How to Manage a Ground Transportation Program

August 25, 2020

As a business traveler, the most challenging and frustrating part of my trip has always been ground transportation. I focused so much on flights and hotel – both scheduling and the cost of those segments – that planning the ground transportation I needed always ended up getting done at the last minute. It was never presented to me as an option while I was booking the rest of the trip, so any kind of car service was out of sight and out of mind.

I recall the days when all you needed was a paper voucher to get into a chauffeured car. Over the course of more than 25 years in corporate travel, I’ve witnessed the evolution of ground transportation and mobility. It used to be that all chauffeured transportation, or any car with driver, was managed completely outside of travel departments. TMCs had no automated way to book ground for their customers. There was no effective way to manage either the spend or duty of care considerations.

Businesswoman exiting her chauffeured car.
Businesswoman exiting her chauffeured car.

The attention to ground transportation is changing in the managed business travel space. With a much broader set of options for travelers, including cost-effective choices, ground transportation is being considered an important category in travel. Today, ground transportation is available for booking in most point-of-sale tools, including online booking tools and mobile apps used by travelers and the global distribution systems (GDS)that travel management companies (TMCs) use to book for their customers.

Ground transportation program challenges

While people may still be apprehensive about flights or hotels as we re-start business travel from pandemic closures, many travelers and companies will also be hesitant to use untraceable, unmanaged, and non-certified options such as taxis and mobile app rideshares. Chief among the concerns are traveler health, whether due to the pandemic or other regional viral outbreaks, and decreased safety when employees are not using vetted and approved suppliers.

Duty of care has always been an overarching concern for companies when it comes to travel. Especially now, it is essential for companies to put traveler health and safety at the top of their duty of care priority list. But how good is duty of care strategy and policy if you don’t have visibility into 100% of your employees’ journey? Using a booking software that has ground transportation integrated provides visibility for the final leg of the journey – where your travelers are on the ground.

Arguably, the ground transportation segment is the most vulnerable part of any travelers’ journey; they’re in an enclosed space– which we’re learning increases the likelihood of viral contagion – as well as typically alone, perhaps in a city for the first time, where the traveler is in the complete physical control of a probable stranger. The tension escalates when businesses don’t fully manage their ground transportation and mobility within their travel programs.

Benefits of a managed car service program

For far too long, managing this category has gotten a bad rap; travel managers have often felt that car service is an insignificant spend category or that there is no upside to managing it. However, car service can be a much larger spend category than many realize. As an example, my last multi-city trip to the West Coast (pre-COVID-19) included 10 ground segments that cost nearly as much as my airfare.

There are tremendous advantages for companies and their travelers when ground transportation is offered and managed effectively:

-       Choice: Vetted and safe ground transportation options satisfy travelers needs and concerns.

-       Visibility: Being aware of where and who you are traveling with provides peace of mind to loved ones, risk managers and HR leaders.

-       Savings: Using preferred suppliers with negotiated rates makes travel managers, procurement organizations and finance leaders happy.

Knowing what city your employees are in is important, but how much more valuable would it be to have access to drop-off times at business meetings in the event of an occurrence that requires action by the company? Managing ground transportation in your booking platform provides this information, if needed, in the event of an emergency. Additionally, having knowledge of who the supplier is and that your employee is being transported in a safe, clean and sanitized vehicle provides further comfort and safety to you and the traveler.

Man wearing face mask and medical gloves holding spray bottle to clean car interior steering wheel.
Employee cleaning car interior per CDC guidelines.

The key to creating and managing an effective ground program is to engage with your preferred suppliers and TMC to adopt tools that communicate with the GDS, for your TMC, in addition to your online and mobile booking platforms. Deem offers this visibility, which helps to close the gap in companies’ duty of care initiatives.

How to manage your ground transportation program

Ground transportation has become easy to manage.This was not true historically, but now there are technologies, like Deem, available to companies and TMCs that will allow them to manage all categories of ground spend for all levels of travelers on your existing booking platforms.This includes taxi, rideshare, shuttle, car rental, luxury chauffeured and black car service and Car and Driver products like National Car and Driver in China and Avis India. 

Traditionally, companies and TMCs have managed only some of these modes; the challenge is to choose the technology partner that can provide more complete connectivity. Deem’s technology can manage all of this content. Deem is unique in not only offering all the different ground options mentioned above, but being able to offer them, through our existing integrations, in the managed platforms in which our customers and TMC partners already work.

Companies that have adopted a strategy around this category have better compliance, happier stakeholders – including their travelers – and saved millions of dollars. Ground transportation of all kinds need to be included as an essential part of every company’s policy and travel program.

 

Author

Tom Clarke
Sr. Director, Car Service

Tom is an industry veteran with over 25 years in the travel business. He is Sr. Director of Ground Work at Deem, responsible for overseeing the Ground Work business. His focus is working with Deem’s corporate and TMC partners to develop strategies in creating and managing their ground transportation programs.

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