Custom FileMaker Pro App Pedals Bike Tour Company on a New Journey
Tour-Tracker takes the hammering out of managing two-wheeled travelers to a more coasting eXperience!
Dedicated to helping women grow into intrepid bike travelers, WomanTours has been spreading the joys of two-wheeled travel since 1994. The women-only bike tour company offers more than 50 cycling trips a year, from weeklong domestic romps to epic cross-country tours (think 58 days of pedal-pushing from sea to shining sea). International bike and barge tours are also popular.
The women come for community and camaraderie and because WomanTours makes bike travel so darn fun and easy. WomanTours is a full-service, hands-on provider, handling each rider’s luggage, lodging arrangements, meals and snacks, while also providing support and gear (SAG) vehicles, guides and mechanical assistance.
Self-proclaimed “WomanTours groupie” Sue Rapp of Waukesha, Wisconsin, loves traveling with WomanTours because all she has to do is show up and ride. “The hardest decision you have to make every day is choosing which jersey to wear.” Rapp took her first trip in 2004. She had just beaten breast cancer and wanted to prove to herself that she was well, so she signed up for an 8-week tour. She didn’t even own a bike. Since then, Rapp has taken more than a dozen trips with WomanTours, including one that had her pedaling over the Andes Mountains.
“WomanTours inspires you to push beyond what you think you can do,” said Rapp. “They supply the support service around women to make sure they achieve their goals and will work overtime to make sure you have a wonderful time.”
WomanTours owner Jackie Marchand began cycling during her college years before she even knew that cycling was a thing. “I bought a bike and started pedaling around, going up roads to see where they would take me. I had no idea anyone else did that.” After earning her MBA, Marchand spent a decade at Terry Bicycles, an East Coast manufacturer of female-tailored bikes. She worked with WomanTours on joint marketing projects, took some trips with the tour company and purchased it in 2004 when the founder retired.
To ensure each trip unfolds smoothly, WomanTours relies on a custom FileMaker Pro application built by eXcelisys. The Tour-Tracker enables WomanTours to manage customer data and relationships; track registrations and payments; allocate resources like support vehicles and rental bikes; assign tour leaders; organize lodging arrangements, restaurant reservations, vendor information and trip itineraries; and manage pre-trip packet mailings.
When Marchand took over, she inherited an eXisting FileMaker Pro custom application that came via a subscription service. Almost immediately, she saw opportunities for improvement. Marchand understood FileMaker Pro — she had taken classes and utilized an intricate FileMaker Pro app at Terry. She tried to make the existing solution work for her but struggled getting the reports she needed. Seeing firsthand the limitations of a subscription service, Marchand opted to pursue building her own custom FileMaker Pro app and hired eXcelisys.
For eXcelisys developer Laura Vie, digging into WomanTours’ FileMaker Pro application was a complete joy ride. As an avid cyclist herself and secretary of the Missouri Bicycle Federation, Vie was excited to work on the project. Vie had pedaled her way through many organized rides and driven SAG several times, so she felt a direct link to the project.
Vie knew from personal eXperience that out on the open road — especially in remote areas — you don’t want to come up short of tools, spare tubes, food and water, or a place to rest your weary head at night. Vie approached the app development as if she was coordinating her own far-flung adventure. In her mind’s eye, she could see the planning and eXecution of an epic ride unfold before her as she laid out the modules, step by step.
Like the Tour de France, FileMaker Pro app building is conquered one stage at a time. For Vie, the road to victory unfolded like this:
Stage 1: Dashboard Development
After noodling around the old application, Vie began an epic redesign. The original FileMaker Pro solution lacked branding and effective navigation. Instead of simple keywords, it utilized color-coded square buttons with abbreviations to navigate around different layouts, making it difficult for users to sort through the details. Vie created a cleaner, well-branded dashboard with clear-cut navigation tabs to ensure ease of use.
A significant shortcoming of the old solution was the lack of company resource management to ensure tours were properly equipped. “I started thinking about workflow and what information they need to run the tours,” said Vie, “so I added a preferences panel so WomanTours could manage all of its tour assets. The old FileMaker Pro solution tracked registration activity but offered no means to keep track of all of the support elements necessary for a smoothly functioning tour.”
In the preferences layout, added to the new Tour-Tracker app, WomanTours can track the behind-the-scenes elements that make tour support appear seamless to the riders. Marchand can manage assets like the bike rental fleet, the tour vans and staff.
When planning and scheduling tours, Marchand needs to know what resources are available. Within the preferences area, every resource with its current status can be quickly updated so nothing is double-booked or scheduled when unavailable. Bikes and vans can be pulled out of service for maintenance and repairs. Each tour guide’s availability can be actively managed, as well as their applicable credentials, ensuring they keep matters like their first aid certifications up to date.
Stage 2: Planning a Tour de Fun
Having taken bike trips herself, Vie knew that the success was in the details so she added a “tour” panel that allows WomanTours to construct new trips and manage all of the details of each trip (like vendors and lodging). When a new trip is built, WomanTours staff can use the Tour-Tracker to add maps, course descriptions, terrain details and arrival and departure information for the tour.
Since WomanTours has a lot of repeat customers, it’s imperative that new trips are added to the roster each year. The tour panel helps simplify this process. Some trips — like the 3,100-mile Southern Tier ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida — are so popular they are repeated frequently. Because the trip information is captured in the Tour-Tracker solution, it’s easy to duplicate past trips or tweak them after receiving feedback from participants.
Stage 3: Capturing Reservations / Registrations
Having been involved with MO Bike Federation rides, Vie understood the registration details necessary for a successful trip and added a comprehensive registration panel where WomanTours staff can view the details of each person’s reservation. On the administrative end, rider preferences and payment information are captured here.
Registration screen from the original app
As for the actual tour, the information helps with trip planning. Guides can see if a participant will be bringing her own bike or renting one from WomanTours. Room assignment preferences are noted here, as are dietary and medical needs. Knowing the dietary restrictions of each participant is important as staffers work to prepare high-calorie / high-fuel meals to keep the riders going. Some trips include restaurant meals, but often, when traveling through remote areas, meals are cooked in a traveling kitchen by a tour leader or chef, who needs access to each rider’s food allergies and preferences.
Stage 4: Hitting the Road
Each tour leader is given a roster and manifest that give her a snapshot of the riders on her tour. The ride roster has the important contact information for every rider to make sure everyone is accounted for throughout the journey. The ride manifest includes information about health issues, food preferences, room assignments, date of birth and an emergency contact should the need arise.
Prior to each trip, registered participants receive pre-trip packets with a supply list and a training guide to help them prepare for the miles ahead. This is an invaluable resource for seasoned riders and newbies alike. The ride roster makes these mailings easy. “The office is unbelievable,” said Rapp. “They make sure everyone is well-prepared coming into the trip.”
Stage 5: Keeping them Coming
The contact panel is another important hub in the WomanTours Tour-Tracker application. In the “notes” section, WomanTours can track guest interactions so tour leaders can stay up to speed on the riders they serve. “They come back year after year,” said Marchand. “We need to know what’s going on in their lives. We are a personalized business. They expect us to remember that they are getting over an injury, or that their husband had cancer last year.”
The contact management system also helps with targeted promotions. If a woman inquires about trips to Albania, it can be added to her contact information so she can be notified should a trip to Albania arise. (Yes, this is on the WomanTours docket for 2019).
Stage 6: Freewheeling into the Future
Marchand has been pleased with the performance of her eXcelisys-built FileMaker Pro app, which handles all of the trip minutiae so the tour guides can focus on taking care of the guests. When riders feel overwhelmed by the miles ahead, Marchand reminds them that all they have to do is ride — WomanTours will take care of everything else so they can expend all of their energy on the road. “You can ride 50 miles in a day if you don’t have to do anything else.”
These days, Marchand spends a lot of her time planning new trips. She doesn’t get out on the road with guests as often as she’d like, but when she does, she’s reminded of the people on the front end that the backend Tour-Tracker database application serves. What she loves most about WomanTours is “watching the growth in our guests. Even on a four-day tour, they change from the first ride to the last picnic. They are so much more self-confident and empowered. They come off the bike just beaming.”