‘Culture’ can seem like a bit of a corporate buzzword, instantly bringing to mind images of people working in their slippers and having meetings around a ping pong table before retiring to the bean bag room, however it would be dismissive to write off its increasing significance – particularly when it comes to the procurement process.
When deciding on a travel supplier, procurement departments certainly consider cost, service offering and functionality but it’s becoming more and more common for a travel management company’s (TMC’s) culture to be discussed – does how they work align with how we work? Do their values match our values? Does this feel like the right fit?
After all, when you’ve worked so hard to instill a unique culture within your organisation, why would you then jeopardise this by choosing a partner who doesn’t work the way you do and who just doesn’t get you? Think of it as choosing a partner in marriage; you’d want to know their real beliefs, priorities and ambitions in life to make sure you have something in common.
But how do you see through the marketing and sales patter to be able to truly assess the culture of a potential travel supplier? Here’s a quick checklist of questions you can ask prospective TMCs in order to get a good gauge of their cultural fit:
Are they open, honest and transparent?
You can get a good feel for this by the way a TMC answers your questions. Do they answer directly and does what they say when you meet them tally up with what you receive from them in writing? There are some companies out there who over-promise and under-deliver and you’ll certainly want to make sure that you’re not falling into this trap. If at any point you feel that they’re backtracking on what they promised, then that might be a good time to break away from them while you still can, rather than going through a ‘messy divorce’ process three months later…
Do they invest in their people in order to ensure you’re receiving the best customer service from highly motivated staff?
Many companies claim to offer the best customer service out there but it’s crucial that the people who look after your travel on a day to day basis feel valued, rewarded and content in their role in order for them to deliver the kind of customer service that brightens up your day. Look out for ways in which your potential TMCs invest in their people and attract the best people to their organisation.
Do they care about the impact that their organisation has on the environment and community around it?
If a potential travel supplier has a sustainability policy that’s available for you to take a look at then it’s a good sign that they’ve got a positive company culture. Do they make sure their business activities are sustainable – i.e. low carbon, low waste? Do they re-invest in the communities in which they work? Do they support charities by encouraging employees to devote time their time to volunteering? It says a lot about a company if they care about more than just the bottom line.
Are they forward thinking/innovators?
It should be common place for a TMC to tell you that they monitor the market for any significant changes to the business travel industry that may affect your organisation and will react accordingly, but how about enquiring into how proactive potential TMCs are? Can they ensure that they’re staying ahead of the curve, bringing you industry-leading innovations before anyone else? Rather than settling for what works, are they constantly looking to improve?
Do they share similar values to you?
Finding out more about a TMC’s company values might sound fairly straightforward, as most organisations usually publish these on their website, but finding out how these values are actually put into practice can be much more indicative of company culture. This is a simple way to compare your organisation’s priorities with those of potential suppliers and can quickly give you an idea as to the type of organisation that they are. If their values follow a similar theme to yours, it’s a good sign you will have many things in common and could be a match made in heaven!
Most importantly – Are they nice people to deal with?
This is the real test to see if you can work with them. If culture is important to the TMC in question then their people should embody that culture and its values. This means that the people you meet during the procurement process are usually a good indication of the type of people you will be working with throughout the life of the partnership.
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