In many of the key driver markets like the United Kingdom, the desire by travel management companies to move back into the small and medium enterprise market has grown and grown without any sign of let-up. A strange phenomenon, one might think, considering they have spent the last few years actively trying to get them off their books. There must be a good reason for this re-think and of course there is. It's because of that good old trio: economy, technology and supplier strategy. As a result there is never a better time to be a small customer in business travel.
You see the big organisations have lost the allure they used to have. They now become harder to win and are on longer contracts. They demand more and pay less and the suppliers have done their deals direct with them which make the TMC more marginalised than ever. At the same time the TMCs have caught up with each other to the point that a competitive edge to swing an account gets smaller. So, in the main, TMCs get to keep what they have got (especially with the advent of globalisation) and, if they actually lose something big it hurts real badly. It is often more expensive to lose an account than the benefit you get if you keep it, if that makes sense, which is another reason why little moves!
So what is left out there that is flexible, relatively easy to handle yet very valuable cumulatively especially to suppliers. The answer of course is the SME who demand a good deal but does not carry all those bespoke costs of a large client. If you win one then great, but if you lose then it doesn't hurt much. TMCs can use all those fancy gizmos created for (and funded by) the major clients to provide added value for peanuts to SMEs. The SME also can be a great deal easier to handle in both operational and financial terms and TMCs resources can be flexed to move this business to the optimum point in their structure. Another consideration is that, in a growing market, the big TMC is beginning to realise that today's SME is tomorrow's mega client. Finally, TMCs still need suppliers and suppliers want the SME market but cannot afford to go after them so a consolidation point via an agent is very attractive.
So what is a SME supposed to do? Well, if I was them I would shop around. I would be less interested in the transaction fee I was being charged and more impressed in what supplier savings and efficiencies I would get. I would go to the big TMCs and ask what extra value they can give by sharing out some of those big client products benefits. I would then ensure that I would get agreed levels of service continuity and not have my team poached every time there is a staff shortage with a bigger client.
So simplicity, flexibility and small are all beautiful......for now.
The large corporations? If I was them I would sit on my ego and work out how to make myself more attractive and important again.This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt