Picture this scene: Your company places you in charge to ensure the annual sales meeting goes off without a hitch. Everyone in your corporation will be there, from low level staff to high value players. You set the date and book the venue. You team lead projects, your agenda is set. Plane tickets are booked for company executives, meetings facilities are set, and scores of hotel rooms are cordoned off. Meals are scheduled at nearby hot spots, recreational activities are planned for after-hours fun and everything is accounted for, on schedule and under budget—or so you think.
The meetings and events industry, as reported by The Carlson Wagonlit Travel Management Institute, spends more than $650 billion each year on hotels, airfares, entertainment, food and beverage. That’s billion with a “b.” Even with astronomical amounts of money poured into these efforts there remains a significant gap in the meetings and event planning process for most businesses worldwide. And, as executive administrators and travel managers, saddled with planning the details, that gap is often a pit that can swallow the success of an entire event.
So, the picture evolves: Your CEO lands on the plane you booked for her, en route to the venue you chose for her, to kick off the annual meeting you planned for her and the black car she caught to take her across town smells like a jug of sour milk. The rain falling hard causes delays because the windshield wipers don’t work. And, wouldn’t you know it, at the end of the trip. The in-car credit card swipe fails to connect, causing a disagreement between the driver and CEO on how she plans to pay for the ride. The CEO is livid, her car was late and the event starts late.
According to Business Travel News, ground transportation makes up less than 10 percent of the typical spend in meetings and events planning, yet is quite often the first and last part of an attendee’s experience—and one of the last areas where you want anything to go wrong.
Can you afford to risk the success of your meeting or event on your choice of ground transportation provider?
If the answer is “no,” here are six questions to consider when selecting your supplier of choice. Answer “yes” to all six and save yourself the headache—and heartache—of searching for new work.
Did I resist the temptation to let attendees fend for themselves on ground transportation because it would be “more convenient?”
If you answered “yes,” well done. Why is this temptation so strong? Because the pervasiveness of cabs and ride hailing apps is all the rage. But try flagging down a taxi or finding an available on-demand driver in Boston at 5:00 p.m., when everyone at the convention is flooding out onto the street at the same time. No rides, delayed rides, “my driver says he’s here, but I can’t find my ride,”—“my driver cancelled my ride!”—bottlenecked traffic amidst these rides, the nightmare goes on. Having ground transportation arrangements pre-set with a premium-level service provider ensures that your VIPs travel on time and happy.
Does this supplier understand the difference between “group transportation” and “meetings and event ground transportation management”?
A wordy question, for sure—but a critical ask nonetheless. In fact, there is often a lot of confusion between “group transportation” and “Meetings & Event Ground Transportation Management.” To provide transportation for a group of people is elementary. There are literally thousands of providers that can provide buses or vans to move a group of people from point A to B. Far fewer suppliers actually provide the dedicated, competent management and planning services for complex group movements which encompasses meetings and events.
Does this supplier have a proven process for success that I can verify?
A thoroughly experienced premium ground transportation provider should have a proprietary practice in place that is auditable for proven, repeated success. Ask to see it. Anyone can talk a big game, but a request like this often lifts the veil on so-called “experienced” suppliers to show they know next to nothing about how to deliver what you need; especially when it comes to you request to review their documented processes in a tangible way. Be cautious. A follow up question is to ask for two or three current references, similar to the size and nature of your business, which used the vendors’ services for similar purposes. Can the supplier provide references quickly and with ease? Be wary if you hear excuses or sense unreasonable delays, if either request remains unfulfilled.
Do they service meetings and events on a regular basis?
Anyone can place a bullet point on a website and say that they do “this” or “that,” but a real test of a vendor’s strength is in its consistent funnel of business. Is there a steady stream of clients booking meetings and event ground transportation through this vendor? A robust company can prove that they service upwards of 1,000 meetings or events, per year, depending upon the scalability of the fleet and number of employees. And who, exactly, are these clients? Again, a solid reference check will help tell this story.
Speaking of scalability, how do they procure services in the location the meeting or event is taking place?
It is one thing to strut your stuff as a vendor in New York, but if the client’s meeting is in Orlando a well-oiled machine in the big apple won’t get the job done. Inquire about the composition of the fleet—how many vehicles; are they company owned or independently operated; what types of vehicles does the supplier provide; and where? Also, how does the provider choose, screen and train the chauffeurs? A healthy business model means standards-based practices that allow a company to deliver exacting measures of service delivery anywhere the supplier claims to operate. If the company suggests having a global footprint, premium-level service should be identical from San Diego to Shanghai.
Can this supplier provide on-site management during the event?
A one-day board meeting at a single location may not require on-site assistance, but try a week-long event with more than 1,000 attendees in a city 3,000 miles away. Scrutinize suppliers to determine how hands-on they are in the planning process. Do the suppliers provide your account one single point of contact, or do you have to wait in line whenever you call? Are on-site coordinators provided to help execute large scale events? Will the supplier provide real-time updates during the event, via teams on the ground, to keep you in the loop every step of the way? The scalability of the fleet and the tenure of the company may help determine the strength of the supplier to deliver on-site manpower.
Don’t overlook the importance of ground transportation for meetings and events. Paint a better picture for your company and for yourself when planning meetings and events and give your résumé a breather.