We spoke with four members of our Account Management Team, who assist clients in travel supplier negotiation, to learn what insider tips they’d be willing to share. Here’s what they had to say:
1) Talk to travelers first.
Christopherson Account Manager Carol Del Giudice counseled that organizations need to first understand the voice, needs, and wants of their travelers before they try to negotiate new travel supplier deals. “It’s hard to move market share without influence,” she said. If travelers don’t like a supplier’s brand, experience, or rewards, compliance will be an uphill battle and your deal was for naught.
2) Seek fewer travel supplier relationships rather than more.
Some might think that having agreements with every travel supplier is better because then all your bases are covered. But in reality, Client Consulting Services Manager, Sue Schroeder recommends the opposite. “I suggest establishing relationships with two to three top vendors,” she said. “I also encourage clients to not have discount contracts with too many travel suppliers.”
She went on to explain that having too many discount contracts dilutes an organization’s volume and stands in the way of establishing solid partnerships. On the other hand, by focusing on just a couple top travel suppliers, you are able to focus your spend to potentially reap greater rewards and benefits from those vendors.
Implementation and Client Services Manager Adelina Littler agreed and went on to provide more specific instruction for hotel vendor negotiations. “I think it’s best to have deals negotiated with a primary supplier and a back up,” she said. “If you only have one hotel deal negotiated, what will your travelers do if the hotel is sold out? On the flip side, having deals with too many properties limits your buying power to negotiate better rates.”
3) Look for more than hard dollar savings.
Negotiating travel supplier deals isn’t just about hard dollar savings. “I always encourage clients to review any opportunities for soft dollar savings,” Del Giudice stated. “That includes additional savings options like rebates, upgrades, ancillary fees, amenities, flexibility, traveler recognition, or insurance.” These too are benefits that should be on the table and given considerations during negotiating.
4) Consider the travel supplier’s customer service.
Just because you might be able to get a great deal doesn’t mean you should partner with a certain travel supplier. “Always be sure to ask about a supplier’s customer service stats and their customer service resolution,” said Schroeder. “When things don’t go as planned or an issue needs to be resolved, you want to be confident that your organization and your travelers to have access to reliable service for assistance.”
5) Bring all your spend to the travel supplier negotiation table.
For air volume discounts, don’t negotiate based on just your transient spend. “Make sure the airline you’re negotiating with knows what your group or meeting travel spend is, your athletic spend (if you’re a university), any tradeshow or vendor event spend, etc.” said Schroeder. “You want to be able to show your total potential to support their airline.”
6) Mandate your travel program.
Mandate. We know it can feel like a harsh idea to so many in corporate travel. “But the reality is,” said Account Manager Susan Moon, “when you require all travel to be booked through your TMC, you set yourself up for better negotiation outcomes.” This is because we (the TMC) then have complete and accurate data on your spend, your number of room nights, your number of rental days, etc.
If travelers are booking however and wherever they want, you aren’t coming to the travel supplier negotiation table with a full picture of the power of your spend. In turn, you lose out on potential savings.
Ultimately, travel supplier negotiations are an important piece of corporate travel. And obtaining favorable deals from those negotiations is a key element of a cost-effective travel program. These six tips are just a few of the many tactics our Account Management team uses to guide our clients’ travel supplier negotiations. If you’d like to learn how they can assist you and your travel program, click here.