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Home > Conservation > Fuel > Business Travel 

Resource Conservation: Fuel: Business Travel

Traveling Conservation
Travel is expensive, however, sometimes a necessary expense if you want your business to grow and thrive. Depending on your business, it isn't just sales staff doing the traveling.

 

business travelAs a green site we can show you calculations of CO2 emissions from an air plane. We can also work you through man-hour loss and expenses for key employees leaving your facility. We have a feeling you already know some if not all of those details.
     We are more interested in providing you with solutions to the things that may cause a massive financial drain on your business. Travel!

Businesses have a product (or several). Your business at one point or another needs to interact with your customer to buy, install, trouble shoot, repair and sometimes (hopefully) sell a new one to when the original product is at the end of its life. There is nothing that compares to human contact for each step on this process.
     We also figure that if you could you would want to support all of your customers 24/7 so that your customer satisfaction would always be top notch. After all, for many, the servicing of the product is just as important as the product itself.
So, how much resources should you devote to this extremely important part of your business? We content you can find a saddle point of providing your customers with great service while still keeping your employees at your facility. This saddle point is dynamic, as your business changes your saddle point will need to be recalculated.
     This is where high tech can meet some of those needs. We do not recommend, however, you try to have it meet all of your needs (depending on the product).
     In this age, where company personnel is spread all across the country (or world) you need to keep in touch. All of those people need to be working and creating value for your company.
     We feel that your customers will have a few things in common. Does your product fill their need. Are all my questions answered correctly before the sale. After the sale how soon do I have a working product. If the product fails in any way, will I have immediate support. Will there be a better product in the future.
   
The Technology:

We are not telling you anything new by saying there is an explosion of technology in this country (around the world). However, that does you no good until you figure out how it enhances your bottom line. No one, including us, can tell you what is best for your business better than you.
     Video can be streamed at incredibly high rates now, cell phone coverage is in more places and every cell phone can take picture and videos. The devices keep getting smaller, cheaper and better.
On line services also are improving. The advent of higher streaming rates means that larger amounts of data can be sent per second than ever before.
     All the providers are racing to give you service that is faster, more reliable, with more coverage. They are looking for new ways to deliver information and programming furiously to be everywhere at all times.
     What we focus on here is a live connection between you and your customers when it is needed. However there are twists on this golden path. Some up front costs may be a bit high.

Sales Call:

Wouldn't be nice if your customer where to come into your brick and mortar, pick something off the shelf, know what that product does, come to the counter with a solid form of payment and have all the necessary licenses and documents in hand? You would not need a sales force. In real life, it is not that simple.
     We know also that many potential customers will not have the ability to go to your brick and mortar or even know that they need your products. How do you get some of them to come to you?
      The give away. We are not talking about mouse pads and sweepstakes. We are talking about having one of your trainers or sales person give a seminar to give away free information common to your industry but not common knowledge out side of your industry. You could do this at particular times at your brick and mortar or do a webinar (a web based seminar). A webinar can be set up so that the attendees can ask questions and see the product in action. This may create sales leads. Through that and your other advertizing your sales force can get many leads. The sales person now has to follow up on those leads.
     The more expensive and complicated your product is the more the sales person will have to know about the product and your business in order to sell it. There are some very smart sales people out there but they will not know everything.
Ideally, you will want a sales person, a scientist or engineer and a manager to come to these meetings with the lead. The sales person can give pricing, terms and conditions. The scientist can discuss feasibility and other applications and the manager can protect the interests of the business.
     Flying a sales team like this across the country is expensive and your manager and engineer is not working on other projects. The potential customer will also have to assign personnel to go with the team all over the facility. Now, we know there is no 100% substitute for that, but technology can come in a close second. If the sales person were live linked with streaming video to a manager and scientist back at the home office the sales person and potential customer can interact on many levels.
     Here you can have the best of all worlds. The potential customer gets all his questions answered correctly right up front with little potential of surprises after the sale. The company gains a potentially loyal customer.
     One could also have a mechanism for potential customers to submit videos of what they need and you would not have to travel 1 mile before you determine feasibility.
     Product demos are great at a customers facility so that the customer sees the use of the product on their own items. However, sometimes the impact is just as strong if the customer prepares samples and sends them to you.

Installation and Training:

You have made the sale and the money has changed hands. It is time to install your product (if needed) and train your customer (if needed). Sometimes the technician that installs the product will not be the person that trains the customer. Many times the installer will give the customer the manual and the trainer may be scheduled to come in a few week. However, for most businesses, if the product is working, it will be used, with or without trained personnel.
     This is were technology can come in. You may want to schedule your trainers to make the training more like a webinar, which can be done where ever the trainer is in the country.
     Here is the key we want you to consider. When the technician installs the product and hands the customer the manual, he/she could also had the customer an ipad or some other cheaper lap top that has streaming video already built in. The technician could establish a connection (wireless or with wires) and say "this is your products assistant". 
     This "product assistant" should be simple to use and only dedicated to the support of your products. It could be used to order consumables of the product with a touch of a button and go anywhere the product does.
However, when it first comes on, the day of installation, it opens a video conference between the customer and the trainer. The trainer could go over basic operation and just give the minimum amount of time to the customer that first day. It should be understood that this trainer could be accessed many times a day for the first month of operation. The trainer could offer to schedule a training session through the "assistant" when the right personnel are there to receive the training.
     It does not end there. The "training assistant" could be loaded (on board) with an electronic version of the manual and training videos for the products. At your facility you can connect with the "assistant" to back up the companies data, download updated video, manual and application note. It could record the training sessions so your customer could reference the training any time.
     If the product is a one of, the manual may have been made on the fly and the training may be a little sparse from the trainer. That is when you can call in the scientist (or engineer) that developed the application to join in the training (on the assistant). The on board videos may not be entirely about the operation but could be about supporting issues.

Trouble Shooting:

There is nothing worst to your customer when the product breaks or stops working. They want it back, up and running immediately. There is nothing more expensive to your business if your product has failures in the field. That is where the "assistant" can come in handy.
    The "assistant" can have trouble shooting videos, technical specs and different tips and tricks. There could also be a technician available to conference with. The technician could see the problem though the video conference and may be able to fix the problem over the video conference. Ultimately, you may have to send your technician out to the facility or have the customer ship the unit back for repair but the technician will already have a birds eye view of the problem before he physically sees the product.
The "assistant" can not solve all of the problems so your assistant may have to service the product physically. However, if you reduce the number of trips a technician makes that is beneficial to your company.
     For those customers with older versions of the product, the technician will see which product he/she is going out to service and has a better chance of having the right parts when they get there.

End of Life:

Ideally, at the end of your products life you will want to sell a replacement product to this customer. Guess what, they will buy it from you. Why, because of all the great (and efficient) support you have given throughout the life of the product.
     What will seal the deal is if you buy back the old product and ship it back to your facility. You may not even have to "buy" it back but take it back. Some of your customers will be looking at a large garbage expensive if they dispose of the product any other way.
"Buying" it back may also help you. You know which parts are salvageable and what you can throw away (your customer may not). Generally, if you have enough on one waste item, you can find a use for it. 
     As a matter of fact, you engineers can design new products that use salvaged parts from the products you "bought" back.
     You can even include some of the disposal costs into the initial cost of the product.

Cost of This Solution:

Time to get out the calculator and pencil.

Press the flesh calculation:
We call it "press the flesh" because we are calculating costs to have people in the room for all of the areas discussed above.

Sales call. To reach the amount of people you could with a webinar, a seminar would have to travel around from city to city. You would have to pay someone full time just to do it. This may be an expense of $3,500 a month to get the sales leads. The travel may add a few thousand to that figure. Then, to have a sales team of 3 to travel might be $1500 each for a couple of sales calls a week plus wages ($10, 000 or more a month). So for these types of sales calls you may be looking at $20,000 to $25,000 a month in expenses to reach 12 to 25 potential customers.
     Installation and training. Your installation costs would probably be about constant however your training may be to 5-10 customers a week if your trainer is going from customer to customer and staying there 1/2 a day. Therefore, your trainer may cost $4,000 to $5,000 a month to service 20 to 60 customers. The trainers travel may be another $10,000 a month for about $15,000 a month to service an average of 50 customers.
     Trouble shooting. If you send a technician out for every problem that the customer can not fix you may be talking $4,000 a month for a technician to service 20 to 40 customers a month. Throwing travel expenses in may make that to a total of $10,000 to $15,000 a month to service 20 to 40 customers a month.
Press less flesh calculation:
Sales call. The webinar/seminar scenario May cost a little extra in getting the software and have a monthly plan. Maybe $20 to $100 a month. This is a saving of travel expenses maybe $2,000 a month and the sales person can potentially see more perspective customers. The team of three could be a team of 1 sales person physically there with the customer and two back in the office for maybe 4 hours in their work day for each customer. The sales person may have to buy $1,000 of extra equipment and have a service connected to that equipment at maybe $150 a month. If the sales person saw the same 12 to 25 people in a month that may be an expense of $10,000 instead of the $20,000 to $25,000. And you do not loose too much production of your manager and scientist.
     Installation and training. "The assistant" may cost an extra $300 to $500 per product sold. You will also have some one time costs for video production. Video production can be cheap or expensive. If you do it all yourself you may be looking at the labor of a couple of employees for a month. The extra programming may need a couple of months to be written. This may mean, one time costs as much as $30,000 to $40,000. You would need to maintain the connection for the "assistant" (which you may pass to the customer or not). The cost of that connection may be $100 a month.
   Trouble shooting. You may not be able to save much here. We estimate a 10% savings.

Comparison:
  There is no denying that with an upgrade of technology for your products life cycle you may pay a lot. However, you may see a return on investment in a short time (1 to 6 months).  

Summary

As you can see this is an idealized product cycle. Your business may have many other intricacies that require more pressing of flesh. That isn't to say you aren't looking for more efficient ways to run your company.
    We have not researched the best products to fit your needs to upgrade your technology. Therefore, we do not have products in the store, at the present time, to help you upgrade. 
The above calculations may save your company a lot of money and perhaps expand your reach to more potential customers for less cost. The above discussion assumes that this will keep your customers happier. Only you know if it will.

OK, We Will Go There:

We will just make a couple of calculations here. A Boeing 737 will burn between 1,000 to 2,000 gallons an hour. Other planes will have their ranges. We will assume that all your business travel averages out to burning 1,500 gallons per hour.  If a business traveler shares a plane with an average of 150 passengers then the typical business traveler is consuming 100 gallons (about 700 lbs) an hour. If the traveler spends 6 hours a week on an airplane that is about 200,000 lbs of fuel burnt in a year just for that one traveler.
     Extra driving: Assuming the business traveler is driving 1,000 miles a month for the company in a vehicle that gets 15 mpg than that is about 800 gallons of extra fuel spent per year driving around.
Of course, pulling one business traveler off a plane will not save the fuel. It would take thousands of companies pulling business travelers to actually get routes canceled and fuel saved. There may be some savings of weight, however, and that would save fuel.

There are more calculations we could make but you get the gist. It is very costly to travel for business. Costly from a man-hour loss perspective. Costly from an expense point of view.


... and of course, costly to the environment.