Technology

Toughening Up On TNCs With Tech Smarts

Martin Romjue
Posted on October 16, 2014
Amy Harris, senior vice president and general manager of Deem Ground, is leading an effort to bring to market a viable, networked app for the chauffeured transportation industry. Harris, who appears on technology panels at LCT events, is pictured here at the LCT Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., Oct. 29, 2013.
Amy Harris, senior vice president and general manager of Deem Ground, is leading an effort to bring to market a viable, networked app for the chauffeured transportation industry. Harris, who appears on technology panels at LCT events, is pictured here at the LCT Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., Oct. 29, 2013.

LOS ANGELES — When Uber announced in late July its For Business service aimed at business travelers, a collective chill shuddered through the chauffeured transportation industry.

The announcement came during Uber’s first foray into the Global Business Travel Association Convention held in downtown Los Angeles, proving the growing upstart app-based Transportation Network Company (TNC) relishes its role as the enfant terrible of for-hire ground transportation.

Uber For Business is courting a core market of chauffeured transportation. It promises seamless booking, overall information transparency, the ability to accommodate team management of company travel, and more accurate e-billing and e-expense reporting via a partnership with Concur. Salesforce.com Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG, have signed up as clients of the corporate car-booking program while Barclays Plc (BARC) and online retailer Gilt Groupe Inc. are testing it.

A deeper look at market and client dynamics, however, reveals Uber’s service misses the mark in many ways that are better understood by corporate travel procurement officers, chauffeured transportation operators, and their collective technology travel vendors.

After all, corporate and business travel involves far more layers of assurances than those for urban dwellers or airport travelers standing along the street waiting for the closest ride. Into this breach comes an app from Deem which will be introduced into the market with some of its Fortune 500 customers during the first-half of 2015, says Amy Harris, senior vice president and general manager of Deem Ground.

Deem Ground, owned by Deem, Inc., is a major transportation technology provider connected to 30,000 ground transportation operations worldwide that offers unique solutions for corporations, booking tools and travel agencies.

How It Works
The Deem app, directed to corporations and their preferred providers, will combine advanced chauffeured reservations with on-demand technology — all from fully vetted, quality chauffeured transportation companies that meet regulatory, insurance and licensing standards, Harris says.

Taking advantage of Deem’s substantial IP portfolio, the sophisticated app will segment user information based on vehicle preferences, rates and service providers, all accessible and available in real-time with customer tracking of vehicles and communication with chauffeurs. The system also will generate complete end-to-end expense reconciliation and real-time reporting and integration into the user’s digital wallet for corporate clients with multiple tiers of travelers.

Adam Kupper, director of ground services for Deem, says the company’s new app will place corporate clients with their preferred vendors, giving them a far more professional and secure version of the Uber-type experience.
Adam Kupper, director of ground services for Deem, says the company’s new app will place corporate clients with their preferred vendors, giving them a far more professional and secure version of the Uber-type experience.

Harris and Kupper explain that Deem Ground’s app will connect only those reputable, legal luxury chauffeured services that meet the high standards already common in that transportation niche:

  • Provide legal duty of care, risk mitigation, and high levels of liability insurance coverage.
  • Retain all the advantages of chauffeur training, sound fleet management practices, and regular vehicle maintenance.
  • Rely on the already employed and checked chauffeurs as opposed to independent “onesies” retained by TNCs.

Business & Leisure Conveniences
The Deem App creates a standardized network across the entire industry with open standards that anyone can connect to, leveraging the Deem technology.

“Our model is in the B2B space, providing corporations both an advanced reservation technology solution like a mobile app, and now adding to that, an on-demand function,” Harris says. “It provides that much more utility, so as I’m booking air and hotel and want a ride to the airport, I don’t have to rely on roaming vehicles.”

Such a secure, vetted and accessible ground transportation layer is flexible enough to provide vehicles as corporate clients travel from one meeting to another, but with vehicles supplied exclusively via the Deem network. It’s like a first class airport lounge that assures quality while minimizing hassle.

“This will win back customers from Uber and taxicabs,” Harris says. “Today, most reservations are airport to office or hotel, or home to airport. You are booking air and hotel, and booking a car, too. This opens up the market to those reservations, on-demand.”

The Deem app will allow business travelers to manage their payment types via corporate credit cards and the option to use personal credit cards if they want to tap the Deem app chauffeured network for personal and leisure rides. “That opens up new consumer and retail business for the chauffeured companies,” Harris adds.  

While the app will not be marketed to the leisure user, every employee is considered an overall user with the option for leisure trips. “They will be able to take advantage of the company’s pre-negotiated rates, so if they want to use the Deem app during their leisure time, they can use their own personal credit card on their time but take advantage of a corporate rate.”

Chauffeured car companies once oriented mostly to business and corporate-related trips now get increased business from individual ground customers.

Pilot Program
Deem will begin to roll out the app to initial enterprise customers in the first half of 2015 and will commence a full roll out to its 17,000 customers by year end.

“We’ve been focused on rolling out this capability for some time and our patent portfolio evidences this focus and investment in R&D as far back as 2005,” Harris says. “We’ve been talking to providers for several years, and they are concerned. It’s been a long education process for everyone. We have been getting direct requests from multiple large corporations and providers to introduce this technology. Some are queued up to participate in the phase 1 rollout. We are in planning mode with them and preferred providers.”

As of today, an aggregation of preferred providers with pre-negotiated rates that such companies seek doesn’t exist, Harris says. “Uber will grow, but in the B2B space targeting large corporations, they are not there because the trust isn’t there. The ability to customize isn’t there. The ability to dynamically modify business processes, policies and purchasing rules isn’t there and the ability to enable preferred providers isn’t there. Uber For Business is really Uber for consumers, just using business as a proxy for small business. It’s not an enterprise technology solution that meets the needs of large companies.”

About Deem  
Headquarters: San Francisco
Owner: Deem Inc.
Founded: 2000
Locations: Secaucus, N.J.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Bangalore, India
Employees: 400
Client types: Corporations, TMCs, Merchants
Information: Deem.com

Related Topics: Amy Harris, business travel, corporate travel, Deem Ground, mobile applications, mobile technology, vehicle apps

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