How to...

Take your RFP in the right direction

Culture, capability and cost are the three key factors influencing an organisation’s selection of travel management company. Read on to find out how one global business went about it.

STEP 1: THE BACKGROUND. “You’ve got to have a really good understanding of your objectives and requirements,” advises the head of travel for a London-headquartered financial services business.

“Going to RFP for a TMC is a really time-consuming process for both you and the TMCs you meet with,” they explain.

The organisation had been with the same TMC for five years and was seeking a new approach. “We’d directly contracted with Concur as our booking tool and we needed a TMC that could work with that, so the process was very geared towards that.”

They stress the importance of doing your research within your own organisation: “We engaged our stakeholders from the start. Finding out what they wanted was key. You also need buy-in – not just from your senior people but from your bookers and travellers too.”

STEP 2: THE SHORTLIST. For this organisation, there was a limited number of TMCs that had the global presence and capability to serve their needs. “We wanted global consistency – working with multiple TMCs was too complex,”explains the head of travel.

“We went out to five TMCs and it was a very structured process. We looked at their technical expertise – specifically relating to Concur – plus their reporting capabilities and cost effectiveness.”

They continue: “The incumbent has an advantage because they know your programme and culture, so we wanted to help the others understand our specific requirements too.” The organisation narrowed the shortlist down to three TMCs it believed could meet their needs.

STEP 3: THE TMC POINT OF VIEW. “They did a tremendous job throughout the procurement processes,” says a senior member of one of the shortlisted TMCs. “Bidding isn’t cheap for a TMC so we have to be careful what we go for. Sales used to be about going for every bit of business, but that just doesn’t work anymore.”They add: “We also have to consider the risk: will that company be around for long? Is it a good name for us to work with? Would we prefer a rival? Are they currently with a TMC that we’d like to take them off?”

And what helps TMCs during the RFP process? “Companies need to share the real reasons behind the RFP before it is even issued. I can name many companies who habitually go out to RFP every three years just to screw their incumbent on price,” says the TMC spokesperson.

“Don’t waste everyone’s time doing that. It’s expensive for all parties and it’s also time-consuming.”

Transparency is key, they add: “Companies being secretive during the process doesn’t help us one iota. We don’t mind if we ask for more information and they therefore have to share that with all bidders.”

And as for unsolicited TMCs... “If you receive an invitation to bid out of the blue then you know you’re probably just making up the numbers,” says another TMC boss. “That’s probably a piece of business we wouldn’t pursue.”

STEP 4: THE OUTCOME. It took 10 months from start to finish for the organisation to carry out the RFP process and make its selection.

“We absolutely made the right decision,” says the head of travel, who attributes the successful outcome to constant stakeholder communication and a thorough and fair RFP process.

“We kept revisiting them to advise them on progress along the way. Our goals had been identified from the offset and referred to throughout, which was key to the whole process – it was a consistent evaluation process,” they explain.

And one last piece of advice: “Going through an RFP for a global TMC is a heck of process – I’d say to do it no more frequently than every five years.”

(Published September 2019)