Thursday, March 7, 2013

#7: Travel Agency Transaction Fees

Metric Type                                                      Level
     SAVINGS: Yes                                              MASTER
     SERVICE: No                                                 ADVANCED
     SAFETY: No                                                   BASIC

When it comes to metrics, I've always embraced the "Trust But Verify" approach. Your travel agency (or travel management company or TMC) should be your trusted partner in managing your company's travel program. You pay it a fee in exchange for its assistance in reservations and service.

But let's face it, sometimes wires get crossed. Sometimes you are paying more than your agreement outlines, but because no one is paying close enough attention, you never find this out. I'm not saying a TMC would do this purposefully (and hope to remain in business), but I have found that doing a quick and easy measurement of fees is worth your time and effort. 

This metric works if you are paying your TMC a transaction fee for each reservation. You simply measure the number of charges you receive compared against a benchmark like airline tickets issued. We know that the number of TMC fees should exceed the number of airline tickets issued because of changes and refunds, and the like. It's the change in the ratio between TMC fees and Airline Tickets that is the key here.

Total Number of Transaction Fees Charged / Total Number of Airline Tickets = Travel Agency Fee Ratio

For example, one of my clients began its partnership with a TMC with a ratio of 120 transaction fees for every 100 airline tickets issued (a ratio of 1.20). This metric slowly increased over the span of two years to 151 transaction fees for every 100 tickets (1.51). 

As you can imagine, this metric sent off some warning bells once we started measuring it. The funny thing is that we never would have noticed it in the normal course of business, but we were looking for the total we paid the TMC for a year and simply applied historical measurements to it. 

Turns out that both the TMC and the company were "at fault." The TMC was double-counting certain online transactions that were 'touched' by an agent (instead of simply reverting to a 'touched' fee, the TMC was charging both the initial fee and a touched fee). Because the company was pushing online adoption hard, but hadn't given enough training to the travelers on what information was required for billing, a larger number of transactions were transitioning from no-touch to touched.  The agency corrected its transaction billing, and the company increased training to streamline the booking process.

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