Buyers guide: 5 ways to buy and manage ground transport

ANNE BARLOW HAS WORKED AT UBS BANK FOR 20 YEARS, managing various services, with the last eight years being within travel. Based in the City of London, she is head of UK and NEEMEA (Northern and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa) travel operations, and is responsible for the bank’s UK ground transport programme.

“In the UK, we have a mature but constantly evolving ground transport programme, with formal contractual arrangements in place for our preferred vendors and booking tools,” says Barlow. “In smaller markets, where a dedicated programme may not be required, we use local companies. In the UK we have two booking tools: one for taxis and one for cars. Our aim is to consolidate taxis on to our car booking tool.

“We are nearly there and in the last month we have launched a car booking tool and mobile application using Encompass. Ad hoc transport requirements do not have to be a problem: bookings can be made via a mobile app, at a desk or via a call centre for ASAP and pre-booked journeys. Booking through the tool is charged to the bank’s preferred corporate card and that way, we maintain volumes, policy tracking and duty-of-care to travellers. E-hailing is permissible at the traveller’s discretion for non-pre-booked journeys.”

 1 IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THE REQUIREMENTS OF ALL AREAS OF YOUR COMPANY. We talk to the business and con­stantly survey travellers to understand what they want and to ensure we are de­livering the correct level of service to support business needs. The important elements of our RFI [request for informa­tion] were technology, price and simplic­ity/ease of booking and use, while meeting policy requirements. We are not too pre­scriptive during an RFI because we want vendors to add innovation. We listed ev­erything we felt we had today, and every­thing we would like tomorrow, and put it into a spreadsheet, so suppliers could tick whether and when they could do it. We wanted to enhance our product and ser­vices, not end up with the same or less than we had. We went out to tender to eight vendors and pared that down to four. The evaluation process was formal, with weighted scoring based on our key require­ments, including cost and functionality. It is also critical that the vendor can comply with the bank’s vendor risk assessment process, which covers items such as data security and is non-negotiable.

2 FOR CAR VENDORS, CHECKING THEIR VETTING PROCEDURES IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF DUTY-OF-CARE. We do a site visit to make certain their training and procedures are in place as documented in the RFP [request for proposal] and we meet employ­ees and ask them about the programme, to ensure staff are fully versed and compliant. We also look at their vetting process and ask to see the driver file, to ensure the vendors are doing the vetting process they claim. We do not allow subcontracting to ensure we retain control from a duty-of-care perspective.

3 FOR THAT REASON AND BECAUSE IT’S A CHALLENGE TO GET CARS AT CERTAIN TIMES OF NIGHT, generally between 10pm and 1am, we have four vendors. We give sup­pliers an equal percentage of the work but that is scalable, so if one is performing poorly or needs assistance in reducing volume, we reduce their allocation for a set period and share it between the others. It is set up to allow the vendors and our service to succeed, not to manage failure; penalties are a last resort. If none of the vendors can get to us within the agreed SLA [service-level agreement] they know we will place the traveller in a black cab and they will share the difference between their fare and the cab. This is, however, rare.

4 ENCOMPASS HAS A DEDICATED IT TEAM AND IS CONSTANTLY EN­HANCING THE BOOKING TOOL, which we encourage. Our tool produces all the MI [management informa­tion] we want, but there is always the risk you ask for too much and do not use it. So we asked what people in the business needed, rather than wanted. Bookers and travellers wanted anything to do with ex­penses. Have I booked a car? Cancelled? When is it coming? Can they pull invoices and credit notes straight off the system? Business managers are more interested in adherence to policy and driving down costs. Who is keeping cars waiting? Who is spending most? Are they travelling inside policy? A key point of our policy is that public transport should be used wherever possible.

5 TIMING THE RFP IS THE HARDEST THING. When we go to market, we try to make sure our peers are not doing so at the same time, because vendors responding to one RFP are going to give it a lot more thought than if they are responding to a dozen. And I would have reservations about our key peers all using the same company and going live in the same week. Most important is to get out there and network, including with new companies, which may have some good ideas to bring to your pro­gramme. Also, talk to your incumbent suppliers and ask what they would suggest to stop you going to market – sometimes it costs less to renegotiate a contract and bring in changes than to go out to tender.

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