Beyond Borders: Why is a ground transportation program important?

Mike Fogarty: Ground transportation is frequently the last item considered — not surprising, given the relatively small percentage of the spend typically attached to ground transport. But I believe there is a disconnect between the attention given to international ground transport and its importance: Not paying attention to what happens to passengers when they step off the plane after an international flight can have risky consequences, including passengers not having the proper currency to pay for the ride or not being able to tell the driver where they would like to go due to language barriers. In the worst case, a passenger could get into the wrong car and find himself the victim of a crime.

BB: What are some major differences in ground transportation options worldwide?

Fogarty: If you think getting a safe, courteous ride for the right price is difficult in New York, imagine it in New Delhi or Moscow, where illegal operators often set standards of pricing, service, and safety. Many international chauffeur service providers offer alternatives to the local experience. But you must be sure they understand the markets they serve, set strict driver standards, and provide value options for small or midsize budgets.

BB: What criteria should be considered when selecting a chauffeur service?

Fogarty: An international ground provider should carry out on-the-ground site inspections with every local partner they engage. They should also have a formal contract with international-provider partners, which specifies strict service standards and requires background checks. Evaluate experience and staying power in the local market. Nowadays, many businesses claim to be “international.” Your ground transport company should be able to provide a history of success in the market to be served along with client references.

Insist on the ability to monitor service levels and spend patterns. A ground transport partner should share with you their estimate of costs and allow you to see how charges accrue over time, from reservation to billing. Look for a provider willing to agree to key performance indicators that meet your requirements, and one that can deliver monthly reports so you can gauge the success of your program. Choose a vendor that uses automated booking. Less time spent booking rides means less cost to you. Insist on quotes and payments in U.S. dollars or require a clear explanation of exchange rates between the local currency and U.S. dollars. Consider not just the cost per ride, but the overall cost of ride administration. Use just one, or a few, providers in order to increase your leverage in negotiating both rate and service standards.

BB: How do I ensure good service?

Fogarty: You should inquire about driver selection and training programs, request copies of your vendor's contracts with affiliate or franchise service providers, obtain certificates of insurance, and conduct site inspections and periodic reviews of service performance with the ground transport company's managers.

Mike Fogarty is CEO of Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services. Based outside Boston, the company maintains chauffeur teams in New York, Boston, London, and Manchester, England, and operates through a network of affiliates in 60 countries. The company recently opened an office in Hong Kong to serve the Asia/Pacific region. For more, visit www.tristarworldwide.com.