In an unprecedented move in the relocation industry, Brookfield Global Relocation Services has sold its small and medium size corporate accounts. Brookfield is reportedly doing this so it can focus on serving larger clients and government business, according to several sources.
All Points has always benefited from the business of small to medium volume clients, so we feel we are in a good position to speak to this seismic shift in the industry. When I was an account manager for a large array of low volume accounts at my former employer, my boss told me that they were expensive to service, so that I could only spend so much time with each account. In short, the relocation company’s senior management had determined that the cost to managing small accounts was more time consuming and therefore less profitable. That was over 15 years ago. This is not a surprising conclusion to reach: if you manage a client that has a certain number of questions displaced over a small number of relocations, this will take you a lot of time to assist on a per unit basis. If, on the other hand, you manage a client that has more questions, but they are displaced over a large number of relocations, this will take you less time on a per unit basis.
But do small volume relocation accounts need more education?
This is a fallacy. Not all small volume relocation accounts need more education, just like not all large volume relocation accounts need less education. The true answer is that they probably need more education (again) on a per unit basis. However, we are in the service business and we were taught not to think of relocating employees in terms of units. Education is what we are supposed to be doing every day of our jobs. We are educating two people at any given time: the HR contact that needs to understand all the relocation circumstances in front of them and receive professional advice and guidance as to how to proceed, and the employee, who in the case of a small volume client is less likely to have relocated before, and therefore has more questions.
Do small volume relocation accounts need fewer policies?
This is another fallacy. A corporation that relocates ten people per year, but has an array of salary grades or employee bands, needs tiered policies as much as a corporation that relocates 200 people per year with the same number of salary grades. However, in our industry, the largest relocation companies have encouraged low volume relocation accounts away from tiered policies. This encouragement could only last so long as the trend to tier gained steam. When small volume relocation accounts started adopting relocation policy tiers, they became even more unattractive to companies like Brookfield.
Is staffing a small volume account the same as staffing a large volume account?
No. They are very different. In the case of a large volume account, a relocation consultant and coordinator are used to one way of doing things for a large group of employees who work for the same employer. This makes it easier to get used to managing exceptions, establishing precedents that can create future efficiency gains, establishing technological workflows that reduce relocation consultant’s workload, and creating accounting procedures for regular billing processes. None of these efficiencies are likely to occur at the same frequency with a small volume relocation account. That means that, with a small volume relocation account, none of the relocation company’s employees readily become accustomed to the client in the same way that they can for a large volume relocation account – and they remain less efficient. In addition, during absences or illnesses, staffing a large volume relocation account becomes quite easy, because there is bound to be another employee that understands that account. However, with a small volume relocation account, an employee who steps in for a co-worker likely requires training from an account manager.
Account Management is possibly the biggest area in which service differences show up visibly to the client. Attention automatically goes to the largest accounts. This means that low volume relocation accounts get inadequate proactive attention to their relocations, oversight of their relocation activity and site visits with new ideas, trends and procedures. When I was Account Manager for low volume relocation accounts at my previous employer, I was allowed to visit ten accounts per year out of 197. That was the moment that I saw an excellent opportunity for a company like All Points to benefit from low volume relocation accounts.
So is there an advantage to small volume relocation accounts?
What Brookfield forgets in all of this is that small volume accounts also have huge advantages. First, they are loyal. If you provide a good quality service and good quality relocation advice, they will be your partner until the end of time. They do not feel the need to go out to tender if everything is going well. Also, they do not pressure you to under-price your services. Do not get me wrong, small volume clients do want excellent pricing for your services, but you will not feel pressure every three years to reduce your prices to illogically low fees based on procurement’s involvement. In fact, procurement often does not become involved at all, and if they do, they tend to give Human Resources a bigger seat at the table.
In short, Brookfield’s move makes clear the disdain that they had for their small volume accounts for years. They did not arrive at this decision overnight. Relocation companies should give smaller accounts excellent treatment, top notch advice, over-the-top service and top notch account management. Now, perhaps, after being sold like chattel, many small volume relocation accounts across Canada will stand up for themselves. It must be obvious by now that All Points will welcome all small volume accounts with open arms and excellent service.