‘You can’t be efficient without it’
What’s one of the most essential components of a motorcoach tour/charter operation? For Jeff Polzien of Red Carpet Charters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, it’s the software that keeps the business organized and running.
“You cannot be efficient in this day and time without it,” he said. “The tour software that we’re using automates so much of the operation. Dispatching, it makes it much easier to keep track of your fleet. It interfaces with your tracking software and electronic logging software. On the maintenance side, you can easily scan in parts, it keeps track of your PMs, keeps track of your fuel usage and fuel economy, keeps track of your inventory, inventory turnover, etc.”
While operational software has been available for years, today’s software is more advanced, allowing for more information, access and options.
Laura Horvath, with software provider RBS, Inc. out of Cherry Valley, New York, says that her company’s tour software, GoTour, is working toward offering more system access.
“We’re getting ready to launch our version five program, and that will allow for use on phones and tablets, so it will be much more responsive in the fact that you can read it on a phone or tablet,” she said.
For example, Horvath said, a tour guide can be on the road talking with a customer about future tours and book that tour right on the coach. Or the guide can check on tour elements such as meal selection.
“She doesn’t have to wait until she gets back into the office or call someone to make that reservation in the office,” she said.
Eric Elliott, vice president of sales and service with software provider Distinctive Systems based in Estero, Florida, highlights the “to-do” list functionality of its Tour Booking System.
“This helps with when vendor payments need to be made, the deposits, the balance,” he said. “When you need to assign a tour director or book a particular vehicle for that tour, all those of those tour-specific to-do items appear in that functionality to increase the efficiency of your tour operation.”
Chris Barwon, who is also with software provider RBS, Inc., shared that over the past couple of years, the industry has pushed for integration. That’s been the focus on the development side at GoChart, while Distinctive Systems has introduced new functions into its Coach Manager system.
“The task functionality, or to-do list functionality, allows each quote to have the sales follow-up managed, so you know your sales team is doing follow-up to each and every quote,” said Elliott. “And then when that quote comes over to a charter, ensuring that you know when that deposit needs to be paid, balance needs to be paid, the itinerary has been received from the client, if it’s an over the road trip—all of those little to-do list items to make sure are done to give the client the best experience—that task functionality helps our clients manage.”
On the operational side, Elliott said the charter system has driver, operations and sales portals. The driver portal allows drivers to log in and see their work, and the dispatcher knows what tasks the driver has completed. The operations portal allows dispatchers to log in via web page and handle necessary tasks, like a vehicle or driver swap. The client portal allows customers to see quotes online, make deposits and statement payments and more, all directly off an operator’s website.
When it comes to its Vehicle Maintenance System, Elliott said the key thing is helping clients manage all scheduled service, preventative maintenance, defects, tires, inventory controls, etc.
“I always say the vehicle maintenance system really pays for itself when you look at the inventory controls that we’re putting in, giving operators a very easy way to keep tabs on their warranties for their parts. It can add up very quickly when you have these $4-5 parts continually breaking, having the warranty controls in there to manage those claims.”