January 2007

Innovative Operator Profile: Staying on Top of Technology

by Alex Roman

As customers become more and more comfortable with using the Internet to purchase goods or plan vacations, businesses have had to step up to the plate to ensure that they won’t be left behind. Colorado-based Ramblin Express acknowledged this essential business component and changed its Website from a Web page “brochure” to a dynamic site that has been central to the operation’s growth.

“By constantly refining it, and staying on top of technologies related to enhancing our site architecture, tags and links, we have been able to improve our search engine rankings organically,” says Ramblin President and CEO Todd Holland. “This has increased the number of actual ‘quick quote’ requests generated through the site.”

Combined with a strategically focused “pay-per-click” advertising campaign, Ramblin has increased its online presence as well as the number of charter requests and bookings since overhauling its site last spring. Also adding to that growth is a new variable pricing charter cost matrix, which focuses on Ramblin’s operating costs and how they relate to a charter or contract request.

“The guesswork and gut feeling methods have been replaced by a systematic model set up to stabilize equipment utilization while maximizing operating margins,” Holland explains. “We win the business we feel that we need to, while letting a lot of low-margin business go.”

The combined strategies created a more than 30% growth in charter sales in 2006, with that growth expected to continue in 2007.

Its charter services only make up about half of its business, however. Ramblin is also the exclusive transportation provider for the five-star, five-diamond Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs. Its casino shuttle service to the Broadmoor will also soon feature a fine-tuned “Ramblin Rewards” card system that will enable the operation to track and reward its frequent riders, as well as accept major credit cards aboard all of its routes.

The operation’s shuttle and charter services combined with its chauffeured transportation account for its more than 1.4 million miles traveled annually.

Ramblin’s dynamic 62vehicle fleet features 26 motorcoaches, including 19 from MCI. Plans are in the works to add six more MCI J4500s with CAT engines and ZF transmissions in March, thus taking another step toward the operation’s loftier goal.

“Standardizing our fleet has been a long-term goal for many operational/training reasons, as well as for the consistency in product and service that our customers have come to expect,” explains Holland.

To keep its drivers and passengers safe, Ramblin recently installed DriveCam video recording systems on its entire fleet. It also has a safety incentive program that pays drivers three cents per mile if they meet or exceed certain safety and customer service criteria.

In addition, two years ago the company paid $30,000 to convert loft space into an onsite training facility that Holland says has been well received by drivers.

In addition to the in-house training program, drivers take part in Broadmoor’s “Keeping the Stars” training program and the International Motor Coach Group’s driver certification program.

According to Holland, all of it is simply part of Ramblin’s continuing commitment to stay on top of its customers’ needs.

AT A GLANCE

Motorcoaches: 26

Fleet mix: MCI, Prevost, Neoplan

Employees: 118

Drivers: 94

Year started: 1993

Service area: Denver and Colorado Springs

Services offered: Charters, shuttle, chauffeur

Average annual mileage: 1.4 million

President: Todd Holland (pictured)


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