We are currently in the midst of a revolution in the ground travel industry, and technology is driving it. Who better to discuss these sentiments with than Dave Wright, one of Betterez’s valued Advisors and Chief Innovation Officer at ServiceNow.
Dave joined ServiceNow, the world’s leading IT Service Management platform, in December 2011 and has been a key member of the leadership team during the company’s exponential growth period.
With years of experience helping businesses navigate technology, he is uniquely positioned to advise Betterez on our continued evolution and building of our software into a true Reservations Platform.
We asked Dave some questions to get his take on innovation and how companies in the ground travel industry can remain competitive and relevant in the digital age. Here is what he had to share with us on the matter.
Q & A with Dave Wright
Q: Dave, you have been on the Betterez Advisory Board since 2016. With years of insight into technology across multiple industries, what do you feel is the biggest challenge that ground travel companies face today?
A: The ground travel industry is undergoing a transformation with the likes of mobile-first rideshare services, the growth in the autonomous vehicle market, and the shift towards Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).
To thrive in this new economy, traditional bus operators need to shift how they do business. The effect of technology in the world of ground travel cannot be underestimated and may even start to change the way that people commute around cities in the future.
Q: What’s your perspective on the barriers intercity bus operators face in terms of accessing a wider market? After all, there is potential given air travel is expensive and covers relatively fewer destinations…
A: The bus industry needs to evolve with changing consumer demands. People desire instant and constant connectivity and expect to be able to make reservations in a few clicks of a button. Think about how Uber and Lyft work. Applications should provide mobile access to allow people to not only make reservations but also understand availability and timing.
Currently, many bus reservation systems are dated or consist of DIY technology that doesn’t scale as the operation grows. A modern, robust reservations platform can offer so much more, and using the right one which provides a great user experience can drive utilization and customer loyalty for ground travel companies.
Q: You are at the helm of a leading IT Service Management Platform, helping businesses to find ways of running more efficiently. What would your advice be for large bus and coach companies looking to modernize their technology to not only survive, but compete and grow?
A: I think that these companies should look at how other areas of transport are working – from Loyalty Programs to easy reservation systems, entertainment to connectivity. I see train companies starting to learn from airlines now – there is no reason why ground transportation companies should be doing the same. With the acceptance of concepts like ridesharing, there is an opportunity to reinvent the image of the business.
Q: Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Automation are playing their part in shaping the industry, how long is it going to be before ground travel operators simply can’t run their businesses without these tools anymore?
A: Every industry goes through a revolution. Normally it is technology driven, and recently we have seen changes altering everything from the way financial services work, to the way that we buy consumer goods.
I think we have seen how companies who have not changed have been affected over the last ten years. The world of retail has seen a decline in store-based experiences, and we have seen these companies then adapt by creating online presences and working with different market places.
Once you see a first mover starting to disrupt something, that should be the alarm bell to start evaluating what your strategy is.
Q: On a more tactical level, current systems and processes are often what slow a business down. Do you have any foundation pointers to provide to bus and rail operators to help them modernize and improve their overall scalability?
A: 1. Get out of legacy pricing management where everything is manual and exception based. Streamline and automate your pricing and pricing change processes. Even look at how pricing can become dynamic in nature based on situational usage.
2. Think about optimizing the foundational elements of your operation. For example, capacity management, reporting on ridership, easily identifying top and under-performing routes, and scheduling so you can continuously improve and refine the efficiency of your network.
3. Work with a ticket management platform that will help improve your sales exponentially by enabling you to grow your sales channels. For example, sales with corporations, third-party distributors, colleges and OTA’s.
Q: Lastly, as in other industry segments, competition is significant in recruiting and retaining drivers, sales agents and other key roles. How can leading bus and coach operators see to it that they create both a nurturing environment for their employees and ensure their longevity in the industry?
A: Many companies are now realizing that creating a great employee experience which can be in the form of benefits, flexibility or rewards, is key to retention and recruitment of high talent individuals. However, companies sometimes focus on technology spend to improve CSAT scores and forget to maintain investments that can drive Employee Satisfaction as well.
So to keep your business innovating and your employees motivated, provide them with a forward thinking work environment which helps them solve their problems in the same way you would for your clients.
Don’t get stuck on the repetition of internal processes just because it has been that way for years on end. Listen to the problems your employees face with processes in your business, and put time into creating a solution that works. You will see a decisive change in morale if you put your workforce forefront.
A big thank you to Dave for taking the time to share his insights with us.
If you would like to read more of Dave’s work, see his post on Why your most firmly ingrained processes might be slowing you down. In it, he discusses new ways of thinking around business operational systems and asks leaders to question whether their existing ones truly serve a purpose, or are followed purely out of routine.