How to create an effective travel management RFP
Finding the best travel management company (TMC) for your business can seem very challenging:
- Getting the right outcome is crucial for tackling your second-largest controllable expense and looking after your travelling employees
- It’s an emotive subject. Employees don’t care much for what printer they use, but they really care who helps arrange their travel
- Selecting your TMC through a request for proposal (RFP) is time-consuming and expensive.
FCM Travel Solutions has written a comprehensive guide to creating the best possible TMC selection process. After competing to win thousands of customers, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to RFPs. We’ve seen what works for buyers – and what really doesn’t work.
Successful TMC selection is all about following a series of basic but critical steps. And just like anything else, preparation is key. Time invested upfront will save so much more time, and money, in the end. Most importantly, a well-planned process will vastly improve your chances of signing the TMC that fits your needs best.
We believe there are five simple, yet integral, steps to the RFP process – watch our video to get an overview of these steps:
Before the RFP
Step 1: Get to know the players before the big game
Researching and engaging with travel management companies shouldn’t start the day you go out to tender. There are many ways to improve your knowledge of the TMC sector. Ideally, you should have met every single TMC you are inviting to bid over the previous 18 months, either at your office or theirs.
Other opportunities to meet the TMCs include attending business travel exhibitions and conferences, reading the business travel press, subscribing to their newsletter or magazine, following them on social media or, if you hear about a new product or service that interests you, asking them for a demo.
Step 2: Make sure you really want to go to RFP
Naturally, we’d love a chance to win your business. But we urge you to think very carefully before you go to market. Most organisations aren’t obliged to tender their TMC regularly, and if your travellers and other stakeholders are happy with the service they are getting, there’s a strong case for leaving well alone.
That’s why we recommend you only go through the upheaval and substantial expense of a nine-month-plus tendering process if there is a strong reason to do so.
Step 3: Lay the groundwork for your RFP
Perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet vital steps in the RFP process, is your own preparation.
Before you begin to construct the RFP itself, undertaking the following will create a more streamlined and effective process.
- Consider an RFI - This is where you establish whether a TMC meets your minimum criteria to make it worth further consideration. At this point you are looking for simple yes/no answers.
- Figure out your travel strategy - Review your entire travel programme and decide what it should look like.
- Listen to your people - To determine your travel strategy, and what you want from your TMC, engage internal stakeholders, including bookers and travellers.
- Start collecting data - Providing accurate data available enables TMCs to give the most tailored, relevant and creative proposals. The less data you provide, the more vanilla the competing TMCs’ responses will be.
Step 4: Build a killer RFP
The key to a great RFP is knowing what information to give about yourselves and what information to ask in return from the TMCs:
- State your objectives clearly
- Focus on question quality, not quantity – it’s actually possible to conduct a travel RFP with less than 12 questions!
- Include all the bid information including timelines, service level agreement and instructions for how to respond
- Sense-check your RFP once it’s written to ensure the narrative is logical and there aren’t any duplicate or overlapping questions.
After the RFP
Step 5: Make your TMC selection
In addition to evaluating responses to your RFP, there are other things you can do to aid the selection process:
- Obtain opinion beyond the references provided by the TMC itself
- Site visits are invaluable for getting a feel for the way a company operates
- Get the financials right - there is a range of commercial agreements you can explore. A TMC’s fee will typically account for only 2-4%. However, the lowest TMC fee may not produce the lowest total cost of travel.
- Refer back to your travel strategy and what you’re trying to achieve. It is crucial to remember that your relationship with a TMC extends way beyond the transactional element of booking business travel.
Finally, don’t rush. Based on decades of experience, we suggest allowing a minimum of nine months for the entire TMC process.