What separates a client from a brand loyalist?
“Behind the times” is the phrase Groundwidget’s Chief Strategy Officer, Lenore D’Anzieri, used to describe the slow pace of operators embracing new technology. She spoke during a panel at the LCT Leadership Summit, held in Miami Beach on May 24.
But take heart. It’s not all your fault. The panel included leading technology company executives who spoke frankly about the slow road to make their products work together. In the technology world, it’s called “seamless integration,” so the applications you already have and the new ones you buy can “plug and play” so your legacy technology investment works with new apps. That creates more efficient operations while boosting your return on investment.
Moreover, operators’ slow adoption of new technologies can be attributed to the Great Recession and slow recovery where the money just wasn’t there to invest. But that’s all ancient history. The recovery — coupled with the global new world of on-demand transportation services and corporate America spending more on technology to increase productivity, reduce labor, and communicate and conduct business with suppliers — is a wake-up call for the industry to compete.
With the rapid growth of Uber and Lyft, operators need tech solutions for whatever services your market niche demands and you can handle: pre-arranged, near-demand, and on-demand.
The message of the panel -- which in addition to D'Anzieri, also included Gary Bauer, founder, iCARS; Mark Gentry, president, Limo Anywhere; Tarek Mallah, senior vice president, Karhoo; and Apurva Patel, chairman and CEO, GroundWidgets -- was that some of their products could connect, but vendors need to collaborate more.
Gentry bluntly said “individual agendas” have stalled cross-platform cooperation among vendors, but added solutions such as middleware and Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to connect are emerging. He sees momentum in the next 12 months.
“Mark is right,” Patel said. “We can create a unifying platform for the industry where we can interoperate and connect with all systems. More than ever, the industry is ripe for that.”
The goal is to work together in dispatching, booking tools, and applications, and tie products all together, Bauer said.
D’Anzieri noted operators and vendors must look at the big picture through the client’s perspective. “Corporate travel managers want an integrated system — seamless platforms — from providers so they can work from one portal to do business.”
Vendors are connecting, “but it is sometimes a slow, painful and expensive process,” Mallah added. Operators can help speed up solutions to connect by “pressuring” tech suppliers to provide the tools they need to run their businesses more efficiently in a tech-centric world, he said.
“It’s not about Uber and Lyft — that ship has sailed. They have spent too much money changing the transportation expectations of consumers. It’s all about creating efficiencies and asset management that helps you maximize the operation of your fleet today and next week.”
“Tarek hit the nail on the head,” Gentry said. “Pressure is the best thing that can happen. I had to build new tools into Limo Anywhere, not because operators were asking me to do it, rather it was because I knew I had to build new applications for the future. Pressure is welcome to get things done.”
“Mark is spot-on,” Patel said. “There has to be pressure to build the platforms and operators need to become part of the evolution.” He told attendees, “You need to be part of the evolution and active participants in advancing technology solutions for the industry. I don’t believe any one solution will satisfy the industry, so I put my hat in the ring to create open standards and we can make it happen.”
Bauer said “disruption is rapid” and the technology industry has to get out of its comfort zone and “take a leap of faith” to work together and move forward.
• API (Application Program Interface): A set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact and APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components. There are many different types of APIs for operating systems, applications or websites. Windows, for example, has many API sets used by system hardware and applications. When you copy and paste text from one application to another, it is the API that allows that to work.
• Middleware: Middleware describes separate products serving as the glue between two applications. It connects two otherwise separate applications. For example, many middleware products link a database system to a Web server. This allows users to request data from the database using forms displayed on a Web browser, and it enables the Web server to return dynamic Web pages based on the user’s requests and profile.
• Portal: A Web-based interface for users of enterprise applications. Enterprise portals also provide access to information such as corporate databases, applications (including Web ones), and systems.
Source: Webopedia (www.webopedia.com)
What separates a client from a brand loyalist?
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