10 steps to a rock-solid travel RFP
A request for proposal (RFP) process to find your future travel management company can take months to complete. It can be exhausting, time-consuming, and stressful. And, it doesn't always yield the best insight into a TMC's true capabilities or your travel needs.
It's only natural, then, that you'll want to make sure you're getting the most out of your RFP for your future corporate travel partner. Here are ten steps to consider when you're thinking about how to conduct a travel RFP.
1. Understand your business’ travel needs (AKA, do you even need an RFP?)
How much does your team travel? Is your relationship with your TMC transactional or strategic? If your travel requirements are basic, and you’re happy with your current TMC, you may not even need an RFP.
On the other hand, you might be looking for a partner who goes beyond merely sourcing the cheapest rates for your travel program. One that handles multi-leg and multi-country trips, for example, who is able to identify savings and opportunities; and able to save your team time and money. Then, you might be in the market for a new TMC.
Understand why, where, and how often your team travels. In other words, what is your travel footprint? This should be the starting point for every RFP.
2. Rank your top travel requirements
Priorities range per company. Some will look more toward cost savings and expense management, while others are laser-focused on risk management for their traveling employees.
Is it important your travel services include support at all hours? What's your biggest driver? Is an online booking tool or mobile app key to the success of your travel program?
Think carefully about your organization’s unique requirements and rank them in order of importance so that everyone is on the same page.
3. Identify your current pain points
Did we mention having the right people in the room? Ask all the relevant individuals in your team, including management, travel bookers, and travelers, some pertinent questions:
Ask what their biggest frustrations are while on their business trips. What is currently broken in your chosen travel management solution? What needs are not being adequately met by your current TMC(s)or travel agent(s)?
4. Be generous with information
The more a potential TMC knows about you and your needs, the better they’ll be able to gauge whether they are a good fit for your business. Include details like your geographic footprint, company culture, online capabilities, current travel and expense policy, and travel spend.
You should also provide information about your preferred pricing and payment processes, security risk assessments, code of conduct, and your relationship-management objectives. Transparency is critical here, as failure to give enough detail is often the cause of the disconnect between an organization and its TMC.
5. Consider what information you need…and what you don’t
Case studies. Great. Client references. For sure. But do you really need resumes for the entire team? While certain information will always be required, some, such as supporting resumes, are unnecessary, especially as staff may be transferred or promoted during the RFP process.
6. Think about how you’d like the responses to be formulated
There’s a fine balance between efficient use of time and gathering as much information as you need. Consider your RFP template. A spreadsheet is great (and beats a 40-page tender document, hands down), but make sure TMCs can also include supporting links, case studies, and videos. After all, you want to get a sense of their company culture – and what sets them apart from their competitors.
7. Weigh the responses
Each response provided by the prospective TMCs should relate directly to one of your business requirements. It’s up to you which requirements are the most important in helping you select the ultimate partner. For example, you may place greater emphasis on cultural fit than on sustainability, or maybe pricing overshadows all.
8. Set aside sufficient time for presentations and engagement
As the RFP process evolves, you might decide to replace a traditional panel presentation with a workshop. It gives you an opportunity to engage with more members of the team and get a real sense of their culture, capabilities, and ethos. You could also ask for a full demo of their platform and tools. Either way, make sure you set aside enough time.
9. Discuss the onboarding and change management process
This is important, as once your selection has been made, you’ll want the transition to be as smooth and seamless as possible. It’ll help to understand how travel services will be onboarded to your stakeholders and travelers.
10. Debrief all involved in the process
When it comes to awarding the contract, adhere to the deadline you set and be respectful of the time and effort invested by everyone involved. Unsuccessful parties would appreciate some feedback – and you may find that you are able to gain some valuable insights in this final part of the process, too!