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After the economic tumult of the last four years, operators in many respects are rediscovering and revamping the basics of client service.
The original clients of chauffeured transportation — known alternately as affluent and wealthy — have changed their outlooks and expectations. Operators now must constantly stay attuned to these client changes in real time, requiring new strategies to attract and retain wealthy clients.
Affluent/wealthy clients received renewed industry attention at the LCT Leadership Summit in September 2011 when wealth expert Dr. James Taylor explained to operators how their companies must adjust to the shifting habits and expectations of this lucrative market. [See “Wealth Adapts To New Vibe,” LCT Magazine, Dec. 2011].
The LCT Operator of the Year Class of 2012 pursues stellar service by focusing on all facets of the chauffeured experience, and making sure technology, training, and policies help chauffeurs and employees deliver the best quality of service.
Demand is constant, expectations are high, and competition is tough in the post-Recession chauffeured world. Before we introduce the 15 finalists, LCT offers this compilation of their advice in response to two key questions. Many offered similar points in the summaries below:
Question ONE: What changes have you observed in recent years in this segment’s expectations, demands, and
- The notion of “luxury” has given way to a more understated refinement. People of considerable means are more sensitive than before about the choices they make, considering widespread economic challenges. Clients are looking for smart, seamless transportation.
- More than ever, clients want to get the most services and amenities for their dollars spent on transportation.
- Clients are all stressed more than before, especially business executives. They are pursuing opportunities in a difficult business climate with smaller support staffs than before.
- Clients need to be serviced at any cost. If they need service and you are booked, figure out alternatives.
- Clients need to justify the extra “spend” for the service and expect that service level more than ever.
- An average chauffeur wage of $19/hour at Rare Form Limousine (including pre-billed gratuity) helps retain the best chauffeurs available. New high-end affluent/wealthy clients this year told the company that they stopped using their last chauffeured transportation company due to speeding, [chauffeurs] talking too much, and [chauffeurs] not helping with the luggage as they expected.
- Wealthy/affluent clients have become accustomed to immediate gratification in almost everything in a 24/7 society. They are used to getting their way, so last-minute service needs to be seamless and convenient.
- Inquiries on pricing and perceived value have become more important regardless of a client’s net worth. Everyone wants to feel as if they are getting a good deal. Some clients need to be “re-educated” on the value of chauffeured service.
- Wealthy/affluent clients belong to an exclusive club that thrives on word-of-mouth recommendations.
- More and more wealthy/ affluent clients want to have a chauffeured transportation company’s entire staff sign their specific confidentiality agreements and also conduct their own background checks. Operators should have their own confidential agreements and background checks in place as well.
- Wealthy/affluent clients are not difficult to deal with — as long as everything goes smoothly.
- Clients are more concerned about environmental sustainability and are looking for greener service providers and vehicles. Clients expect more choices on vehicles, pricing and emissions-reporting options.
- More and more clients are asking what technologies operations use compared to competitors that will ensure high quality service and help cut their costs.
- Affluent clients are aware that this is still a buyer’s market, despite improving economic conditions. Gone are the days of careless spending and stand-by vehicles. These clients are now looking to get more value out of their entertainment dollars. They seldom book vehicles on an as-directed basis unless they have to. While not exactly price shopping, they are pushing for the best quality-value proposition.