Consider this: all restaurants are the same. They offer food, employ wait staff, cooks, dish staff, managers, and are all vying for your business. Some restaurants specialize in a particular cuisine, and of course, some are better than others. I find myself searching for “the best” sushi whenever I travel; whether it’s Tsujiki fish market in Japan or Shiro’s in Seattle, I’m still trying to find the absolute best quality fish. Some would say I’ve found it with Japan, but I disagree.
Perception is not always reality, although we will pay for perceived quality until the true quality is known. Then we share our truth, our experience. I may not be like most, but if someone told me the sea urchin I was about to consume were the best thing I would ever eat, but it was $20 for that bite, I would pay for it…just for the experience. Yes, I’ve been called crazy when it comes to food; I will spare you there.
So now you’re tasked with buying/choosing a travel provider, an agency who can “do it all” and will add value for the cost of doing business. Now you’re thinking, “What the heck does this have to do with sushi, Mike?!” It is relevant, I promise. It’s about the perception. I might say, to the fault of the travel industry, that all travel agencies appear to be same. Well not all agencies; let’s say all corporate (business to business) travel agencies appear to be the same. If I believe that, I’m going for the lowest cost option, period, ‘nuff said. But then you get a chance to try your $20 bite, or even $5 bite of the business travel agency experience. Tell me how it tastes after two months, then six months. After a bit, it gets bland, and almost causes the “saltines without water” experience. I know, I’ve been there as a buyer receiving little to no value.
After eating my proverbial saltines, I think I’ve smartened up. Like many of you who are buying travel and have been fortunate to work with a number of companies who are worth their salt, I understand the difference. You know all corporate travel agencies are not the same.
You know that the cost of the program needs to stay in line, but it shouldn’t be the only page we look at in the proposal to make a decision. There are huge variations in quality, where two vendors say, “Yes, we offer…(let’s say) reporting.” Well, what is the quality and the delivery of that reporting? And what is the value and why is this going to work for my specific goals and me? I feel like these are the questions that are, more often than not, missing in the buying process and it’s rare to find a sales person to coach the buyer to ask these very important questions. It’s the difference between bargain market sushi, and places like Nabu or Shiro’s.
I’ll stop the rambling for now, so you all can comment; this is an open forum to talk about your buying experiences. If you agree or disagree with my perception of the corporate travel industry, or even my taste in sushi, let’s talk about it and help make a better experience for all buyers and sellers.
This blog post was written by Mike Sciarretta, Senior Manager, Travel & Expense Consulting at Atlas Travel International.