Management & Operations

Employee, customer loyalty key topics at UMA Expo

Posted on March 1, 2003

Only 6% of customers make a buying decision based on price alone. Price is not the first thing to worry about — customer service is, keynote speaker Wolf J. Rinke told attendees on the opening day of the United Motorcoach Association’s (UMA) 2003 Expo held in February in Orlando, Fla. Operators can ensure good customer service by developing happy, loyal employees. Acknowledging good work by employees and making work fun are key to developing good employees. Other session speakers included Dan Commiato of the Transportation Security Administration. He discussed the importance of monitoring the industry and reporting any suspicious activities or wrongdoings. Dave Bolen, president of New World Tours in Lorton, Va., described how he turned his company around after being charged in 2002 with violation of the Clean Water Act for illegal sewage dumping. “I started over,” Bolen said. He followed advice from consultants and invested in training his employees on all government laws, policies and procedures and urged members of the industry to do the same. “I’m not happy about the criminal record,” Bolen said. “I am happy about how much better my company runs.” Also during the general session, Victor Parra, UMA president and CEO, revealed the new association logo. “We needed something to represent the exciting changes in the industry,” he said. Other opening-day events included educational seminars, which offered timely information on cost-effective marketing tactics for small businesses, budget planning, managing finances and debt. On the Expo floor, which opened a day earlier this year, attendees got a sneak peak of new products and vehicles from more than 100 companies. An exhibit highlight was the unveiling of Setra’s luxury motorcoach, the S417. The new model, powered by a Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine, offers seating for 58 passengers. The S417’s operating functions are all linked through the integrated multiplex electrical system. A unique function includes the automatic closure of roof vents when windshield wipers are turned on. Setra, part of DaimlerChrysler’s stable of brands, is projecting a 10% market share for the year, said Patrick Scully, Setra president and CEO. “I think we have a home run here,” he said. The coaches unveiled at the UMA Expo were the first two production S417s for the North American market. Both were purchased by Cyr Bus Lines of Old Town, Maine, a Setra customer since 1986. Also debuting a new vehicle, Blue Bird Corp. showed its Express 4500 model, featuring a Caterpillar C-12 diesel engine with exhaust braking and a 296-inch wheelbase. The UMA’s 4th Annual Vision Awards ceremony took place on the second day of the Expo, with Debbie Zmorenski of the Disney Institute as guest speaker. Zmorenski discussed customer service elements such as creating and stretching a customer experience that motorcoach operators can incorporate into their day-to-day strategy. Jeff Polzien of Red Carpet Charters in Oklahoma City presided over the awards presentation. Winners included Marcia Fields Milton of First Priority Tours in District Heights, Md.; Scott James of Red Arrow Express in Edmonton, Alberta; James C. Keelen of J & M Keelen Transportation in Long Branch, N.J.; Rich Illes of Sun Diego Charter Co. in San Diego, Calif.; Loren Jones of Northwest Iowa Transportation in Fort Dodge, Iowa; Doug Anderson of Anderson Coach & Tours in Greenville, Pa.; John W. Bailey of Bailey Coach in York, Pa.; and Russell Ooten of Greene Coach Co. Inc. in Greenville, Tenn. Additional awards included METRO Magazine’s Operator of the Year award given to Mike and Rick Hillard of River Trail Transit Lines/Tri-State Travel in Galena, Ill. For a profile of the Hillards’ company, see METRO’s February/March 2003 issue.

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