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Top 5 Tips for getting the best value from your TMC

Are you getting the best value from your business travel company? Yes? How do you know?

Benchmarking shouldn’t just be regarded as a once in a tender exercise. It should be a regular way to assess the effectiveness of your business travel company and ensure that you’re getting the absolute best out of them – getting that elusive bang for your buck. Having a good handle on the market and what else is out there can prove invaluable when working with your business travel company.

So if you’re wondering if you are getting the most from your business travel company, follow our top 5 benchmarking tips:

1. Have clear objectives

Every benchmarking exercise should start with a clear set of objectives. These will differ from business to business, from year to year and will give you a clear focus for what is important to you when assessing your business travel company.

So what is important to you and your business? It could be a whole range of things from increasing online adoption or saving money, down to more specific activities like streamlining billings and costs or creating a bespoke hotel programme. Whatever it is, have these objectives at the forefront of your mind and let them guide your benchmarking exercise. You need to ensure that whoever you ultimately end up working with is able to help you achieve these objectives. 

2. Know what value means to you

Linking back to clear objectives, understanding what is of value to you will help to inform the areas you need to benchmark against. Is a user-centric online booking tool valuable to your travellers? Or do they have more complex itineraries which would benefit from a team of experts on the phone?

Understanding what you and your travellers value will help you get more out of the relationship and choose a business travel partner who can deliver what you perceive to be true value, not just a standard package of fees and tools.

3.  Use the information available

Good Management Information doesn’t just tell you what’s happened in the past, it can help you look to the future. Delving into business traveller sentiment, understanding the true cost of your business travel, analyzing the effectiveness of your travel bookers – all this insight can help you focus on areas for benchmarking, making the exercise much more tailored to your business needs.

But the data alone isn’t enough. When looking into behaviours and the data behind your procuring habits, working with an account manager who brings it to life and makes proactive recommendations is essential. Ask your team to work the data and deliver you actionable insights, not just an excel spreadsheet of unintelligible figures.

4. Look beyond fees

When benchmarking its easy to become focused on fees. This is a clear, objective metric for comparison, one which can feed directly into your objectives and be accurately measured. However, there is so much more to your relationship with a business travel company than fees. What can they offer in terms of MI? What is there technology offering? Can they support your travellers 24/7? Is Account Management included as standard? Can they offer VAT reclaim?

Yes, these areas are more subjective than a direct fee comparison, but they will give you a much better feel for the value your business travel partner can bring and whether that company is fully aligned to your company strategy and culture.

Remember that fees are only a small part of service, the tip of the iceberg. Rather than focusing on the 3% of fees, look at the 97% of travel spend and work with a business travel company who can help to reduce this, giving you a much bigger win.

5. Not all business travel companies are the same

We’re here to get you from A to B, but how we do that will differ greatly from company to company. That doesn’t just mean different online booking tools or data reporting, it means the ethos and culture of the business travel company.

Ideally your business travel company should be a strategic partner. They should work with you to achieve your objectives (yes, objectives again – see they are so important!), understand your business and add value to your team. To do this most effectively, you need to get on. You need to like the people you’re working with and know that they share the same values as you do. This is often overlooked in the search for lower fees, better rates, more tech – but when you’re building a real partnership, the choice of partner goes way beyond the standard metrics.

How can we help?

We believe that knowing the true value of your business travel company is vital to a good working relationship. We can provide you with answers to any of your benchmarking questions, and we’ll even help you to write them if you get stuck! If you’d like to know more about how we can help, then simply email our sales team on salessupport@claritybt.com and we’ll work with you to make sure you’re getting that elusive bang for your buck. 

When managing your own business travel programme, there is a whole range of issues to consider which reach far beyond hidden costs. There’s the time taken to process the order, the payment system required, the duty of care available to business travellers booking independently and perhaps even the expense management processes incurred. 

Below are some of the benefits a travel management company can bring to your business to help you achieve a balance between being cost-effective and productive: 

1. Policy Management and Compliance

A business travel policy not only gives the traveller a guide on how you expect them to book, behave and act, it also outlines your responsibility as an employer. When you have many people booking travel, ensuring that they are aware of the policy and working within it is always a concern. A good travel management company should offer advice on forming a travel policy and give you the tools to enable greater adoption and compliance of that policy.

At Clarity, we support our clients’ policies both online and offline. Policies can be embedded within our technology, assisting bookers to stay compliant. For those instances where an out of policy booking is unavoidable, a bespoke authorisation process can help you monitor these requests and keep your budget on track.

2. Centralised Billing and Payments

Online purchasing through public websites usually involves instant card payments or immediate billing. Companies also find the supporting financial documentation, such as invoices and receipts, vary in quality and detail resulting in additional time spent chasing travel suppliers for the correct formats. A key benefit of enlisting a travel management company is having consolidated electronic billing, which can be designed specifically for your business. All that important information you need to process your accounts can be added in such as cost codes or department references and more importantly flexible credit terms to minimise delays. 

3. MI and Intelligence  

When it comes to analysing travel spend it’s the quality, not the quantity of data you have (although here at Clarity we can combine both to provide the ultimate MI package). Reports showing traveller spend, booking horizons and behaviours should all be at your disposal but analysing them is where the real benefit lies. When your travel is managed externally, you should be able to rely on your provider to present the data in a way that demonstrates how to make those slight changes in strategy to achieve important savings and improve efficiency.

4. Supplier Agreements

Hand in hand with good reporting and business intelligence, dedicated account managers can identify the right opportunities for commercial agreements with key suppliers. As an SME, you may not be booking often enough to receive the best rates and therefore benefit from the volume booking rates travel management companies receive. Here at Clarity, our clients have access to over one million hotels and over eighty preferred airline deals alongside a range of ancillary and ground services. 

5. Duty of Care

As a responsible employer, the safety of your business travellers is paramount. With so much going in the wider world, it’s hard to keep on top of it all. All our clients, regardless of their size, benefit from round the clock service, Clarity TwentyFour are our in-house team that manages travel at all hours of the day. It doesn’t matter where you are or what time it is there will always be a member of staff at the end of the phone. Alongside the out of hours team, we also have a dedicated Travel Alerts department, again providing 24/7 surveillance on what’s going on around the world ready to alert travellers and companies should there be an emergency.

6. Content Consolidation

Using a TMC booking tool, like Clarity’s Go2Book you have access to great content from across the web, all in one place. Our technology takes feeds from all the major travel suppliers ensuring that you have access to the best deals without having to spend hours trawling different websites and comparing costs. This saves you both time and money and makes the whole experience a lot easier.

Alongside this, you can have access to specially negotiated fares and rates that simply are not available to the public. Leveraging the buying power of a TMC gives you the benefit of a big buyer, without the spend.

7. Hotel Programmes

Our in-house commercial team negotiate these rates, work on their relationships. Tailored and designed hotel programme, designed to the client for their needs incl all the soft benefits e.g wifi, breakfast parking, can save a substantial amount of money vs doing it yourself. We leverage the buying power of our business.

8. Missed Savings

Working alongside an account manager you can use management information on your existing travel spend to see areas where you have missed savings. From here your account manager will work with you to design an action plan to change behavioural patterns, allowing you to take advantage of the savings and drive your overall travel spend down. 

You can also take advantage of VAT claim backs, saving up to 20% on hotel programmes. We will highlight when and where you can claim your VAT back, which is most likely being missed when booking outside of a TMC.

If you think that the DIY approach might no longer be for you and you’d like to discuss some of the ways in which we could save you time and money, and make your travel easier, you can call us on 0800 731 1627 for a free consultation.

 RELAX

Choose the train for your next business trip and travel directly to the heart of the city, without worrying about additional parking costs or transfer times. For a limited period make the most of some great value fares on both TransPennine Express standard and first-class flexible fares and enjoying the comfort of our services. TransPennine run regular services between major cities including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, York, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

Try First Class to really make the most of your time on board. You’ll enjoy more room to work or unwind with larger, leather seating and tables at every seat. We also offer a complimentary at-seat catering service, which includes refreshments and breakfast or a light evening snack. 1 

 REFRESH

TransPennines existing Class 185 trains have been treated to a £32 million upgrade featuring comfier seats, larger tables – perfect for laptops and new interiors. We’ve also enhanced our onboard catering to offer a wider range of hot and cold drinks, plus locally-sourced sandwiches and snacks. 

RECHARGE 

Keep the car at home and maximise your time, catch up on emails and get some work done in your mobile office. We offer free Wi-Fi and Exstream entertainment on board every service, opening up a world of movies, magazines and news to keep you company on your journey home. You’ll also be able to recharge your batteries, thanks to USB ports and power sockets at every pair of seats.  

 BOOK NOW 

To benefit from this offer, book by 30 June 2019 with Clarity.

Leeds to Newcastle 1h28m
2 services an hour 
Newcastle to Manchester 2h15m 
2 services an hour 
Manchester to Edinburgh 3h1m 
1 service every 2 hours 
Manchester to Glasgow 3h7m 
1 service every 2 hours 
Sheffield to Manchester 49m 
1 service an hour 
Manchester to York 1h11m 
4 services an hour 

* Only available on specified routes. Can be booked in both directions.
† Fastest scheduled journey time
1 Selected services 

Our events team has gone from strength to strength increasing in size and being listed in the top 10 UK events company ranking with C&IT. Jo Lake is a Senior Events Consultant, based in Manchester. She joined Clarity in June 2016 and was a Rising Star Finalist at the 2019 Business Travel Awards.

What’s a regular morning for you?

I'm not one of those people who jumps up when their alarm goes off – it's more of a slow struggle! I drag myself out of bed, get ready and then prepare myself for the horrendous Northern Rail commute. Once I'm on the train, I feel more relaxed. I like listening to Capital on the radio and just generally staring at other commuters!

What are your main responsibilities?

My main responsibilities are booking meetings, events and conferences for our clients. We have a broad range of clients with specific needs, so it's always exciting when you pick up an enquiry and get to be creative with it.

I also train our new starters on the MICE team. I really enjoy being able to support people and feel proud when I get to see them grow and develop. Alongside that, I support my Team Managers, Mike and Andrea with updating client policies, training manuals as well as any general enquiries.

How would you describe a particular day?

No two days are the same in this role! One minute you could be booking a boardroom for 4 people in Manchester, the next you could be looking at event venues for 300 in Dubai. I am currently trying to source a castle in the Highlands for 600 people! 

I recently went to Amsterdam to support one of our larger client's event. It's great when you see an event taking place and the client is happy. It makes you feel proud knowing you've contributed to its success.

What’s the best part of your job?

My team hands down. When I first started, there were only 5 of us. Since then, our team has grown to 20. You'd think we wouldn't be as close but if anything, we're closer. Everyone is so supportive, and we genuinely care about one another. 

My most memorable moment was when I received my GTMC Diploma. I had to write 15 essays, do 15 tests and complete 15 modules whilst attempting to have a social life. I came into work at 7am every day and was on my laptop until 11pm – my boyfriend did start to wonder if I had gone missing. It was all worth it when I collected my certificate at the conference, in London. Clarity is the first TMC to offer the Diploma so, to represent the business felt amazing. What I didn't realise was that I'd have to speak in front of 500 people. The room was full of influential CEOs from different companies, so it was quite overwhelming, but everyone was up clapping! Definitely a moment I won’t forget anytime soon.

The world of business travel is changing and here at Clarity, we do things differently.

We recognise the shift from cost centric to traveller centric programmes and how advancements in technology are playing a huge part in that trend. We deliver the best of global solutions and local expertise to bring the heart of the business traveller and the mind of the travel manager together in a mutually beneficial programme.

Next month, the Business Travel Show 2019 will be taking place at Olympia Grand, London on the 20-21st February and we are pulling out all the stops from product presentations by our in-house experts to sharing our latest manifesto, Hearts & Minds.

We will be showcasing our award-nominated Management Information tool, Go2Insight as well as launching a brand NEW booking platform andour Clarity experts will be hosting presentations on our stand:

Wednesday 20th Feb 

  • Go2Book: 11:30am
  • Go2Track: 2:00pm
  • Go2Insight: 2:30pm

Thursday 21st Feb

  • Go2Book: 11:15am
  • Go2Track: 11:45am
  • Go2Insight: 12:15pm

And after the success of last year, we’re bringing back our travel inspired cocktail hour (or two) from 3pm on Wednesday 20th February, hosted by The Little Gin Company on our stand, B520.

To find out more and to arrange a meeting directly with us please click here. Alternatively you can book an appointment via the official hosted buyer process through the Business Travel Show Website.

We look forward to seeing you there! 

Business travel is entering a whole new era and everybody's talking about it

Last year we saw a shift towards pleasing end users, whether they’re bookers or travellers. Travel management companies helped businesses work smarter, reduce cost and drive efficiency. But the industry faced a number of challenges over the last twelve months and by the looks of things, these are likely to increase as we head into the new year. 

Rail delays, is it all over?  

A number of large-scale projects and improvements have been taking place along Northern transport networks, including the Manchester Airport T2 expansion, the electrification of the Transpennine route and, of course, HS2. All these initiatives are designed to make travel easier, but the reality of the situation is 2019 will continue to be a period of disruption. Terms such as ‘Northern Fail’ dominated 2018 headlines as many of the rail networks continued to let commuters down, with cancellations and delays becoming everyday occurrences. 

Earlier this year, Clarity partnered with Tracsis TCS and launched the Business Travel Compensation scheme, a service that allows HR teams and travellers ensure 100 per cent of compensation due is received. As things stand, we can expect disruption to continue and, as a TMC, we need to take this into account when planning future itineraries and events. 

Brexit is here

Alongside the delays from ongoing rail, road and building works, we expect there to be plenty more chaos inside airports, too, as we head into the final negotiations of Brexit. With a huge uncertainty still surrounding travel within the EU following Brexit, now is the time to speak to your TMC to review your travel policy. By identifying opportunities for marginal gains, you can ensure you get the best value for your money. As uncertain as it seems, it shouldn’t be looked at as a barrier to business. 

It may mean having to look further afield and could potentially open new doors and opportunities for your business. At Clarity we urge our clients to engage with us, utilising the expert knowledge and experience of our business travel consultants to understand cultural challenges and help create a seamless travel experience, wherever your business takes you. 

If you are a Clarity client get in touch with your dedicated account manager for a copy of our guide > Brexit: What lies ahead

There's a lot of data out there

The volume of data is bigger than ever. But it’s not how much you have, it’s what you do with it. We’re steering away from looking at traditional MI and instead using data to measure traveller sentiment. With the likes of IBM Watson, the opportunities to delve into intelligent data not only enhances the traveller experience but helps bring together hearts and minds. 

Now that the hype of GDPR has dissipated, we need to turn our attention from how data is collected to how we use it. Our new MI and data tool, Go2Insight, allows users to make smarter, more informed decisions in an instant. And with our exclusive crime stat integration, we not only aim to make your travel more value efficient but safer too. 

Many industries in 2019 will be driven by the need for enhanced personalisation, and business travel is no exception. Focusing exclusively on either business benefits or traveller experience is short- sighted and where many TMCs fall down. 

That’s why we’ve launched our recent manifesto, Hearts and Minds, to investigate the link between the heart of the traveller and the mind of the travel buyer. By combining hard metrics with human understanding, we are ensuring that Clarity is fully integrated in our customers’ choices and behaviours, helping us to improve their experiences. Whether that’s saving money, developing a better work-life balance or enhancing comfort levels while travelling to increase efficiency, Hearts and Minds makes use of our extensive expertise for better travel on the long road ahead. 

These are just a few of the topics we can expect to hear a lot of over the coming year. Our latest podcast episode sees CEO Pat McDonagh, Commercial Director Sue Chapman and Operations Director Steve Riley go all out discussing how they see the business travel landscape shaping up over the next twelve months

What areas of business travel are you most interested in for 2019? 

Share your thoughts: @Clarity_BT

What’s it really like to work at Clarity? With over 600 employees and branches all over the country and further afield we thought we’d share some of our staff stories to help you get to know us better. Starting with Clarity CEO, Pat McDonagh: 

What’s a regular morning for you?

A typical morning involves driving to the office for around 8am. I like to get in early, but it depends on how the previous evening has been with my two boys (they like to keep their Dad up!). As soon as I get in the car, I am working. I use the drive to check in with the Executive team. 

I never like to go straight in to a meeting first thing in the morning. If I did, it would be hard to gauge what’s going on that day, so I avoid them between the hours of 8 and 10am. 

What are your main responsibilities?

My 15-year-old niece asked me the exact same question when she came in for work experience the other day! I set the strategy, get the right people in the right role and plan for the future. Outside of that, I do what the business needs me to do. It’s my job to respond to the business challenges and requirements in any way I can. 

How would you describe a particular day?

When I’m in the office, a typical day could involve meetings; from internal catch ups with HR and IT to external meetings with clients. If it’s a client meeting, I would usually welcome them with a Manchester office tour. I must have given the same one about 100 times (and probably bored the Manchester office with my stories) but it’s because I’m proud to show others what we do and who is involved. 

If I’m on the road, I could be travelling to London and you’ll often see me on the 08:04 from Stockport. I usually aim to get there and back in a day and will use the time travelling to catch up on work. 

 Friday is gym day. I have a personal trainer and work out before work, so if I’m looking grumpy and tired on a Friday morning, you now know why! Our latest Clarity manifesto, Hearts & Minds, touches on traveller well-being and it’s something I like to build into my schedule, ensuring I have designated times to concentrate on keeping fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

My job isn’t the standard 9-5. I try and get home to see my kids before they go to bed and then spend some time checking my emails once they’re settled down for the night. Some might think they can wait, but I like to stay on top of things. I also need to make sure my working day fits in with our clients, overseas. For example, I might have scheduled a meeting with one of our Global Partners in the US and I need to make sure I am available.

What’s the best part of your job?

Hearing from a happy client or seeing the business thrive. It means so much to us all at Clarity to receive good feedback, knowing the hard work we have put in has paid off. We recognise that quite often we share the same focus and ambition as our clients and when we are successful together, it can be very powerful for both of us.

This year, Emirates is celebrating 10 years of A380 operations. Since its first flight to New York from Dubai on 1 August 2008, the Emirates A380 has carried more than 105 million passengers, clocking in more than 1.5 billion kilometres on 115,000 flights, equivalent to 39,000 trips around the globe. Emirates is the world’ largest operator of the A380 aircraft, with 106 double-decker aircraft flying to 49 cities on 6 continents on scheduled services with more than 80 daily departures from Dubai, the airline’s hub. 

From First Class to Economy Class, the Emirates A380 has been an industry step-change for passengers to experience new standards of in-flight comfort. Emirates revolutionised the cabin space design when it introduced its bespoke version of the A380 aircraft, incorporating higher ceilings, mood-lighting as well as signature, industry-first elements like its OnBoard Lounge, a social area at 40,000 feet where jet-setters could meet in an ambient setting. 

The popular Shower Spa has become a defining feature of the premium experience on the and over 80% of long-haul First-Class customers have utilised it. The First-Class experience offers an unprecedented level of privacy and thoughtful touches of luxury that are synonymous with the Emirates brand. 
Emirates multi-award winning in-flight entrainment system, ice, offers plenty of choice and quality when it comes to entertainment, with up to 3,500 channels. The Emirates A380 Economy Class seats feature among the widest individual in-seat screens in the industry, measuring in at 13.3 inches.With a large global network and a further 56 A380’s on order, there’s always an opportunity to take flight with this iconic aircraft. 

For more information on booking Emirates, contact your nominated Clarity branch.

After partnering with Damar training back in 2014 to set up a Clarity apprenticeship programme, Brighter Beginnings, the Clarity apprentices have gone from strength to strength. Our students who are completing the newly created Travel Consultant Apprenticeship have recently completed their travel knowledge test, three of which passed with Distinction and the rest with Merit, a fantastic achievement after months of hard work. 

Throughout the programme, our apprentices have been able to progress at a speed that works for both Clarity and their personal circumstances. All of our students have been offered a full-time role at the end of their apprenticeship and are currently amongst the highest performers in Clarity. 

“It is a great approach for our business that is already reaping rewards in terms of the calibre of people in our organisation. This will only improve standards across the board as those who come through the programme will then help train future apprentices.”

Clarity’s CEO, Pat McDonagh.

We have had wider success stories with a number of our apprentices: Finalist at the Regional Apprenticeship Awards; Finalist for Best Newcomer at the Business Travel People Awards and Finalist for the One to Watch Award at the IBM iX Every Woman in Travel Awards. One of our apprentices recently experienced an all-expenses paid winners trip to Dubai, for winning the Forward Thinking prize at the 2018 Clarity Brighter Awards in July.

Our apprentices are trail blazers, as Clarity are the very first company out of the whole of the travel industry to recruit apprentices and develop them to become successful business travel consultants. 

Not only do the students learn about the industry, but they are encouraged to develop their inter personal skills too with members of the team having been interviewed by press and invited to speak at various events, to discuss the benefits of moving from college into an Apprenticeship programme.  

Tomorrow, Learning & Development Manager Neil Wainwright-Farrar and National Operations Manager Nicky Duffy will be attending the GTMC Domestic Conference to discuss the success of our trainees, the benefit they have brought to Clarity and why more companies should support the programme. 

“We are an employer which really cares about developing new and young talent and we look forward to seeing the apprentices become our stars of the future."

For more information on the Clarity Brighter Beginnings Apprenticeship Programme please contact our Careers team: Joanne.twigge@claritybt.com or Alanya.kilroy@claritybt.com


In this episode, we welcome Lisa Occleshaw and Darryl McGarvey from SAP Concur into the studio to talk about expenses and why so many people are failing to claim back what is rightfully theirs!

Lisa and Darryl guides us through their time at SAP Concur and why they believe they have the best expenses tool in the business. We also hear some horror stories from companies who are getting it wrong when it comes to expense policies and why men claim more than women!We also discuss the recent study from Barclays which shows that employees are losing £962 million a year in unclaimed expenses.

All this and the first, worst and best travel scenarios.

Absolute Clarity episode seven is now LIVE and you can find it here:

▶︎▶︎ Click here to listen on iTunes

For more information about SAP Concur please visit www.concur.com or find them across social media platforms. 

If you would like to get in touch with Absolute Clarity about appearing as a guest, sponsoring, or suggesting a future topic, email us: podcast@claritybusinesstravel.com

You can also join the conversation by following us on Twitter  @Clarity_BT using the hashtag #AbsoluteClarity #HeartsMinds  

Have you downloaded the Hearts & Minds manifesto? Click here to get your copy now. 

Find out how brighter business travel can boost your bottom line.

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