VETTRO CASE STUDY: SUPERSHUTTLE

Draft, Jude Stewart, 3.28.08

SuperShuttle turned to Vettro in 2002 to centralize and streamline their van dispatch system,  becoming the first U.S. company to deploy an enterprise-grade mobile application on GPS-enabled handsets. Innovation followed innovation as SuperShuttle built steadily on Vettro’s easily scalable mobile platform. Several years and numerous deployments later, SuperShuttle depends on Vettro’s combination of creativity and proven expertise to improve customer service, reduce operational costs and further improve efficiencies company-wide.

The Challenge:

In 1983, SuperShuttle pioneered the concept of shared-rides to and from airports with the opening of its Los Angeles, California, operation. Today SuperShuttle serves over 8 million customers annually at 25 major airports in 19 cities with approximately 1,200 distinctive blue and yellow vans on the road. The company has partnered with many leading online travel providers, including Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Southwest, JetBlue and others.

SuperShuttle’s dispatch kept pace with the firm’s rapid growth until 1998. They had outsourced dispatch to a taxi software company, but the firm could no longer afford to implement its dispatching application at every site. “It was so expensive to put in that we had to stop,” recalls Mike Hogan, SuperShuttle’s CIO. Instead, the company built its own system for use in mid-size and smaller markets.

While serviceable, the new dispatch system didn’t scale quickly enough to keep pace with SuperShuttle’s continuing growth – and the cracks began to show. “Our only communication with our drivers was to send text messages to their pagers,” says Hogan. Drivers used a combination of pager alerts, frequent phone calls to the office and old-fashioned clipboards to track pickups and drop-offs. Whether updating their routes for a new reservation, verifying passenger payment status, or simply getting driving directions, SuperShuttle drivers juggled much of the dispatch system manually – all while doing their main jobs, of driving customers to and from the airports.

In 2002, SuperShuttle recognized the potential of then-nascent GPS technology on cell phones to replace costly on-board dispatch systems. “We felt wireless GPS had the potential to help us kill two birds with one stone,” notes Hogan. “We wanted to move from a dispersed IT infrastructure to a centralized Service Oriented Architecture; and, just as critically, we needed to streamline the dispatch function to work better and more cheaply, without so much manual intervention.” The company also knew its next-generation dispatch needed to work with multiple back-end systems – from reservations to payments and financial reporting – and scale quickly and inexpensively, as the company continued to expand. Finally, the firm wanted a highly usable interface that would encourage driver adoption and minimize their training time. “Drivers want to drive, period,” notes Hogan. “They don’t want to struggle with a complex new system while they’re battling traffic, too.”

The Choice:

SuperShuttle turned to Vettro in 2002 to accomplish both of these goals. “We chose Vettro because they’d already demonstrated expertise in this burgeoning field of mobile technology. We wanted a partner who could think creatively and push the envelope, but at the same time deliver a reliable, rigorously tested platform we could depend on,” says Hogan.

Hogan and his team also thought the Vettro 360 platform offered the best potential to scale over time. “The Vettro 360 platform is designed to deploy upgrades over the air, so you never have to call in all the wireless devices for a manual upgrade,” says Hogan. “That caught our attention.” Hogan also thought Vettro’s easily customizable user interface would drive user adoption.

The Rollout:

In 2002, SuperShuttle tapped Vettro to provide the middleware and software that could communicate directly with the company’s backend dispatch system via standard cell phones from Nextel.  This made SuperShuttle the first company in the U.S. to deploy an enterprise-grade mobile application on GPS-enabled handsets. This entire infrastructure was deployed and managed from a central location within weeks; the mobile application was installed over the wireless network.

Within months of initial deployment SuperShuttle saw its operating costs plummet as customer satisfaction and driver productivity soared. “The Vettro 360 platform allowed us to expand and upgrade the service over a dozen times since the initial deployment,” says Hogan. The firm has also added hundreds of new drivers to the system, each within minutes.

Subsequent deployments used integrated GPS capability on handsets and BlackBerry smartphones to enable SuperShuttle to dispatch the closest, most available driver to each job. Drivers can now accept or reject assignments in real-time, view passenger information and pickup / dropoff details, look up driving directions, update ride progress, record expenses and exchange broadcast or one-to-one text messages with fellow drivers and dispatch. GPS data is passed in the background, so that dispatch can track each vehicle’s location, monitor ride progress and optimize schedules across the entire fleet.

The application now also includes a cashiering system, allowing credit card charges via swiping an add-on module to the same mobile device used for dispatching. Most recently, the firm added Google RideFinder and “Where is my Van?” capabilities. Passengers enter their location into Google.com or enter their reservation number into SuperShuttle’s interface. The technology then locates the nearest SuperShuttle van and dispatches it to the passenger location automatically.

The Bottom Line:

In each stage of its Vettro deployment, SuperShuttle has seen measurable improvement in key business areas:

  • Dramatically reduced operational costs, compared to expensive on-board dispatch systems and other mobile solutions. Optimized routing also saves on fuel expenses, while overall productivity gains has meant SuperShuttle can service more customers well while hiring fewer drivers and dispatch staff.
  • Significantly improved productivity. Drivers make more efficient runs and spend considerably less time between runs on paperwork.

 

  • Better customer service. Vettro-enabled mobile devices mean drivers have full, real-time access to reservations, payments, financial reporting back-end systems, along with GPS driving directions and traffic updates.

The Future:

SuperShuttle has taken full advantage of what mobility and the Vettro 360 platform can offer their enterprise – and Hogan’s team is ready for the next big leap forward. The Vettro application will soon work with SuperShuttle’s mapping and flight status monitoring service as well as dispatch. The firm is also busy rolling out these mobile-based applications to new service cities nationwide.

Hogan emphasizes Vettro’s bottom-line results as a key impetus for the growth in the partnership. “When we saw how many aspects of our business quantifiably improved by adding mobiilty, that’s what convinced us to keep expanding the platform,” says Hogan. “We’re glad to have partnered with Vettro,” he adds. “They’ve kept pace with our innovations every step of the way.”