The Blurring Lines of Account Management

JS-0815By Julie Simpson, Senior Consultant

It has always been a challenge to find really good Account Managers who are intuitive, proactive, analytical and able to expertly navigate their own company on behalf of yours – in other words, miracle workers. With the shifting service model today, the challenge is even greater.

The migration to online booking means that a company other than your TMC may control the majority of your transactions. While intentions are good, it’s hard for your Account Manager to manage processes outside of his or her control, as in the case of an outside online booking tool.

This industry recognition of this challenge is evident in Amex GBT’s recent announcement that it is seeking to ‘own’ an online booking tool. GoldSpring partner, Will Tate, was recently quoted in The Company Dime article on the topic:

“When we help customers try to choose a TMC, more often than not they have a substantial amount of online booking,” said Will Tate. “A big part of the TMC’s functionality is to support the booking engine and the usability. A lot of clients buy through the TMCs as resellers. So there’s that intertwined relationship between the TMC and booking tool. But when problems happen, there’s a lot of finger-pointing. The concept of being able to wholly own it is absolutely the expected response from the market.”

Even more of a challenge to a good Account Manager occurs in an open booking environment. The Account Manager is operating at a disadvantage, as it is difficult to be responsible for data and reporting, service delivery, and contract performance when travelers are all “doing their own thing.”

For those working with TMCs without an in-house online booking tool, a three-way Service Level Agreement (SLA) between you, the TMC, and the online booking tool may help with program management. The best time to put an effective SLA in place is during contract negotiations or renegotiations, and the most effective SLAs provide an incentive for all parties involved – in this case, a win-win-win.

Not far in the future, it might make sense for your Account Manager to be on your payroll, fully dedicated to making your program work. After all, in most large programs, you are already reimbursing salaries and benefits, and even in the best cases, it’s hard to tell whether an Account Manager’s priorities lie with you or their employer. With this in mind, it may be a good time to consider bringing your Account Manager into the fold.

The GoldSpring team is dedicated to helping our clients navigate the changing world of business travel and provide the best in travel management advice. Our consultants can assist in drafting a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your TMC and online booking tool, as well as evaluate the pros and cons of bringing your Account Manager in-house. For more information on our services, please click here.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of GoldSpring Insights, the official email newsletter of GoldSpring Consulting. To sign up for our mailing list, please click here.

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