Limousine Charter & Tour

September 2016

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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80 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR SEPTEMBER 2016 Martin Romjue Tech Words To You EDITOR'S EDGE I SEPTEMBER 2016 THE LIMO INDUSTRY'S TECHNOLOGY sector has never been more crowded. When I compare the number of soft- ware providers, GPS vendors, and app- related companies to just six years ago, it looks like we're strolling through a virtual flea market. In business, wherever you see a crowded, competitive field, you not only find the effects of customer demand, but a hint at where solutions lie. Technology, along with customer service, will define this industry and steer its success as transportation net- work companies (TNCs) and chauffeured ride apps reshape the basics of moving people from point A to point B. The wonderful results of more tech- nology are how it enables, empowers, and liberates people and businesses. Its nature is dynamic and wild. How then, do you choose which gadgets and products to embrace? The clues lie in the concepts and the words used by vendors. What are they really saying? I've been listening more lately to how ven- dors describe their products. I'm not a tech expert versed in code, but I do pick up on code words, good and bad. Good Words During a recent demo of the GNet Platform by GRiDD Technologies, for example, I heard a lot of good words for operators. GRiDD, which you will read more about in our October technology issue, has lined up four major industry software providers so far to link their respective clients to share fleet vehicles. The affiliate "grid" would enable real-time, on-demand chauffeured service nationwide. In the presentation, the host team used such phrases as "open market platform," "digital plumbing," "con- nectivity," "integration," "collaboration," and "transpar- ency," to name a few. These words point to a flexible system that allows individual operators to set up their own borders for doing business. You offer and accept as many rides as you want, when you want. Operators can see fleet vehicles on GPS maps without com- promising their client lists while software providers can protect their proprietary technology. The system increases productivity and cuts back on paperwork. GRiDD will not force operators to change their busi- ness models to on-demand, but instead give them the ability. Operators not interested in on-demand could still use the system to make use of deadhead runs or take more advanced reservations. Bad Words Now let's contrast the positive tech words with what I call warning words: "Exclusivity," "contracts," "closed network," "members only," "responsible for any costs," "terms and conditions," "obligations," "annual subscrip- tion fee," "requirements," "fee schedule," "non compete," blah, blah, blah, etc. While each term singled out may be harmless, they should raise a red flag the more they are strung together and oft-repeated, whether in the same breath or on the same document. Before you sign on to any technology, make sure you understand the vision and the purpose. Technol- ogy should be simple and inclusive. While it may require a software engineer, it should not involve a team of rocket scientists. The longer and more complicated a contract or business agreement, the more snares and limits you likely will encounter. Level Field In the world of apps and software, we see the rise of true populism, a concept we hear often in this year's political drama. Technology in our information age looks out for the little guy, whether a Main Street business trying to make better use of its time and resources, or an average person on the street with the one-stop-news-hound capability of an iPhone. Tech is the great leveler. Two operators I interviewed last month stuck with some gut instincts in making valid points. They agreed there's no sense in raging against machines and gad- gets, or the businesses that figure out how to run and price themselves cheaper thanks to tech. If a competi- tor wins because of better wiring, then get in on the wires, or wireless, as the case may be. One operator asked: How much are you paying to get each client? What is your closing ratio? How can technol- ogy help you lower the first and raise the second? A non-U.S. operator working on an on-demand product told me his goal is not to be the cheapest, but the most competitive with better service. After all, it's not how much you earn, but what you can keep via an efficient business model. He also is willing to cooperate or work with a larger provider to make the most of his fleet until he no longer needs to. Neither one allows anger about tech disruptions to cloud their judgment. They look past the short-term hurdles for long-term gains. martin@lctmag.com

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