BTN's annual answer book for business travel managers.
In the year since Liz Carisone became CEO of black car
service GroundLink, she's introduced new pricing structures and enhanced
reporting and trip control. She also told BTN
transportation editor Michael B.
Baker the company is using its distribution reach to position itself against
BTN: The bottom line
is a big driver for travel buyers. What's up with GroundLink's pricing
customers are telling us what they don't like about certain carriers is pricing
transparency. We have worked hard on a model that builds in complete pricing
transparency. We are also very clear on any surge practices that we have. We
trialed a new pricing plan in the New York marketplace in February and got very
good results. We're going to be analyzing those results. If they're good for
the consumer, that's one of our key stakeholders, but our drivers are also key
stakeholders, so we have to make sure that higher utilization offsets lower
apportionment of earnings. If that's the case, we'll definitely look to re-implement
We're not UberX, but we have the same platforms and
technology capabilities, especially in the New York marketplace with Ride Now
capabilities. We have benchmarked and tracked ourselves and in our top 20
markets are extremely competitive to an UberBlack product, at a price point
that is lower than, say, a BostonCoach. If a customer is looking for
BostonCoach, they can get everything that they need from a technology platform
without the price tag. We're finding that, especially in New York, we've been
able to make some inroads into some key accounts, and our pricing methodology
and platform are working very well.
BTN: Are there any other ways you can reduce
costs for travel buyers?
Carisone: We are
trying to figure out a way that when you know you're going to be delayed, if
you can message us, we can then push your ride ahead 30 to 45 minutes. Our
average lead time in New York is about 20 minutes and anywhere outside of the
New York marketspace is anywhere up to about 60 minutes. So if you wanted to
push your ride by 60 minutes, push a button, that gives us an "edit your
ride" feature and we manage that.
BTN: Do you monitor
passengers' flights, as well?
actually use flight tracking, so we will know your flight is either early or
late and adjust your pickup time accordingly. We have a standard wait time
policy. On domestic flights, your first 30 minutes is free. That usually gives
passengers enough time to get their bags and get out to the car without
incurring wait times. On international flights, it's an hour. A lot of times,
our corporate customers need to be able to take a shower or make phone calls
before they leave the airport, so they'll do a set-aside time for 45 minutes.
Let's say you're in a foreign country and you know it's going to take you
longer, so you can always add time to give you that breather space, and you
won't incur any wait time. We just need to be able to do better so when you're
coming out of a restaurant or leaving a business meeting, you don't have to
worry about incurring it on point-to-point pickups.
BTN: What about
making travel managers' lives easier? You expect to go live with Concur's
e-receipts platform this year. What else?
Carisone: We have
a corporate dashboard, which is a great selling feature, and we have specific
admin privileges that we've placed into the system to prevent any unauthorized
use or viewing of other customers within your account's data. If you are the
admin for the CEO, no one will be able to see where the CEO is or what the
CEO's accounts look like. These are the kind of privileges and gating we've put
into the system to allow travel managers to be able to see all of their
information but only travel arrangers to see specific information. With the
corporate dashboard being able to track your rides, pull your invoices and things like that, we've also added management
information features. On request, we can build you a full report based on customer
parameters, point-to-point parameters, etc. We'll show you where you're
spending your money. It will detail out whether you have a lot of stops,
whether there have been a lot of events or out-of-town travelers, whether there
are individuals who are not following policy. That's been extraordinarily
helpful and has helped to build relationships with our customers and grow our
BTN: How is ridesharing
percent of our business is outside [New York], so we use a large
affiliate network that's all connected for ride-tracking capability as well as
messaging, so you know who your driver is. Because of that, we have grown
dramatically outside of the New York marketplace year over year, and we're up
again [so far] this year. GroundLink actually had the first mobile app,
probably, in New York. We launched on the BlackBerry in 2009 and on the iPhone
in 2011. We were definitely early adopters to the ride-now concept. We just
didn't do a good job of getting the investor backing to be a household name
BTN: What about Deem's
plans for an on-demand
Carisone: The real challenge for our industry is that
there are several different platforms. The good thing about Uber is they've
been able to attract a lot of supply, which drives demand, and they can balance
out the demand/supply quotient because of their investor backing. For companies
like us that don’t have that luxury, in order to pull together and support one
another either when we're overbooked or underbooked, we need to communicate
across different platforms. We are building APIs to be able to do that so we
can connect to others and we can really help each other to deliver quality
service in an on-demand world. What Deem is trying to do is be a front end and
a back end, and that's probably much more difficult: to get established companies
to move off of their own platforms into a common platform.
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