Two Ways Operators Can Best The TNCs

Posted on March 31, 2015 by - Also by this author

Two recent developments show how chauffeured services can survive the TNC moment. I call it a moment because all talk of imminent death of all other forms of ground transportation is vastly overrated. Moments pass.

At LCT, we’ve reported a lot about improving customer service and how to compete with TNCs, or at least outsmart them. I encountered two news items that once again show why chauffeured vehicle services can remain relevant, despite the prevalence of Uber and TNCs.

In the first one, the U.S. Travel Association reported the results of a survey indicating travelers are willing to slightly higher airfares for better service and convenience. That principle can be applied across the travel and hospitality spectrum, whether it’s hotels, restaurants or ground transportation.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, “Although travelers remain frustrated by ticket add-ons from which they derive little benefit, such as bag and change fees, six out of 10 travelers would welcome user fees dedicated to improving efficiency and choice. More than seven in 10 travelers, meanwhile, feel that current air travel options are inadequate.”

Chauffeured transportation companies should continuously look for and exploit the service and safety deficiencies of TNCs. Cheapest is never best. The limousine industry still has many under-marketed gems that can outshine TNCS.

For example, what's missing is a marketing effort by the limo industry to emphasize the benefits of a chauffeur greeting you with an iPad bearing your name. That's a lot more convenient than walking out to the airport curb and pressing an app.

In fact, the marketing slogan underneath a photo of a chauffeur holding an iPad with a name could be: “Chauffeured service is so convenient you don't even have to hit an app for that, unless you want to.”

Another marketing idea: A photo of a traveler with an iPad being ushered into the comfortable compartment of a chauffeured vehicle along an airport curb. Underneath: “The best part of your trip starts in baggage claim.”

Airlines and ground transportation are closely related. American travelers are craving service, convenience and personal attention. If you explain why the higher price of your chauffeured service is worth more than the lower price of TNCs, then you can earn clients for the long-run.

In the second trend, hotel chains are creating brands and hotels tailored to the Millennial generation. This generation is larger than their parental Baby Boomers, so we might as well get used to pleasing these consumers.

The hotels are borrowing the approach of Virgin America, an airline that is neither traditional nor discount. It’s a distinct, creative brand that thinks outside the box. Of course, one of the Millennial-oriented hotel chains is indeed called Virgin Hotels.

Los Angeles Times article here

So why not take this approach to chauffeured service? How can limo operators create a chauffeured ground transportation experience that is not like a traditional limo, taxi or TNC?

Read closely in the article how the hotel chains are designed and marketed. It’s not like anything else out there, not a Hampton Inn, not a Four Seasons, not a Motel 6. Therein stands the challenge for limousine operations: Be the “Virgin America” of the ground transportation world. Make clients like you, want you, and be seen with you. It’s not about being all-traditional or all-TNC.

By the way, I sampled Virgin America’s First Class cabin for the first time recently. It was the most comfortable, amenity-rich domestic airline cabin I’ve ever experienced so far. I simply impulse-bought a last-minute upgrade at the self-serve check-in kiosk. The friendly attendant who took my now-free checked bag sang and moved along to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” adding a moment of comedy. I would gladly pay for the upgrade again.

[What did it cost? Upgrade w/free baggage check: $89. Cost of checked bag in coach class: $25. $89 — $25 = $64 additional out of pocket. And it’s even cheaper if you deduct the cost of the free wine or beer onboard].

That’s the type of branding and client experience that can prevail in the competitive TNC environment.

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