Mark Frary, a specialist writer on business travel and regular contributor to The Times, talks to Mike Holmes, HRG’s Worldwide Government Services Director about new developments in government and public sector travel.
HRG has been a supplier of travel management services to UK and overseas governments and other public sector clients for many years, including the Ministry of Defence, the Canadian government and NATO.
Dedicated Government Team
Unlike most other TMCs, HRG has a dedicated government team which enables it to drive initiatives quickly. “We are not reliant on third parties to shape the service configuration,” says HRG’s Worldwide Government Services Director, Mike Holmes.
Many relationships between TMCs and their clients falter because there is no thought put towards managing the contract post award with promised benefits going undelivered.
“With HRG, you deal with the same people through the entire process – from the tender to managing and servicing the contract,” he says.
Holmes says his department has worked with Crown Commercial Services to create a continuous improvement plan which “includes key initiatives and objectives and an agreed timeline for completion” to ensure a successful relationship.
This plan focuses on three key areas: innovation, programme management and client management.
“Technology is increasingly central to travel management but providers are often guilty of being disruptive for the sake of it,” says Holmes. Suppliers make the mistake of delivering what they think the client needs, instead of listening to what the customer actually says they are looking for.
HRG has developed technology that makes use of behavioural nudges to drive best practice in booking behaviour. This encourages the right fare and rate selection, such as pre-trip trigger reports, pop-up messaging, and content provided by New Distribution Capability (NDC) that has given access to a huge variety of fares that have otherwise not been available.
The company has also enhanced its HRG Online platform to make a truly bespoke government online booking tool. “We recognise that where specific tools are preferred or make sense we can offer those as alternatives,” says Holmes.
Smarter Contract Management
Innovation is not just about technology and HRG is committed to helping reduce cost through smarter contract management and through demand management initiatives. Alongside this, HRG focus on best practice programme management to safeguard the relationship.
“Our experience of working with many government departments ensures that we are able to deliver a programme that drives down spend and gives the booker confidence they will be offered the best rates available,” says Holmes.
This means government departments can gain access to charity fares where applicable and also to soft, value added benefits such as increased baggage allowances and free Wi-Fi.
Data is Key
Data and reporting is central to any modern travel programme.
“We have worked closely with many of our government departments to develop a suite of reports using our tool, HRG Insight. These can be delivered on either a push or pull approach,” says Holmes. “Analysis of data is key – providing information is one thing but just as crucial is how you interpret the findings and put in place a plan of action.”
Keeping that data secure is also paramount in today’s world. Knowing the importance of this to government clients, HRG has met ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus and is on track to achieve accreditation for the new Public Sector Travel and Venue Solutions (PSTVS), which HRG has won a place on to provide an offline and online service to Central Government Departments, Wider Public Sector and Not For Profit organisations.
Ultimately, every government client is different, believes Holmes. He says, “The business plans we create with our clients are not generic but tailormade to reflect their unique needs and outputs. Adapting to change is how we show innovation and this is always at the forefront of our business model.”