The Right Ride: How Operational Excellence Supports Sustainable Growth for Shared Mobility Providers

The Right Ride: How Operational Excellence Supports Sustainable Growth for Shared Mobility Providers

by Timothy Ericson

There wouldn’t be a Zagster if it weren’t for Timothy Ericson. As Founder and Chief Business Officer, Timothy is responsible for growing Zagster and reshaping cities with its nifty microtransit solutions. Also, if you’re looking for a wine recommendation, he’s your guy.

download (2).jpeg

Timothy Ericson

Founder and COB

Operations is arguably the most important component of any micro-mobility program. When users evaluate transit options, they’re looking for reliability, safety, ease-of-use, and cost effectiveness. Operations delivers that value, dynamically balancing the needs of riders, non-riders, and communities, as Zagster’s CEO Dan Herscovici explains in a blog post. In this post, I’m going to dive deeper into the specific benefits our micro-mobility operations platform offers to shared mobility providers.

Who are these shared mobility providers? They are companies with their own brands who offer scooters and other forms of micro mobility. Zagster’s world-class operations platform helps these shared mobility brands achieve their most important business goals, as we’ll see below.

What Shared Mobility Providers Want

1. To grow their brand. With the burgeoning amount of venture capital and attention in the micro-mobility space, shared mobility brands are under increasing pressure to grow as fast as possible and gain market share. Zagster provides these brands with turnkey operations solutions to drive growth that’s profitable and sustainable over the long-term.

Shared mobility providers and programs that partner closely with cities, that provide cities with good data, that work with cities to resolve ongoing concerns, will be the programs that are profitable for the long haul.

2. Better economics. Shared mobility providers a looking to craft sustainable business models with workable underlying economic. We support those efforts. For example, Zagster’s people care about preserving and optimizing micro-mobility assets. I’ve seen disturbing photographs from places like Santa Monica (CA) where “gig economy” juicers cram 150 scooters on the back of a pickup truck from different shared mobility brands. These strategic assets are getting smashed up. Mishandled scooters might last only 30 or 60 days on the streets because a gig economy staffing model isn’t set up to protect those assets. Our operations are staffed by employees who care about micro-mobility assets.

3. The necessity of working with cities. Like it or not, having a close, collaborative relationship with a city is essential for the long-term success of any micro-mobility program. We saw what can go wrong in the dockless pedal bike space last year, where companies went in alone, didn't provide a good level of service, and then backed out or got pushed out. Whether privately-funded or publicly-funded, it's public transportation and you need to work collaboratively and sustainably with communities to make it work.

Brands can and do hire lobbyists to open up markets. But getting the right to operate is just the beginning. As your footprint grows, you eventually have to turn a profit, provide a good level of service, and figure out your long-term operations plans. Shared mobility providers and programs that partner closely with cities, that provide cities with good data, that work with cities to resolve ongoing concerns, will be the programs that are profitable for the long haul.

4. To ensure profitability and accountability. We’ve learned that if a few “bad apple” community members feels there’s no accountability for destroying or stealing scooters or bikes, it just continues to happen. From launch date onward, you must stay on top of operations, efficiently pick up scooters at night in areas where vandalism to assets may be prevalent, and follow up with users who are placing assets in areas they shouldn't be. This doesn't mean creating an adversarial user experience. Instead, it's about educating users, fostering a mindset of accountability. When you do that, rates of theft and vandalism drop significantly.

The Solutions Zagster Offers Shared Mobility Providers

If you increase the life of a scooter because an employee/community-member cares about assets instead of having freelance rebalancers mishandle them and thus shorten their lifetime value, that’s a massive cost benefit.

Let’s move from challenges to solutions. Zagster’s solutions leverage our decade of experience in the micro-mobility space. It’s about the 3 Ps: People, Product (our operations app) and Process. We’ve figured out how to hire and train great people, we’ve built our operations app over 5-6 years and have layered in great processes from that experience.We’ve developed an operations playbook that we’ve refined and perfected through launching programs in over 250 locations in 35 states over the last 10+ years. When  shared mobility providers leverage our platform, rather than taking a costly trial-and-error approach, they gain turnkey operational excellence, strategic focus on their core business, and higher ROI. Zagster refers to it as Operations-as-a-Service.

Below are the benefits that our Operations-as-a-Service model offers shared mobility partners:

1. The right people to drive ROI of micro-mobility assets. Zagster doesn’t use a gig economy strategy for staffing. Instead, we have the same people showing up everyday, train them, offer them growth opportunities within Zagster, and connect their success to the success of our shared mobility partners. When you provide a reliable, sustainable employment model, as Zagster does, you gain an engaged, motivated employee who becomes more efficient over time, offers a better level of service to the community (of which they’re members), and also creates better economics for shared mobility providers in the long run.

Zagster’s operations people care about, and take care of, each program’s micro-mobility assets, working to extend the life of those assets. If you increase the life of a scooter because an employee/community-member cares about assets instead of having freelance rebalancers mishandle them and thus shorten their lifetime value, that’s a massive cost benefit.

You do what you do best as a shared mobility provider, which is innovating and driving value in your industry, and let us do what we do best, which is delivering operational excellence.

2. The right relationships to support growth. As part of our operations platform, Zagster provides a great market management team that partners with cities and universities. We’ve been working collaboratively with cities and universities for a decade on long-term plans for transportation. We have become a trusted advisor to our clients -- they trust the way we operate our programs and prefer to work with us for additional modes of transit. We’ll continue to build value-adding, sustainable relationships with communities -- because it matters to us and to our shared partners.

3. The right experience and playbook. We have over a decade of experience managing micro-mobility programs, and we are still going strong, which speaks to our ability to provide value in this fast-growing market segment. We’ve also built proprietary tools and best-in-class ways of working that allow us to operate with sustainable excellence. We’ve had to focus on getting operations right because we’ve historically focused on what I refer to as “non-NFL” (National Football League) cities. Many shared mobility providers are focusing on big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and so “non-NFL” cities like Rochester (NY) become an afterthought. But those markets are actually huge in the aggregate. Zagster has a playbook for wherever you want to go (which, taken as a whole, are massive opportunities).

4. The bottom line. Operations is a hands on, dirty business. Many shared mobility providers are borrowing lessons from Uber and Lyft, but Uber and Lyft didn’t need full-time and part-time staff on the ground touching assets. It's a completely different business model. We're all leveraging our experience, but Zagster has the most direct operational experience in this space. What we offer our shared mobility partners is a great operational playbook, a turnkey solution for their sustainable success. You do what you do best as a shared mobility provider, which is innovating and driving value in your industry, and let us do what we do best, which is delivering operational excellence.

If you are a shared mobility provider and want to explore partnering with us, reach out. Let’s get the conversation started.