(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Enjoying a water taxi ride is a charmingly quaint way to move around a city. Paper tickets? Still quaint, but decidedly less charming.
In 2016, Baltimore Water Taxi operated with an exclusively paper ticketing system. When the company was sold in 2016, new ownership, along with president and CEO Mike McDaniel, pushed for modernizing ticketing.
They wanted to develop a digital ticket sales and scan system that aligned with customer expectations and would provide deep business intelligence. They were determined to upgrade its digital capabilities, akin to accelerating from 40 knots to 80 knots, within one year.
Baltimore Water Taxi looked at four or five different potential development partners, and local software engineering firm SmartLogic kept on popping up to the top of the list, McDaniel said.
None of the potential partners were familiar with the unique business of operating a water taxi service and the complexities of processing tickets in the middle of a body of water. CEO Yair Flicker, along with Dan Ivovich, Director of Development Operations and the rest of the team at SmartLogic, “grasped our business a lot faster than the others. The value of their getting our operations became evident throughout the project,” McDaniel said.
“You’re setting yourself up for failure if you don’t align with somebody who can help you keep up with technology, or even stay a step ahead of it, McDaniel said.
“For me, that’s absolutely SmartLogic.”
From minimum viable product to refined system
The development project rolled out in two phases. First, the SmartLogic team built a digital ticketing system that generates a barcode delivered via email or SMS to the buyer. Tickets could be purchased on that taxi service website or through SmartLogic’s boat operator app.
SmartLogic also built the back-end system that generates the barcode, processes sales and ticket scanning, collects data, and integrates online sales with its back-end system.
According to Claire Walker, Baltimore Water Taxi’s Director of Business Development, the goal in a first phase was to “get something rolled out by the end of the summer to be able to start getting data and just get it in the hands of people and see how it’s working in the real world.” The sales app and back-end platform initially rolled out in late August 2017.
For the first time, BWT had detailed insight into its sales and usage data now that ticketing was running on the business intelligence platform developed by SmartLogic.
According to McDaniel, “We were able to validate and correct some assumptions, which we carried into entire operating plan for the following year. Before, it was gut instinct, but now we have absolute numbers that we can rely on to make good decisions.”
For example, the water taxi company identified landing docks with low utilization. It used that information to design more efficient routes for next season to improve customer satisfaction and lower costs.
During the winter, SmartLogic and BWT worked on a second phase that focused on improving performance and capabilities, upgrading to a new payment processor, and a second app focused on improving field sales.
SmartLogic met Baltimore Water Taxi’s goal of rolling out the upgraded and new systems in April 2018, one month in advance of the taxi system’s busiest season.
"SmartLogic has the ability to take a concept to a solution within budget and do it within the allotted time frame. What else could you ask for?"
Tech that meets business objectives
A key part of phase two was providing the taxi’s business development team with the ability to easily devise new ticketing options.
SmartLogic’s new system lets the organization fully customize ticket terms, such as expiration dates, number of days, and allow non-consecutive days. The system also ensures that revenue is recognized correctly for each new ticket type.
When Baltimore Water Taxi heard feedback from its field sales team that there was interest in one-way tickets, it used this functionality to roll out new one-way options in a matter of days using the new technology.
SmartLogic’s functionality eliminated the logistical and cost barriers of responding to customer feedback with new business experiments.
The second phase of the project also called for new coupon functionality, which would allow boat operators to increase sales through discounting options.
But as the roadmap solidified, Ivovich and his team at SmartLogic clarified that other items with greater revenue impact and fewer operational changes could get developed more quickly.
As a result, BWT opted to put the coupon functions on hold. Instead, it used that dev time and budget to get their vendor sales app completed, opening up an entirely new ticket sales channel.
The SmartLogic team acted as a consultative partner that offered BWT more than their technical expertise. Because of the concrete understanding of BWT’s operations, Ivovich and his team at SmartLogic provided meaningful assistance in setting dev priorities that kept the project on budget while achieving high-value business goals.
"SmartLogic could have used the coupon dev to increase revenue from us. But they pointed out the challenges of boat operators explaining coupon options. That’s the kind of internal conversations we have as a team and SmartLogic was having them with us. It really furthers their value to us. They are a part of our team."
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