It goes without saying that COVID-19 affected passenger transport in a more direct way that just about any other business in this space. For anyone in this business, adapting to the challenges brought about in early 2020 has been the key to survival.
According to statistics provided by IBISWorld, growth in this space is expected to continue to rebound post-pandemic at a rate of 42% compared to 2020, signaling more promising news. As more tradeshows, weddings, other high profile events continue to resume, taking a minute to evaluate your business and protect it for the future is critically important.
In this blog post, we’ll break down a few quick tips and housekeeping items to implement that are key to sustaining growth.
The good news with today’s technology is that longer have to spend thousands in development costs to provide a great customer experience.
Dispatch, booking software, passenger apps, and even website solutions can be provided out-of-the-box by many vendors in this space (like LimoAnywhere, Turnit, and countless others) without the huge upfront costs of custom development.
With whatever booking system or process you are currently have in place, it’s important to constantly be adapting to the needs and preferences of the audience you serve.
In certain industries, using a few website plugins for implement a basic booking system (for example) may be all you need depending on the resources at your disposal, but going beyond email and manual communication can definitely help increase demand.
On the other hand, if your demographic expects an Uber-like experience, you’ll need to see what consumer-oriented white label solutions are on the market. Many of these types of apps are subscription-based, responsive on mobile devices, and don’t require any technical skills to implement.
If native mobile applications are of interest, solutions like AllRideApps specialize in passenger-transport app development for cabs, buses, shuttles, and similar businesses.
The effects of COVID-19 on sanitation practices are obvious, but going above and beyond can really help separate your business from others. One example in the luxury passenger transport space is including custom-branded hand sanitizer bottles (for example) to leave behind for customers. This is an a simple example that goes a long way in leaving a first impression impression that cleanliness is a core value.
With the industry returning to semi-normal life, taking a minute to create ‘sanitized’ signage or even in-app notifications or emails to set customers know the vehicle has been properly sanitized is another idea to keep customers at ease.
It all starts with your process for sanitizing and cleaning vehicles during the inspection process, as well as during the day, which is what Skyline Destination Management was able to implement that you can read more about here.
Retaining employees is also a key consideration when trying to scale, considering the app-based and competitors in the gig economy like Uber or Lyft that you may or may not compete with to an extent.
One of the biggest impacts to fleet safety in the last decade have been GPS and dash mount camera systems for fleets who are focused on knowing what’s going on at all times with their fleet. Technology like this can help with providing evidence to authorities or insurance companies if needed, and is a safety best practice that doesn’t have to be difficult to implement.
Inspection applications like Whip Around can make documenting damage during pre- or post-trip inspections easier than before, and way more effective. With annotations, and forced photos, fleet managers and drivers never have to worry about forgetting to turn in inspection reports, or dealing with the reality of undocumented damage.
Depending on your business and business model, one of the best ways to maintain customer loyalty is to offer incentives for standing loyal as a customer. One of the ways to do this in through creating some type of rewards program.
While many businesses start with simple punchcards to keep track, it’s really best to select a good digital solution that will enable you to keep track of this type of information in order to provide free rides (for example) depending on thresholds you configure. This is something to discuss if you are in talks with a developer.
As opposed to a rewards system, coupons are another good tool for certain business models. Many companies deliver these to customers in via email, using promo codes online, or via more traditional methods like direct mail.
With so many little details to pay attention to in this industry, the condition of your fleet is one not to overlook.
Unfortunately, many companies go the route of purchasing paper inspection forms, printing out PDFs, ordering clipboards, or even entering all of this information into a spreadsheet to keep track of things.
One of the easiest ways to actually perform these inspections efficiently is by using a simple and easy to use app like Whip Around. The video below explains how this process can be made easy for drivers and fleet managers.
One of cooler developments in the passenger transport space are partnerships with local restaurants. One company is offering free rides to local restaurants during lunch that you can read about here.
While offering free rides is more of a brand awareness strategy, it can be a great way to build awareness and your brand. You obviously can strike up agreements with participating restaurants and locations to compensate you based on the increase in traffic for these establishments.
There are numerous ways to structure this type of arrangement, but is a good way to support local businesses as the public resumes for frequent transportation.
If you are looking to scale your business without the upfront capital needed, one option to consider is fleet leasing if you haven’t already. While this may not be the best option depending on your business, it can be an effective way to generate revenue on a budget to the point where you can afford to purchase additional vehicles.
Some commercial fleet leasing companies also include maintenance services as a part of the agreement, and are incentivized to keep vehicles in a good operating condition.
Philip Deckers, Director of Operations Initiatives & Analytics at Maines Paper & Food Service had this to say about the concept:
“If you’re leasing from someone that is both the maintenance provider and the lessor, they are better incentivized to keep the equipment in a good condition,” Deckers said. “If you are leasing from one company and having someone else do maintenance, there is less of an incentive when it comes to maintenance.”
Another option is obviously purchasing used, which has it’s fair share of pros and cons. For many vehicles gear towards consumers, consider factors to consider:
Maintaining consistency of your brand by purchasing new vehicles obviously has it’s perks, but depending on the availability of used vehicles in your area this can be a way to save a huge amount of money assuming you do your research before purchasing.
When trying to keep accurate records on your fleet, including making sure drivers document faults or damage each day is key, but there’s a better way than using paper. Besides the fact that contactless methods of record keeping reduce exposure to germs, the efficiencies and cost savings of digital inspections are being felt by companies like King Limo.
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Rich Johnson, Chauffer at King Limo described his life before switching to the Whip Around app to keep track of their vehicle inspections:
“I tried to keep things as short as possible, and I didn’t know when I turned them in if somebody read them, or if they could even read my handwriting or not”.
Keeping big-ticket items like 55-passenger coach buses, shuttle buses, and even limousines sidelined due to preventable mechanical problems can make or break a company. One strategy has traditionally been to include some sort of loss of use coverage to your fleet’s insurance policy, but even more important is streamlining how you approach maintenance.
Whether it’s reactive or proactive (as in preventative maintenance), having a system in place that ensures your maintenance team will be able to perform routine preventative maintenance tasks as quickly as possible is a tremendous benefit to moving past paper work orders and processes.
This was the reality for iShuttle before switching to a digital system for fleet maintenance.
“Whip Around has reduced our maintenance costs by about $30,000, a 30% reduction. I am seeing problems before they become big problems.”
To learn more about how Whip Around was able to save their organization an estimated $30,000 in maintenance costs annually, click here to view the case study.
With these tips in mind, determining which ones will have the biggest impact on creating a great customer experience is what matters. A good starting point is preventing undocumented damage that can lead to bigger problems. This common occurrence can be avoided using technology as discussed in the previous paragraph, among other benefits.
By selecting an easy to implement solution for inspections and maintenance like Whip Around, it makes it much easier to build the infrastructure you need to scale.
If you’re ready to have instant access to the daily inspections drivers are completing, and need an easy way to track or schedule maintenance, schedule a demo of the Whip Around platform today.