Apps were top of mind among attendees at LCT-NLA Show East, Nov. 8-10, as seen in these repeat demo sessions from iCars on the show floor.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One my favorite challenges at each of our trade shows is trying to figure out the word on the street and the “big buzz” among operators and attendees. After four days at LCT-NLA Show East
Nov. 7-10, I can only conclude that mobile apps are carrying the collective industry conversation.
I listened to animated discussions and had one-on-one chats about on-demand technology, app offerings, and how the limousine industry should compete in a service sector upended by transportation network companies (TNCs). Operators are thinking about and looking hard at the growing number of app providers pitching their products and services to the industry. How well operators embrace and tailor on-demand technology to their services will affect bottom lines and future success.
LCT Magazine remains neutral on app brands as we work our way through covering the open marketplace of contenders. Our goal is to ensure that individual operators are empowered to choose those technology vendors and services best suited to their unique businesses. Since asking lots of questions is one of my favorite pastimes, I’d like to devote this column to an evolving list every operator should ask and get answers to before signing up with app providers, or ones still to come.
Below is my game of 20+ Questions. I say “plus” because I couldn’t help myself and slipped in a few more questions under one number.
- Do you want on-demand or NEAR-demand, or both? From a service standpoint, how do you define on-demand versus near-demand in terms of minutes-hours timeframes?
- Does your business model and market area necessitate an on-demand or near-demand component?
- What are your goals for using and offering a mobile on/near-demand app?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of: 1) Getting your own white label app, versus; 2) Using an in-house app via a software provider, versus; 3) Using an outside app-based network.
- What functionality does the app vendor have now? What are its plans for the next few months? What is the long term development plan?
- Does the vendor/company have enough funding, resources, staff, and infrastructure to grow and support a global deployment on a large scale?
- What is the owning structure of the app company and who are the primary investors?
- Does a vendor allow co-branding, i.e. your clients that you bring into the network see your brand/company name on the app wherever they travel?
- Does the app company forbid you via contract from doing business with other app providers?
- How big is the app’s estimated fleet vehicle pool available in your metro/service area?
- What is your % revenue take on each ride? What will be your estimated average profit on an app-assigned ride? How will the app rates vary from the full rates of your company?
- What are customization opportunities for your company on the app, such as rates, participation levels, vehicle offerings, etc.?
- VITAL: What are the data security procedures and guarantees for all of your client information and financial transactions?
- What happens if the app is not good for your business? Are there any penalties or consequences if you withdraw?
- Is there any risk of an app vendor becoming a competitor of your local clients?
- Does the app take advanced reservations and then schedule them right away? Or, like Uber, does it hold on to the reservation and wait to send the booking shortly before the requested pick-up time?
- Does the app provider seem willing to potentially communicate or integrate with other apps to expand available fleet pools?
- What is the sales approach of the app representatives: Forthright, low key? High-pressure? Doom-n-gloom warnings?
- What do your clients think about the conveniences and usages of an app? What percentage would use one?
- CLINCHER: If you sign up with on-demand and/or near-demand app(s), would you still be able to exceed the customer service quality and performance of TNCs?
Greater minds than mine could think of more questions. I had to cut this at 20 to keep it snappy. A few other points to remember: Don’t rush. You want to pick the right one, at the right time for peace of mind. Optimism sells better than pessimism, just as hope trumps fear. Download any available limo apps to your smartphone and try them out repeatedly as ghost riders in different parts of town.
Finally, share information and talk, talk, talk amongst yourselves, whether online or in-person. I look forward to talking with many of you further about apps at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, now just a few months away on Feb. 29-March 2, 2016. No matter how sophisticated apps become, I predict one effective business tool that will endure: Word of mouth.