Baltimore Water Taxi
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SmartLogic propels Baltimore Water Taxi's Digital Transformation
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, other than accepting credit card payments for sales. When the company was sold in 2016, the new ownership, along with president and CEO Mike McDaniel, focused on modernizing ticketing.
Baltimore Water Taxi engaged SmartLogic to develop a digital ticket sales and scan system that:
- aligns with customer expectations for a 21st century ticketing experience
- enhances their flexibility to experiment with different ticket types and packages
- functions as a comprehensive business intelligence platform that collects and processes as many data points as possible to gain insight on how to improve services and operations
In short, Baltimore Water Taxi was determined to upgrade its digital capabilities, akin to accelerating from 40 knots to 80 knots, within one year.
SmartLogic delves into more than just technology
Baltimore Water Taxi looked at four or five different potential development partners, but McDaniel says, “SmartLogic kept on popping up to the top of the list.”
None of their 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. Yet Dan Ivovich, Director of Development Operations at SmartLogic, and his team “grasped our business a lot faster than the others. The value of their getting our operations became evident throughout the project,” McDaniel explains.
Quick progress from minimum viable product to refined system
The development project rolled out in two phases. 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 BWT’s website (built by a 3rd party) 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, Director of Business Development the goal in this 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, BWT 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 phase two, during which SmartLogic:
- improved system performance
- integrated ticket sales with a new payment processor (Square)
- expanded the functionality that provided flexibility to create new ticket types quickly
- enhanced reporting capabilities
- built a second sales app for use by the field sales team and 3rd party vendors along the harbor, like local hotels and entertainment venues
SmartLogic met BWT’s goal of rolling out the upgraded and new systems in April 2018, one month in advance of the start of their busy 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?” -- Mike McDaniel, CEO, Baltimore Water Taxi
New system expands Baltimore Water Taxi’s ticketing options
A key part of phase two was providing the Business Development team with the ability to easily devise new ticketing options. SmartLogic’s system lets them fully customize ticket terms, such as expiration dates, number of days, and allow non-consecutive days. Just as important, the system also ensures that revenue is recognized correctly for each new ticket type.
So when BWT got feedback from its field sales team that there was interest in one-way tickets, it used this functionality to rollout a one-way ticket option, including a 10-pack option, in a couple of days. The SmartLogic functionality eliminates the logistical and cost barriers to experimenting with new ticket types in quick response to customer feedback.
Baltimore Water Taxi sees SmartLogic as an honest partner that produces quantifiable results
The SmartLogic team has been a consultative partner who offered BWT more than their technical expertise. Due to their concrete understanding of BWT’s operations, Dan and his team provided meaningful assistance in setting dev priorities that kept the project on budget while achieving high-value business goals.
The original plan was to roll out coupon functionality on the boat operator’s sales app as part of phase two. Ivovich 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.
"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. I mean they are a part of our team." -- Mike McDaniel, CEO, Baltimore Water Taxi
Why BWT will continue to work with SmartLogic in the future
“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. For me, that's absolutely SmartLogic.” – Mike McDaniel, president and CEO of Baltimore Water Taxi.