Angelina Bunting, Reed & Mackay's Head of Supplier Relations, shares her top tips for negotiating your way to a better experience for your travellers.
ALIGN CULTURE WITH POLICY
Policy sits at the heart of a travel programme. It can act as a window into your company’s culture for prospective talent, and as a retention tool for current employees. Whether you’re trying to drive down cost or maximise productivity, you need traveller buy in to make a policy work. So putting their interests at the heart of it makes sense.
Angelina’s top tip: “To improve experience, target suppliers with products designed to alleviate friction points. To manage cost, put policy rules in place that mean your chosen suppliers will get a bigger piece of your total pie. If the suppliers buy into the effectiveness of your policy, the cost will be lower and the benefits greater, such as ancillary items for air fares, card status and lounge access”
KNOW WHAT YOUR SUPPLIERS VALUE
Relationships play a critical part in getting the most out of a deal for your travellers. Like any business, your top suppliers will have their own drivers. Understanding these can result in big returns.
Angelina’s top tip:“Collaboration is key, if you understand the supplier’s objectives then everyone can win. For instance, a hotel may be looking to grow their meetings revenue. If you regularly book meeting rooms, use this as leverage to get a better bedroom rate. You can also consider booking patterns; providing volume to a hotel in their low seasons will see them look more favourably upon you when availability is tight and rates are high”
ESTABLISH THE DEPTH OF YOUR DATA
Knowing what you can offer to a supplier drives a successful negotiation. At Reed & Mackay we invest heavily in tools that give our clients a complete picture of the value they can bring to the table.
Angelina’s top tip: “If you turn up to the meeting with a clear idea of what you can offer, you increase your chances of optimising value. With full visibility of spend and traveller behaviour, you can ensure you aren’t under selling yourself. For instance, go armed knowing how your travel patterns and current deals compare with your peer group. R&M/Insights can help with this”
IDENTIFY YOUR LIMITATIONS TO MAXIMISE LEVERAGE
It pays to be realistic about your volume commitment when negotiating with suppliers. Shifting market share is difficult without a mandate in place, and over committing can result in deals being pulled mid-year. Reed & Mackay leverages over £600m of turnover to gain access to rates and fares that are exclusive to our client base. Where it makes sense, lean on your TMC to extract further value for travellers.
Angelina’s top tip: “It doesn’t always make sense to negotiate corporate rates, especially if your TMC is providing a value led programme that will enhance experience. Hone in on routes, carriers or hotels where you have large mandated spend and leverage your total value to the supplier such as ancillary spend like food and beverage”
TURN SOFT BENEFITS INTO HARD RESULTS
Soft benefits are key to traveller experience. Lounge access, breakfast, late check outs and card status match all play a large part in creating ease for a frequent flyer and driving up programme compliance.
Angelina’s top tip: “WiFi is now a basic requirement, but costs can jump and experience can suffer if your traveller needs a higher connection speed in order to complete their work. This is one worth checking at the point of negotiation”.
A GOOD EXPERIENCE IS AN AVAILABLE EXPERIENCE
Negotiating down a rate can show strong budgeted savings but all too often when travellers come to book their negotiated rate it’s unavailable. Reed & Mackay’s technology helps to provide alternate options that match experience and still sit within policy.
Angelina’s top tip: “Beware the rate that looks too good to be true. It may look like great value, but if the rate has low accessibility it will undermine the travellers trust in the programme. Ask how many seats / rooms are available at the negotiated level and ensure you have enough inventory access to accommodate your need”
Angelina began her long standing career ‘hotel side’ at the Millennium in London after working as a travel consultant in South Africa and the UK. She had held numerous Global Director roles with leading hotel chains and in 2015 returned to her TMC roots joining Reed & Mackay’s commercial team.