By Tal Shalit, co-founder, Betterez
Buses have been a popular mode of transportation for longer than any of us can remember. In fact, they’ve been around since the early 1800s. The end of the 19th century brought the introduction of buses with motors capable of carrying more passengers and getting people to their destination faster than ever imagined.
Nowadays, we’re beginning to see the introduction of hybrid buses and ones that are powered by biofuels. Technology is playing a role in the modernization of buses, and while buses themselves have modernized over time, the back-end systems powering routes, ticketing, operations, and reservations have lagged.
It’s time for motorcoach operators to leverage technology to accompany the customer in every step of their journey. These steps include:
- At the Station
- On Board
- At the Destination
Aberdeen Group Inc. claims that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, as compared to 33 percent for companies with weak omnichannel strategies (www.hackernoon.com).
Fortunately, modern-day bus and transportation technology is capable of improving interactions and customer engagement across the customer journey for transportation operators. It can improve operations, increase sales, extend offerings, reduce dependency on legacy systems, boost customer engagement, facilitate intermodal transportation, and so much more.
So, why aren’t operators quickly jumping on board?
For some, updating ticketing and reservations systems is costly. For others, they don’t know where to begin. For many organizations, outdated systems have become the norm; for others, sticking with what they have seems just fine ... until they have a tech problem. At that point, it can be too late, or they simply cannot support changing business processes or business models.
Many operators are also uncomfortable with change. This is often the case for very real reasons, such as long-standing relationships or agreements with providers and the fear that systems take tons of time and effort to implement. These reasons and busy schedules can prevent operators from looking at modern, cloud-based options because, well, it’s simply easier to maintain the status quo.
However, the travel industry as a whole is beginning to see the huge opportunity that exists in modernizing outdated systems—and, reassuringly, some companies within the bus industry are recognizing this, too.
Given our experience working with a variety of operators within the industry, we know that there are many concerns when it comes to transforming systems, including the cost of implementing new systems, the time it takes to enable new software and get back up and running, and the perceived increase in resources required to manage new systems. We also know that modern software as a service (SaaS) systems, such as Betterez’s Reservations & Ticketing Management (RTM) solution, can be implemented relatively quickly, and the results are impressive, which, in turn, contributes to a strong business case for change.
Cloud-based SaaS solutions have helped companies across every industry transform their business. Operators can get up and running with updated systems in as little as a few hours—making the decision to switch to an updated platform well worth considering.
As the future unfolds, we see the creation of loyalty programs, ticketless near-field communication (NFC), tap & go, and other solutions beyond basic ticketing becoming the norm. EFreight and intermodal partnerships are examples of some of the many benefits that we are implementing for our clients now—and these benefits will continue to develop and provide ancillary revenue channels as reservations and ticketing management solutions become more sophisticated.
As systems continue to modernize, we will also continue to see the integration of hotel inventory, travel packages, recommendation engines, dynamic capacity management, and increased use of the mobile wallet.
For example, travel technology company Amadeus is getting bus inventory from around the world on their global distribution platform in a manner similar to that of rail and airlines, and is using Betterez’s RTM system to power new services. In an ever-crowded travel marketplace, this partnership can drive competitiveness as operators can better sell, manage, and promote their offer not just in their direct channels, but also through Amadeus’ wide travel seller network.
Over time, many operators will realize that the benefits of continually innovating and updating their systems far outweigh the risks. Operators must continue to focus on the improvement of touch points along the customer journey, increased revenues from ancillary fees, more efficient operations, revenue accounting automation, and continued access to accurate data in real-time.
There are many more things to come as technologies such as the internet of things, Blockchain, and beacons unfold, but operators must first get their platforms automated and up-to-date in order to have a chance of putting themselves on a long-term path of continuous innovation.
Tal Shalit is the co-founder of Betterez, a company that specializes in the reservations and ticketing management (RTM) space. To learn more, click here.