Customer Success Story 

Thanks to the automated, exception-based handling of the software, I can take my dispatchers out of the room for 24 hours and there is no disruption to business,”
— -Diana Clemente, President BIG APPLE CAR

COMPANY: Big Apple Car

Location: Manhattan, NY servicing over 350 cities and 68 countries 180 franchise vehicles / 34 years in the black car service

  • Reduce their overall fixed costs by 10-20%
  • Be rock solid with 0 downtime
  • Provide a best-in-class mobile experience for customers and drivers
  • Deal with peak times surges without double staff

The Challenge

With TNC’s like Uber and Lyft gaining market share each year, chauffeured transportation providers have been forced to play technology catch up and face a sobering reality. The majority of these operators are running their businesses on decades old dispatch systems . Trying to contend with an Uber or Lyft is like entering a boxing match with both hands tied behind your back. “Our existing dispatch system was 30 years old. Programming changes in one area of our environment would cause something to break elsewhere,” said Diana Clemente, President of Big Apple Car.

While Big Apple was on a proprietary system before moving to Whisk, many of their competitors use decades old systems as their back office. Ram Trichur, co-founder of Whisk, weighed in on the brittleness of these legacy systems. “While working with operators who were on the legacy systems, I would regularly hear that their system would go down once a month and require a server restart,” said Trichur. Diana said that while she stayed awake at night worrying about what she would do if something happened to her lead programmer, she would hear her competitors claim that it was impossible to do anything quickly or without significant cost.

Technology deficit aside, Big Apple began to lose ridership during peak hours since their drivers would go over to Uber and Lyft when prices were surging. This caused delays and their customers began to lose patience since they had become used to the on-demand world which meant confirmations in seconds and a driver at your location within 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, Big Apple’s operating costs remained the same since their existing technology lacked smart automation. They struggled to cover rides and would have up to four people in the dispatch room during peak hours, three of which did little during the remaining 6 hours of their shift.

The Solution

Determined to keep her company alive and independent, Diana knew she had to find the right technology (back office, mobile, desktop, and affiliate network) to transform her business and move it into the 21st century. Enter the Whisk team whose collective backgrounds include MIT, Yale, Columbia, Cal-Tech, and years in Silicon Valley. Unlike the rest of the tech world who had not gone near chauffeured ground transportation, the Whisk team saw an industry that was in desperate need of their technology.

After spending time with the team, Big Apple decided to move their dispatch and reservation management to the Whisk platform which moved them to a SaaS (software as a service) model and meant they could ditch their on-premise servers. The Whisk software keeps pace with the technology which means Big Apple gets at least 3 feature upgrades a month compared to one upgrade every 16 months which is common for the legacy providers in the industry. Since moving to Whisk, Big Apple has experienced 0 downtime.

Initially hesitant to change, the staff quickly realized the benefits of the new system. Whisk’s Smart Search technology (1 field vs. 15 fields) allows Big Apple to know everything about a passenger before he/she asks them anything, including the location of the driver on a map.  Dispatchers let the system automate 80% or more of the dispatches, only getting involved if something unexpected happens. The system even automates pre-assignment of rides for the next day conforming to established rules.

Big Apple Car drivers loved the companion driver app—features which include cross streets, maps, directions, and multi-lingual support. Whisk also created gamified dispatching (patent-pending) which keeps drivers loyal by setting and automating policies that reward drivers. “The drivers recognize that it is so independent of human intervention and that there is a direct correlation between their performance and earnings,” said Clemente.

Change management with her company was seamless due to the ease of trainability. “The team behind Whisk has made a lot of investments to give the end user a great experience …not just our customers, but also dispatchers/call takers/ drivers etc. that are users of the system. The whole system is designed to make people smile,” said Clemente.

The Results

After moving their business over to the Whisk platform, Big Apple has already seen savings of ~$130K per year

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IT savings of $100K a year

  • Avoided upgrading IBM servers saving $20K
  • Replaced $100K salaried IT resource with limited consulting (<$20K/yr.)

Operational savings of $85K a year

  • Reduced dispatch room staffing by 1-2 headcount across all shifts

Whisk system costs $4700 a month

Another benefit to modernizing her operating technology is that Diana can hire resources to help grow the business-- they recently added two more people to their team to do just that. “We can now spend money growing as opposed to maintaining a legacy way of operating. I feel so liberated being on the Whisk platform...we haven’t requested a single change to the platform because of how smartly it was designed. It goes above and beyond anything else that has been developed for this industry,”

In addition to future-proofing the business, Big Apple is leveraging Deem’s (Deem acquired in Whisk in February 2016) relationships with Fortune 500 companies and will be participating in a pilot with two Fortune 50 companies in mid-July.

“Change is hard. It’s not what you want. It’s what the customer wants. Where we are going is where the customers’ expectations are and if we don’t go there, we won’t have a business,” said Clemente.