Uber Proof Your Business.

I get asked a lot of questions about Uber. Things like “What are we going to do about uber?” or “Is Uber going to be the end of the charter business?” and I think that it warrants some serious discussions.

I believe that the first thing to recognize is that Uber is actually not a new product. They have simply found a better way to deliver a service that has been around since before the modern automobile. Uber provides on demand transportation services. Period. The only difference between companies that fill towns around north america with yellow vehicles is that they found a better way for consumers to buy their service.

Dawn of the APP.

Uber found their niche by making the consumption of on demand transportation easy… stupid easy. Open an app, click the come get me button and like some sort of dark 4 door magic, someone shows up. Not only did they make it easier, but through what we know to be playing outside the lines of regulations that should govern their type of service, they have been able to make it less expensive as well.

It is however important to understand that price is not now, nor will it be in the future, the key motivating factor for people who use services like Uber. It is convenience. They built a powerful tool that make consuming their product easier… an app.

What about motorcoach?

Uber of late has been dipping their toes into a lot of markets. Everything from “Hay, go grab me some takeout” with uber eats to adding different kinds of vehicles to their service. From luxury cars, helicopters, and even boats they continue to broaden their offering through this established consumption model. This has spawned a myriad of questions from our industry wondering if perhaps buses are next.

It is natural for our industry to worry about this but the answer to this question is really already in our booking systems. How many times do you currently get a call from a group who is standing on the street corner with 40 people looking for a ride 6 blocks away?

If you are like most companies not many if at all! A few people maybe even a dozen…maybe, but the chances of having large groups who have “on demand” needs for transportation isn’t how the charter bus industry works.

So Where does that leave us?

So does this mean that we can just turn a blind eye to this whole mess and continue on our merry way? NO. Not even a little bit. You see Uber is teaching the transportation world some very important lessons and if we want to avoid the birth of an Uber like entity in our own backyard we need to realize that to Uber proof our business, and our industry, there are things we need to do differently.

Uber is a success based almost exclusively on their app. To say it is easy is an understatement. I am always surprised by the numbers of coach operators who I run into who passionately say “Oh, I never take uber, I think they are terrible and don’t want to support them!”. If you were running a restaurant and there was another establishment down the street that was knocking it out of the park every day you would want to see what they have to offer wouldn’t you? Of course you would .Uber is no different. If you haven’t already, download the app, put in your credit card and try it. Once you have you can delete the app if you want, but you should know what it is they have done.

The app makes hailing, riding, paying for and even expensing on demand transportation a breeze and while I don’t believe we have very much to worry about when it comes to Uber launching a fleet of motorcoaches that take over the charter market in North America, I do believe that unless we find a way to follow suite, someone else will.

If you look at Uber’s model of how people book it is simply 1:Open app 2: Choose what type of vehicle you want  3: Confirm your pick up point 4: Push button… done… When you overlay that with the steps required to book a charter bus the gap is immediately obvious.

So who is booking?

It is no big surprise to hear that Uber’s biggest demographic of users are Millennials. This massive, up and coming, group of consumers are proving day in and day out that they want easier ways to consume. While many of us may find it almost comical it is their truth.

“I don’t want to have to take my credit card out and swipe it… cant I just tap my phone on the thing?” Apple pay.

“I dont want to have to get up and go over to the light switch to turn off my lights… cant I just click an app?” Phillips Hue.

“ I don’t want to have to stand on the side of the road out in the rain waiting for a cab.” Uber.

“I don’t want to have to actually go to the store, deal with parking, and all that other stuff to do my shopping.” Amazon.com

And coming soon to a charter company near you… “I don’t want to have to do so much paperwork, deal with answering so many questions, and talk to actual humans to book a charter bus.” …What comes next will be a turning point in our industry.

So how do we Uber proof our businesses?

The first thing to do is realize that how it has been done, is not how it will be done in the future. Millennials and now even other older generations are becoming accustom to easy.

Our job moving forward is to rapidly accommodate this desire and reshape the experience of booking a charter bus. For some companies this may be an app or a fully integrated online booking experience. For others it may be to just simplifying their existing booking process, dramatically reducing the time and effort it takes to book.

Will we wake up tomorrow and discover that groups have started standing on street corners looking for rides across town? Will group leaders all of a sudden stop pre-arranging transportation and just count on “on demand” charter companies to fill their needs? No, in all likelihood not. But, will we find that more and more of our group leaders, corporate accounts, sports teams, church groups, wedding planners and all of our other consumers will begin to be more and more influenced by the trends to make consuming our products easier? Absolutely.

More people are becoming accustom to the ease of using new technologies to simplify their life. At the same time Millennials are becoming the people who will be responsible for booking our services. To them easy is not a luxury it is a necessity and they have proven time and time again that companies who don’t listen to their needs will be passed by and never looked at again.

The future is bright for the charter bus industry. There will continue to be needs that only our industry can fill. There will be operators who evolve and change at this pivotal time and who make the shifts necessary to streamline how people consumer their services! Will you be one of them?