On Target 14 – types of hire
Individuals wanting occasional hire are not likely to be repeat customers, and they will have no idea how much it costs to hire a coach; therefore, they may shop around.
My staff try to get across the point you get what you pay for and can they afford for anything to go wrong on the big day? We might impress on the day, but that is unlikely to lead to a further hire, as they don’t normally have a requirement. That said, those travelling might, so I always ensure we have marketing information in each seat pocket.
Clubs and societies
Groups who like to travel to places of interest as a group, sports organisations are worth cultivating.
The decision of which company to use will normally be down to one individual, so it is important to establish a good relationship with that person. A regular driver helps too, as they will want reassurance of a familiar face they can rely on. Ensuring they deal with the same person when booking also helps…’their friend in the coach business.’
Organisations like this are much less price-sensitive, and once you get the business, the organiser won’t want the uncertainty of changing operators and losing their relationship.
In this category, I include rail replacement. I must say that, in my view, rail replacement often puts our industry in a bad light, given it is replacing a mode of transport that doesn’t go around the houses and with passengers, who inevitably were not expecting to be transferred.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate the modern coach, to unwilling clients
However, this can be mitigated by polite staff, punctuality and well-presented vehicles. If using coaches, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the modern coach, to unwilling clients, who may not otherwise experience the comfort of coach travel. So, marketing material on board, replenished after each trip.
The travel trade is also likely to provide regular work, so they will expect competitive pricing. However, unless they commit to year-round business, I am resistant to discounting too much; each vehicle can only do one job at a time and often tour operator business is disjointed. Their requirements for vehicles less than five years old and other stipulations means they should be charged premium rates. Last year, I benefited from a tour operator who had been let down; the coach operator, I assume, had a better offer than the £400 per day contracted at and I received nearly £1,000 a day for my trouble in covering as a result.
For ad-hoc hire, as against contracts, companies requiring group travel for their staff or clients can be lucrative business. Whoever books the coach or bus is not so concerned about the cost, but rather that it doesn’t go wrong otherwise they get it in the neck from their boss!
For that reason, I ensure we nurture a good relationship with the PA of senior managers and with the travel departments of larger corporate clients. This also ensures we are on the shortlist for longer-term contracts which are normally put out to tender.
Schools and educational establishments
The market for school and university field trips is very price sensitive, but if I can fit it around home-to- school routes, it can be very beneficial both to Marksman Travel and to the school.
It is amazing how flexible the times and dates required can be, if the price goes down! It helps that we keep in regular touch with schools, offering the opportunity to take advantage of out-of-season offers and a willingness to support school initiatives, such as sponsoring prize giving and providing a coach or bus, for familiarisation, of our new generation of customers and prospective employees. I also offer, price reductions for series bookings and make sure if covering sporting events, that a charge is included for bad weather cancellation.
While it is depressing not to see a full order book in January, for mid-summer, the work will come along, so it is important to hold your nerve and hold out for the highest possible price.