Reece Griffin of MirrorTrip On How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

--

Obsessive customer service is a cornerstone of everything we do. If you’re just starting out this is particularly important and feasible (as you tend to have more time in the beginning before things get busy). Everything from offering multiple channels of contact, to the small things like sending an email to wish someone “safe travels” the day before they depart (this is something we do & is usually well received) — adds up to a lot. We have a 5-star Google review average, something we’re proud of!

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reece Griffin.

Reece is the CEO of MirrorTrip (https://www.mirrortrip.com), a world first for car sharing with a new modality called ‘ride switching’. MirrorTrip lowers the cost of inter-city car rental significantly, to a level where it becomes an exciting alternative to traditional transportation such as bus, train, and carpool ridesharing.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The tipping point was around the thousand-mile mark on my 2016 summer vacation in Europe. My wife and I were travelling France and Spain mostly by car so we could pack in the sights. Initially we’d thought of driving from Paris down to Granada, stopping at a different town on the coast every few days; dropping the car in Granada & then flying home (cool huh?).

Looking into it though — we were presented with a familiar situation that we’d encountered when planning previous trips back in the US & Canada; the dreaded drop-off fee. That is the charge levied by rental companies when you pick a car up in one city and drop it off in another. In this case (Paris to Granada) it was going to be $1,500 Euros.

Instead, we drove two separate loops, one in France and one in Spain, then flew between the two countries. Still lots of fun, not quite what we wanted though. It was on the home stretch between Seville and Madrid when the penny dropped for the MirrorTrip solution. After some initial research I presented it to some colleagues back home who work in the software & marketing industry with me and we decided to found MirrorTrip.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A repeat customer of ours who wanted to thank us for our customer service on her recent trip asked where I lived so that she could bring me some meat from her cattle farm in Alberta that she transported on dry ice during her MirrorTrip. So she did — it was delicious!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Not ‘haha’ funny — but comical from a startup naivety perspective… One of our perceived early innovations was regarding how we would get rental companies on board with our model & we figured if we could get MirrorTrip to work within their existing setup without concessions — this would be best. E.g. Why would a rental company let us do this with their cars? After a series of hypothetical calls to various car-rental call centers asking if I could rent a car with a ‘friend’ who wouldn’t be with me at the time of pickup, but who I wanted to return the car for me. The initial answers were all a resounding ‘no’. But then we figured out that you can sign someone else onto the contract as a second driver along the way; e.g. as you might do with your travel buddy if you got tired of driving along the way, you could pull into another Avis along the way for example & sign them on to the contract.

We thought this was a pretty huge innovation — comically (and with good reason) the first company we signed a deal with us wanted nothing to do with it & instead said they’d just open two separate contracts for us. What if one of the drivers was using a fake id or something like that? Any insurance mis-haps would fall back on the other driver (doh).

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My co-founders have been great; as with any startup there’s always ups and downs. People to help pull you up when you’re down and pull you down when you’re flying (too) high and/or lend their own enthusiasm & perspective. After previous solo endeavors I definitely recommend multiple perspectives.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Sure! MirrorTrip is essentially that innovation. Part of what excited us about starting MirrorTrip (aside from the fact it solved a problem that we’d all faced before), was that it was something entirely new. When we first researched it, there were online blog articles on written on the phenomenon of the one-way drop-off fee, with hundreds of commiserators all sharing their collective pain.

From a technical perspective MirrorTrip crosses a few boundaries. It’s a marketplace that provides a new type of car sharing that we call ‘ride switching’. MirrorTrip matches people who want to travel in opposite directions, so that one driver can return the car to it’s city of origin for the other driver — it then plugs into top tier rental providers to provide the vehicles for these drivers in a way that sanctioned by the rental company (e.g. you can’t do this without deals in place with the rental companies).

A MirrorTrip match is made when two drivers are travelling in the opposite direction, and when their pickup and drop off dates are roughly adjacent such that one driver can use the car after the other has finished with it (e.g. their trips can’t overlap). You start by searching the MirrorTrip website or app — if you see a result that matches your itinerary right away; great; it reads very much like a regular rental from there on — just select the times of day; enter in your billing info and you’re good to go.

If your MirrorTrip search doesn’t have any results, you can then post a trip for others to match with. That way, when they search for a matching itinerary — your trip will show up in their results. We notify you as soon as a match is found for your trip.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

At it’s heart — MirrorTrip solves the very traditional pain point of the one-way drop-off fee. We eliminate it altogether. However, in terms of disrupting the status quo — by making one-way rentals price competitive with short haul flights, bus, train and carpool ridesharing; we think MirrorTrip provides a compelling new category to the domestic & international ground-based travel market. We’ve already seen evidence of this behavior in our own customers using it not just for leisure, but also for necessity travel. Just as no one was searching for ‘strangers houses that I can sleep at tonight’ 15 years ago before the advent of AirBnB, we think MirrorTrip similarly has the potential to re-shape consumer behavior by providing a new category.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

I think adjusting to fluctuating demand will be important. Just when you think you have COVID beaten, seemingly along comes another variant, travel ban, or something else altogether. It’s not all doom and gloom — but I think it’s highlighted the importance of market responsiveness. We’ve seen this in many segments — first with airlines downsizing, then with rental companies downsizing, then when demand came back in droves — struggling with capacity due to global supply chain issues.

It seems easy to say — less easy to solve of course, particularly if you’re in a capital-intensive industry like an air travel or a car rental. I don’t have the solution off-hand, but there are glimmers of it for example in Hertz’s recent strategy to acquire Teslas in a way that allows them to flex in conjunction with Uber — as well as in their pursuit of more modern techniques to offload old vehicle stock etc.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

That’s going to vary from person to person of course. But for me — and many others I think, there is a desire for a certain degree of authenticity. By that I mean something unique to the destination, and ideally tailored to the traveler in order to add a level of personalization. Personal experiences somehow just feel less special when you know they are carbon copies of what countless others have experienced. Entitled as it may sound, but everyone wants to feel a little special right?

It was by no means perfect — but for some reason this makes me think of a trip to Thailand I made with my wife in my late 20’s. We went in with intention of making things up as we went along; a completely improvised and unique experience. Day one, we pulled out our large fold out maps on the street (this was before data roaming plans on smartphones) which is a rookie mistake in Khaosan, and immediately got beaten down by the Thailand-ness of everything. We ended up being swept off in a tuk tuk to a travel agent; something that was never part of the plan. We were immediately suspicious of the whole turn of events but to his credit Nicky (the travel agent who we never asked for) put a lot of thought into what we said we wanted to do & planned us out two weeks of travel and accommodations. It actually turned out pretty good. It wasn’t what we initially imagined our trip would be before we left to Thailand as aspiring trekkers of the proverbial unbeaten track — nor was it sipping cocktails poolside at an all-inclusive for two weeks (what definitely didn’t want). It was something in between, which was fine.

Ultimately this is the type of thing we want to inspire with MirrorTrip. A service that empowers people to explore new places at their own pace & pick their own experience.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

It’s a tough one for us — as we offer a mode of transport; which ultimately is a point A to point B type of thing. As our connections expand though I think there’s lots of potential here to connect with local hubs and communities along the way, something that we’re interested in fostering. We’re already members of various tourism committees in towns and cities along our routes & plan to expand these types of activities.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Obsessive customer service is a cornerstone of everything we do. If you’re just starting out this is particularly important and feasible (as you tend to have more time in the beginning before things get busy). Everything from offering multiple channels of contact, to the small things like sending an email to wish someone “safe travels” the day before they depart (this is something we do & is usually well received) — adds up to a lot. We have a 5-star Google review average, something we’re proud of!
  2. Continuing on from my Thailand piece — I think providing something unique is important in this day and age. If you make the experience feel special in some way, it’s often a good thing. For us, MirrorTrip is unique and kind of gives you that feeling that you’ve just won something or cheated the system somehow.
  3. Reliability. Travel can be stressful at the best of times. You don’t need your customers to worry about whether or not [insert your product or service here] will actually be there when they arrive/need it. This isn’t something to be trifled with. Book them. Check their reservation. Check it again. Check it again! Because there’s a human element to MirrorTrip, namely another driver — our current rules stipulate that MirrorTrip is pre-paid and non-refundable. This is an incentive for both drivers not to be flaky and pull out at the last minute, leaving the other driver high and dry. Beyond that, once your trip is confirmed with MirrorTrip, we guarantee it. So, if for example the other driver can’t make it for some reason, we’ll make sure there’s still a car there available for you.
  4. Competitiveness. This one is a little more conventional, but important none-the-less. You need to have a competitive element if you want people to come back. E.g., cheaper or better somehow. We try to be both; our service by design is inherently cheaper and more flexible than the competition.
  5. Make sure this is something you as a travel provider care about. If you’re not passionate about it, you’ll burn out and eventually this will show in other aspects of your service, as they will become lack luster.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

For us, it’s all about contributing to things that we care about. Travel is fun, that’s a given. Travel is often bad for the environment though and this is something that we pay close attention to. MirrorTrip is already a vast improvement on short haul flights. However, we’re also part of Stripe’s climate action strategy where we donate a portion of all revenues to Stripe’s various carbon capture initiatives. We’re also working with vendors like Hertz who are making strides in the adoption of EV’s and hoping to proliferate utilization of these sorts of travel modes moving forwards.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

A new type of digital currency. Let’s say ‘ScienceCoin’. Crypto empowers swathes of people who don’t have access to regular bank accounts or foreign remittances which is great. It also chews an inordinate amount of energy due to large computational workload requirements, something which probably isn’t sustainable in the long run. In the meantime however, we have various scientific endeavors that also require large computational workloads; e.g. protein folding calculations for drug prototypes, molecular modeling for meat substitute candidates, climate modelling etc. etc. Rather than spend all this computing power calculating theoretical hashes algorithms ‘ScienceCoin’ would service the wider scientific community by providing computing power for them in a way that still proliferates the currency in the way that the current hash-based systems do.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/mirrortrip/

https://twitter.com/mirrortrip1

https://www.instagram.com/mirror_trip/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVZYOoO6LG6FO4tRaeUs0og

https://www.linkedin.com/company/mirrortrip-inc.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.

Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.

He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.

--

--

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor