller well-being, Duty of Care, and costs, they need a more rigid policy. It’s about getting the governance piece correct.

By contrast, I’m not seeing many companies relaxing their policies because most policies already take traveller preferences and needs into consideration. They already know the importance of looking after their travellers, especially with unemployment at its lowest level for many years.

The TakeTwo Difference

Companies are not just going to RFP because of TMC service, or a lack of it. Shortfalls in OBT content, capability and back-office support are also driving dissatisfaction.

Thanks to TakeTwo’s NextGen technology ecosystem, we have the technological capability to deliver what customers are looking for and what other providers can’t or won’t provide.

Data, and the insight it provides, is important to corporates large and small. It underpins travel policy, makes costs transparent, strengthens governance and provides valuable sustainability analysis for organisations with NetZero targets.

TakeTwo supports those objectives through analytics, prevention, avoidance, and offsetting. At TakeTwo we are listening to customers and providing solutions that meets their needs.

Our overall approach to travel management is simple - you can have the best technology in the world but without people to answer the phone, respond to queries and provide certainty, you cannot build trust. At TakeTwo, we are fully staffed and there when our customers need us - twenty-four seven.

Walking the Talk

Of course, that’s easy to say. How do you prove to a travel buyer that it’s not just hype?

TakeTwo is very much a people business - a democracy - so, I introduce my colleagues to prospective clients as early as possible. We invite customers to trial our service and find out for themselves what the reality is like.

Credibility, agility and reliability is essential - that's what we promise and, that's what we deliver.

[1] Business Travel Association

[2] Business Travel Show Europe

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