An online booking tool isn’t just for Christmas – it’s for life.
Or, it’s not just for the procurement process and it’s usually for the length of your travel management contract, at least.
Most travel management companies (TMCs) will now offer an online booking tool, in some form, as part of their service and whilst any TMC worth their weight in business travel gold should support their clients in successfully implementing this new, unknown piece of technology, the process will require a little bit of work from your organisation and its key stakeholders.
Implementing a new online booking tool can be challenging – moving your bookers and travel managers from the familiar to the new and uncharted can be a bumpy ride, often taking a few detours before you arrive at your desired destination, so here’s a short but shrewd guide to successfully implementing your new online booking tool:
Room for growth
During your RFP process, you’ll have understandably focused on your needs for the present, however as you move forward with the implementation of your online tool, you need to be confident it can grow with you over the length of your contract. Consider the options available to tighten your travel policy controls further over the first 6 – 12 months of using the online booking tool, as this way you can initially concentrate on service adoption and, once you have evidence the tool has become usual practice for your end-users, those slight tweaks and changes to policy configuration will be met with less resistance.
Sign off your build
Take the time to have a comprehensive review with your TMC before you sign off the build of your online booking tool and move on to the process of launching it completely. You want to be able to see your customised portal and make sure that all of your requirements have been interpreted accurately. This will give you the opportunity to make any small final tweaks to configuration before you start the rollout phase. Taking an active part in this process, and involving any other key stakeholders at this early stage, will mean you’re less likely to need any significant changes that could set back timelines during those first few weeks of launch.
As with any change project, communication really does reign supreme and so it’s a good idea to commit to letting your teams know what’s going to be happening and when. It’s worth asking your TMC whether they have any example communication plans or templates that they could share with you in order to get the ball rolling. Site reviews and pilot phases are both critical points in the process; by engaging the right
people at the right time, you’ll be able to manage any initial resistance and gain buy-in for the rest of the rollout. Having advocates for a new system already in place prior to full launch will help support other users and allow for the most seamless transition.
Identifying key users from across your organisation is a great way to assemble a pilot group and begin the test the initial deployment of your new online booking tool. Your TMC should be encouraging you to make live bookings during this phase as this will fully test the entire end-to-end process in controlled conditions, so that they can gather feedback and act accordingly. Try to have representation from the widest group possible, so that you have a good mixture of frequent users and those with more complex requirements. The beauty of having internal advocates for your new system is that, ahead of full launch, not only will you have the confidence that the tool is the right choice for your business, but your advocates will be openly sharing the success and the benefits of the tool internally. This word-of-mouth endorsement for the new process should not be underestimated and will really take your project to the next level.
Support your staff
Nowadays, the majority of your staff will be used to booking their own personal travel on the Internet; so why are some still reluctant to book their business travel online? One reason is that it puts the onus on the individual to get it absolutely right. By offering the right level of training and support you’ll quickly begin to see their confidence in booking online and using the new system really grow. Having access to book 24/7 and getting an immediate confirmation will become an essential aspect of their working day; in time, they’ll probably look back and wonder how they ever managed without it! Consider your company culture, the level of training your staff are likely to need and expect,and use a range of relevant training methods. Plan this well by incorporating the right type of training for the right people and work with your TMC to understand industry best practices.
Aim for continuous improvement
So the online booking tool has been implemented and adoption is already high. But even if you’re completely satisfied with the success of those first few weeks, now isn’t the time to close the project completely. Your TMC are likely to need to complete Post Implementation tasks in order to understand from you, as their client, what worked well and what improvements could have been made to their process. Share your open and honest feedback so they can continue to grow and adapt to clients’ changing needs. Be mindful that now is also the time to be working closely with your Account Manager, keeping momentum and focusing on how you will maintain this initial success. It’s also a great opportunity to review those initial goals and identify further opportunities for continuous improvement.
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