A-1 Airport Limousine Service shows how technology can lead to major savings in time, money and operational overhead.
CHICAGO — A-1 AIRPORT LIMOUSINE SERVICE, founded in 1970, serves the Chicagoland area with a fleet of more than 200 stretch limos, sedans and SUVs.
About five years ago, the company began working with THE HUDSON GROUP to deploy BlackBerry smartphones, magnetic stripe readers and mobile printers in its vehicles, says general manager Jim Miller.
The initial phase of the deployment simply involved replacing radios and two-way pagers with about 200 BlackBerry devices, and using a Java app to minimize the amount of texting required, Miller says. The aim was to enable drivers to send quick messages when they arrived on location, when the clients arrived in the vehicle, and when they dropped the clients off, without having to enter the entire text of a message on the phone.
Using a BlackBerry instead of a radio, Miller says, immediately improved the customer experience. "People liked the fact that there was no talking in the car, and they liked the accuracy of the information," he says.
Then the company added Infinite Peripherals' DPP-350 printer and mag stripe reader to the deployment.
The DPP-350 enables the drivers to handle everything from credit card swiping to printing receipts for clients — and the result is that a process that previously required carbon copies and paper files is now almost entirely paperless, says company IT and special project manager Lesley Jobin.
"When everything was on paper, all that paper was being turned into us and then we had to process it in house," Jobin says. "Now the system is just automatically updated from the BlackBerry... and the only paper involved is that which is printed as a receipt for our client."
And the efficiency of the billing process has been vastly improved, Miller says. "We have a lot of accounts that want their bills in almost real time, within 24 to 48 hours, and this gives us a big jump on getting that information and having it ready to go out," he says.
Miller says the system also has lightened the workload for most of the company's staff. "It makes us more efficient with the people we have... We could increase business a considerable amount, with the same number of people — drivers or in-house staff — just because of the technology that we're now using," he says.
What's more, the solution can be updated regularly without incurring a significant expense — while other in-car mobile terminals lock the user into the same technology, a BlackBerry can be easily be replaced every two years, Jobin says.
"The swipe and print terminal is essentially a dumb terminal — it doesn't have any brains... We initially went to the BlackBerry because it was the first time we saw the separation of the brains — the BlackBerry — and the dumb terminal," Jobin says. "So we can maintain the dumb terminal for many years, and just keep updating the brains of the connection."
"The separation of the devices has been critical to being affordable, and being able to continue to maintain and stay current with the technology," Jobin says.
What's more the BlackBerry itself has proved to be useful in unexpected ways, Jobin says. "Sometimes we have celebrities in the car, but not everybody is familiar with all celebrities," she says. "Well, now we can send a picture of the celebrity so our chauffeur knows who it is... And we encourage our chauffeurs, if you're picking up for a company, go ahead and Google the company — know something about the company."
And if the client asks for some information, Jobin says, that's okay too. "We have clients who will run into a business meeting and say, 'Can you look up the scores on this game, and let me know when I get out?'" she says. "All of those extra features help separate us from others."
Source: Mobile Enterprise Magazine/MobileEnterprisemag.com