Partner vs. provider: choosing a mid-market travel management solution

All hands in – true corporate travel partners

Mega travel management companies (TMCs) have seen growth slow in recent years. As a result, they’re looking to build their client base by expanding their offerings to medium-sized companies.

Does experience servicing Fortune 1000 companies translate to small and mid-market companies? Or are mid-market clients being serviced in a one-size-fits-all approach?

We asked Michael Robertson to share his perspective given his years of working directly with small- and mid-sized companies.

Q: Some companies and business travelers new to a managed travel program struggle with change. How can a TMC make change easier?

A: People don’t fear change. They fear unnecessary change that they don’t understand. That’s why a strong communication plan is so important for companies new to managed travel or switching providers.

If you tell travelers why you are making a change, why it’s happening now, and what the goals of the program are, they will more easily embrace your travel program. We understand that travel managers at small and mid-market companies often perform multiple roles so we help them develop continual communication plans that align around their travel program goals. From newsletters, to blog content, to business reviews, we ensure travel buyers have the tools they need to win travelers over on their first booking and each subsequent trip.

Q: Small and mid-market companies don’t typically have the same negotiating power as a large company. How can a TMC help?

A: A TMC should provide SMEs access to suppliers, rates and amenities they couldn’t get on their own. At Egencia, we employ over 1,700 hotel market managers dedicated to doing just that. We are our clients’ advocate and their negotiator. As a result, travelers can easily find and book in-policy rates with business traveler friendly amenities and cancellation policies.

On the flip side, suppliers work with us because we can extend their reach and can get their inventory in front of buyers who do not have the volume necessary for a significantly discounted individual negotiated rate program.

Q: Some travel providers say they offer a true multi-channel, end-to-end approach. Why is this important? And, is that possible given most TMCs do not build or use their own technology? 

A: Traditional TMCs do offer a multi-channel solution; they support a whole army of technology providers from online booking tool providers to expense providers to data providers. They support almost anything you want and try to integrate all of them into their solution. The problem is that they own none of it. If something goes wrong with your booking tool, you can’t call the TMC. No one there can help you.

The other big problem: all of the data is not on a single platform. The more times you pass data between partners, the more likely it won’t match. There are also latency issues—you have to wait for a third system to pass along data or policy updates.

Combined, these issues can cause friction for the traveler. Imagine you go to the ATM and your receipt shows one balance. You then talk to a teller and the teller tells you that your balance doesn’t match your ATM receipt. What would you want to do? Switch banks so you know how much money is actually in your account. It’s the same with TMCs. If your data doesn’t match or your TMC can’t answer your questions, you’ll switch to one that does.

Q: Why should travel buyers care if their travel provider owns and builds its own technology? Does this solve for the issues you mention above?

A: Absolutely. Our travel consultants use the same booking tool as our travelers and arrangers so they have the same information in front of them as the traveler. If a traveler has a question, we can answer them directly without passing them along to a third-party.

We don’t have to reach out to transfer data to a partner. Data is real-time so travel managers can access insights at any time in order to manage their business.

Using this data, travel arrangers and managers will soon be able to share custom, contextually relevant messages with their travelers on the road, like “Welcome to Dallas. Remember you don’t need to purchase auto insurance. You are already covered.”

Travelers also have real-time data at their fingertips. From our platform, we can push information that’s relevant and helpful to a traveler via our mobile app. We can tell travelers if a gate changes, where to find the nearest gas station to fill up a rental car, and many other in-trip insights.

Q: Are there any other ways owning your own technology sets you apart from other TMCs?

A: Every TMC claims to “put their customers” first. At Egencia, we build our products around them. We are continually running usability experiments so we can innovate quickly and offer an even better service. By providing easy-to-use tools reflective of travelers’ own behavior, our clients can increase compliance through positive interactions rather than mandates.

Q: How important is it to offer a single, global solution to small and mid-market clients? 

A: The world has changed. Size doesn’t indicate the complexity of a business’s global engagement, employee travel or travel management needs. To assume a mid-market business doesn’t have global complexity is a disservice to them.

SMEs need in-market solutions. For those companies who are more mature and are looking to tackle globalization, a single platform across all regions is even more important. We offer a globally consistent experience that also takes into account the nuances and needs of the country travelers are in.

Q: What do small and mid-market companies need to know when evaluating TMCs?

A: How important are you actually to that TMC? Whether you’re looking to launch a managed travel program or switch providers, make sure the TMC you choose can service your unique needs. The conversations you have should be about you, your needs and what a best-in-class solution looks like for your company. Otherwise you risk having a “provider” rather than a strategic partner.

Q: What’s your final elevator pitch to travel buyers at SMEs?

A: When Egencia was founded 15 years ago, we focused on solutions for small and mid-market companies. Since then, we have continually won over both travel buyers and travelers in these markets by offering an incredible service, making change easy, acting as their advocate, and continually enhancing our best-in-class solution.

Want to know more?  Read why these Egencia clients switched from a traditional TMC, watch this helpful webinar, “One Size Does Not Fit All” to learn how to get the results you want from your travel program, or contact us.