Here's how to make sure you don't let the sun interfere with safe fleet driving.
VIENNA, Austria — The three most important principles in arranging corporate road show and group trips in European nations are: contact, communication and calculation.
If you think your transfers in Europe will work because you already have a long relationship with your client, because your reservations department is capable, or your rates are so competitive, you are way off the mark.
Before you even plan to farm a road show or group out to Europe, you have to think closely about who the contact will be for your valuable clients and the foreign supplier of service and who will track the bookings. For many operations, it could be your night dispatcher, given the differences in time zones. Based on our vast experience with road shows and groups, the wrong night dispatcher can be the downfall of all your European farm-out work.
Think about it: You might have successfully aquired a blue chip client, got him used to some of your reservation staff and dispatch (obviously not the night one), and when you are getting to the point where you can really prove all your abilities with Europe — you leave him with the night dispatcher who has not made the deal with the client, who doesn’t know the client, who has not put in the reservation, and who will not have anything to do with the invoicing. Most likely, your night dispatcher has not had enough experience in handling the complex problems during an extended international farm-out road trip.
But the solution is easy: When handling groups abroad, you have to assign — for the time the group is underway — a skilled reservation agent who oversees the logistics of the entire trip and who can work closely with your dispatcher and the dispatcher(s) abroad in other time zones. This ensures seamless professional contact. In this case, timing is money.
Good communication with clients and the transportation provider in Europe is critical during the reservation process and the road show. A road show in Europe has a massive impact on the daily business of the limousine company. Apart from companies in the major cities such as Brussels, Frankfurt, London or Zürich, most smaller limousine companies typically handle reservations/runs that can span the use of a nearby larger company for regular rides, service for travel agencies that arrange airport transfers for tourists, and local fleet runs in the countryside for trips such as schools, airlines or medical related appointments for elderly and ill people.
Road shows are not their specialty because such companies usually run only one to five vehicles which are used for the regular clients. They developed out of taxi companies and employ taxi dispatchers who are not as flexible or as skilled as American limousine dispatchers, and they haven‘t got the chauffeurs who can offer the service levels road show clients expect, especially when you have to exchange chauffeurs due to overtime rules.
That‘s why it is sometimes so difficult to find a limousine company that understands the road show business and is willing to offer you a vehicle for an unpredictable and extended time period.
The only way you will get this job done is to talk with the client to find out exactly what the plan is and then stick to it if possible. The more precise the information, the better the supplier can check availability with his schedule and make it work. Otherwise, he needs to be on the safe side and sell you the car for a minimum of 10 hours. And if the client then only needs it for three that would be a waste of money. You can easily prevent such situations by getting your client(s) to look more closely at their schedules and plan them out.
In all this negotiating, you must consider that you can´t expect a small limousine compay to risk regular clients only for one road show with you.
American clients like to work with hourly rates, while Europeans more often prefer package deals.
In most cases, the package deal is cheaper for the client, but again the client has to know exactly what he is doing.
A calculation example: A client would like to drive 300 kilometers to a meeting, have the vehicle wait and then return. Based on a typical European package calculation, the 300 kilometers are calculated like a transfer: 300 km x Euro rate plus the wait time cost. Then the return transfer is free, since the overall package is calculated based on mileage and more closely resembles a transfer.
With an American hourly calculation, start time — drive time depending on country — lets you calculate three hours, then wait, and then the return trip for three paid hours.
You can see from these two examples that the hourly rate is far more expensive than the package one.
Why Hourly Rates Vary So Much In Europe
If, for example, you drive the 300 kilometers in Sweden, you have to follow the speed limit and the trip will take about three hours. If you go 300 kilometers in Germany, where you can drive as fast as you like in many stretches of the Autobahn, you might make it in two hours.
But both of the vehicles burn gas for that trip, with the faster one consuming more at a higher cost. So although you might spend less time in the faster vehicle, the company will ask for a higher rate per hour. Also, remember that gas (petrol) prices vary widely throughout Europe.
That’s why a general hourly rate overall in Europe is not possible and calculation is difficult, so you might want to consider a package deal as well to save the client money.
As a general rule, it is difficult for European companies with fewer vehicles to handle road shows if they don’t have precise timelines and exact length of the reservation. U.S. operators must explain to their clients that the more vague they are about their plans, the more the chauffeured trips will cost.
Knowing exactly how the European road show market works empowers you to lower overall costs for your clients, which should work as a strong sales argument for your “global” or “worldwide” service.
Bettina Mannsbart is the owner and founder of transfer4me.com, a chauffeured transportation company based in Vienna, Austria that has extensive connections to European affiliates for corporate, road show, and leisure luxury transportation. She can be reached at [email protected]
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