Operations

Serving Up Rates

Posted on November 10, 2009 by - Also by this author

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One of the newest industry innovations borrows a few pages from Facebook and LinkedIn, offering operators a chance to selectively network by checking out each other’s rates and terms without having to fill out endless forms.

The website — RateButler.com — is the brainchild of operator Michael Lindsey, 46, owner of Lindsey Limousine Inc., a 30-vehicle chauffeured transportation company based in South Windsor, Conn.

“This site is completely confidential,” Lindsey said. “Like Facebook, you disclose what information you want to share and to whom.”

Gaining Members

Since a soft test-launch in January, the site had attracted at least 130 members as of late September without any organized promotional or advertising campaign. Lindsey upgraded RateButler.com to a “2.0” version in July and plans a “3.0” upgrade by December. The site is ideal for small to medium-sized operators looking to widen their farm-in and farm-out networks.

Lindsey conceived of the idea after years of hassling with filling out forms for the purpose of disclosing information to prospective network affiliates as he built up is farm-in and farm-out arrangements.
“How many times have you received one of those applications and not filled it out?” Lindsey asks, knowingly. “Everyone admits they’ve done it before. I got to thinking, there must be a better way.”

Info-packing

Operators can detail rates, surcharges, tolls, transfer rates, vehicle types, airport proximity, and many of the other important details of a chauffeured operation that prospective affiliates would want to “check out.” Members can sort information by state, county, city, and airport.

“Like LinkedIn and Facebook, you see who is a member and can send an e-mail to whomever you would like a relationship with and request rates,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey came up with his program by looking at many affiliate profile forms over the years and then compiling the best formats and questions into a master e-form for the website. “You fill it out only once,” he said.
So far, the site has not generated any revenue. Lindsey maintains and uses it for its time-saving convenience and reliable vetting. “I have no plans in the near future to charge for it,” he said. “It’s more of a system.”

No Surprises

Changes in rates and insurance coverage are automatically e-blasted to any affiliate client an operator has connected with, Lindsey said. That eliminates phone calls and surprise changes. “There are no surprises for operators who haven’t used an affiliate for months and the rates went up. There is no last-minute take the hit,” he added, referring to operators having to eat unforeseen rate increases of affiliates after a reservation has been booked.

“It manages relationships you already have, but is not a substitute for the NLA directory or a bulletin board about asking for work,” Lindsey said.

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