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LCT Publisher Sara Eastwood-Richardson (L) hosted a panel with business travel experts Lenore D’Anzieri, Mark Williams, and Jorge Gomez. (LCT photo)
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — As a rising number of corporate clients flirt with, if not outright embrace, transportation network companies for business travel, chauffeured vehicle providers must make clear what they do better.
That means pushing the message of safety, service, and duty-of-care with corporate travel managers and procurement officers, while cultivating better business relationships through more frequent contact. Three LCT Leadership Summit panelist experts expounded on those themes May 23 in a presentation, “How to Monetize the Millennial Business Travel Sector.”
Know Thy Buyers
Operators should be aware that a corporate client often consists of three types of customers in the company: A procurement officer, a travel manager, and the individual executive or employee travelers using the services.
“Sometimes we don’t even understand ourselves,” said panelist Jorge Gomez, who runs the corporate travel program for Miami-based Mondelez International. “Within our organization, you might have separate travel and procurement divisions. Now you have two sets of customers with different ways of looking at the business. Then you have a third one, which is the internal customer. It’s kind of complicated because you have to balance all of their goals.”
Limo operations should create solutions for the corporate travel buyers, Gomez said. “To satisfy the internal customer from a service perspective, it has to be a common goal, because the internal customer is not going to be any different just because the one leading the relationship is the procurement guy or travel guy. The internal customer is the same.”
Millennial generation travelers, younger adults ages 35 and below, are making this equation more challenging, because they think and act differently than older generations, Gomez said. “You need to adapt and you need to make yourself different.” To get their attention varies, as companies follow different policies on doing business with TNC disruptors, he added.
Lyft is one example of a TNC that builds cohesive relationships with corporate travel managers and the corporate travel department, said panelist Lenore D’Anzieri, chief strategy officer for Limo Alliance, an app developer in the limousine industry. “They understand the corporate travel buyer a lot more and have taken the time to create those relationships with their buyers. They’re in the marketplace being very sweet and understanding and listening, and wanting to give the travel managers what they want. They’re working on a robust reporting system that most don’t have. I think Lyft is actually coming out of the gate much stronger. Uber is becoming very obnoxious, which is why a lot of the travel managers are not very happy with them.”
Managing relationships with buyers via account managers is one way operators can distinguish their corporate service, said Mark Williams, founder of Goldspring Consulting, an independent travel consultancy. “Uber and Lyft don’t have account managers. They’re focusing on their app and driving the business through the app.”
Williams finds a lack of interaction between the buyer and the limo companies, unless it’s a large account. “When I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers, we were doing $50 million a year, and so we got attention, but that’s going to be the unusual one.
“Those touchpoints are so important because they allow you to deliver the message of where do you beat these disrupters? The additional services you provide, and the added levels of safety and security and vetting of drivers, get lost. That end user doesn’t focus on that unless somebody gives them a message.”
Procurement executives are motivated to show value inside their organizations, and prove they can save money. The more information they get, via an account manager who supplies reports, the more it helps the corporate clients, Williams said.
“Reporting is important because it supports whatever the strategy is. If you are the travel manager, you want to know how we are serving our internal customers. Are there any complaints? Are there timely pickups? Are there timely drop-offs to the destinations? You have to show that because they don’t always have the resources to do that. They’re probably going to depend on you.”
Understanding your buyer and the reporting they need and how it can help save costs are critical to the success of your relationship, D’Anzieri reiterated. “Cost savings doesn’t necessarily come from price. I think 90% of the time, you don’t lose an account because of prices. It’s the way you sold or maybe the lack of understanding of your customer. What do they need? What do they want? What are their goals? How do I help them achieve their goals?”