Clare Murphy, director of business travel consultancy Bouda, shares her tips on the best ways for buyers to issue requests for proposals (RFPs)
At the BBT Forum last month, I was on a panel session when a TMC delegate asked: “When a consultant is not involved in a bid, 75 per cent of the time the client usually stays with the incumbent TMC. Yet when a consultant is involved, 80 per cent of the business moves – why is this?”
The answer is simple really: the client has seriously thought about the process, they have decided to invest in a consultant’s time and are therefore looking at improving their service offering or changing it.
One of the first questions I always ask is: can you fix the service with your incumbent travel service provider? Nine times out of 10 the answer is very clear: “No. That’s why we have engaged your professional services.”
Here are our top 10 tips when considering issuing an RFP or ITT (invitation to tender):
1. Firstly, do you need to go into an RFP process at all or could you sit around the table with your supplier to fix the perceived issues?
2. Decide on what your goals are, and then prepare a business case to justify the time and effort of going through the review process.
3. When you create your RFP/ITT, ensure you have a matching scoring template to score all the relevant questions. You should also weight the sections of the document according to what is really important for your company, eg: savings, service, technology, sustainability.
4. If you use a template, personalise it to your company’s needs, strip out questions that are not important to you. It will save you time reading and scoring, and more importantly the supplier will be able to respond directly to what is important.
5. Consider sending your preferred contract out with your bid document - it will save so much time.
6. Obtain stakeholder sponsorship. It is really important that you have an executive sponsor to ensure your business places importance on the review process.
7. Get the right team on board. In addition to the travel manager, make sure you have commitments from procurement, legal, HR, finance, IT and most importantly your key bookers - involve them all in the whole process. If you don’t have internal resources, then consider asking a consultant to join you on your team.
8. Ensure your travel buying team set aside time in their diary to support your review. They all have busy diaries but their time to review documents, formulate questions etc is essential.
9. Follow up the references - not just by telephone or email but take time to visit them at their offices. When you visit them don’t just stay in a meeting room, ask to meet their travel team and speak to them.
10. Issue a final scope of service. Often the process takes four or more months and during that time you will have been lured by many products that weren’t in your original scope. A final scope of service will ensure you are clear on everything you want and - equally as important - the travel service provider knows what they need to deliver.
Suppliers: when responding you should ensure that your response is tailored to the RFP/ITT document you received. There is nothing worse than an off-the-shelf response that doesn’t address any of the client’s needs.