Whether a limousine client lands at an airport or exits a bustling hotel, there is always a fear in the client’s mind of being unable to find the chauffeur.
It isn’t the lack of confidence that the hired service won’t show up as much as the intimidating odds of finding one person at massive airports such as JFK International or Los Angeles International.
About 183,500 people use LAX daily, according to 2013 airport stats. One of them is trying to find your chauffeur. A sold-out concert ending at the Hollywood Bowl will spew out more than 17,000 people at once. How will your clients find their chauffeurs in a sea of limos, sedans and buses all parked together? In the past, it has been frustrating for chauffeurs and clients. Now, technological advancements can ease this anxiety.
Speaking of The Past
In a world before cell phones, the challenge to connect or re-connect was at times a fiasco. Some venues, such as Hollywood’s Greek Theater in Los Angeles, mandated chauffeured vehicles follow a specific path to the front gate and then immediately drop off and depart the venue due to the small parking area.
A chauffeur is not allowed back in until about an hour before the event ends. Often, passengers get out and walk away with no discussion of how they will meet up later. Likewise, a client at the airport who could not find his chauffeur would have to call in to his office and report he was unable to find the chauffeur. This often was complicated by the fact that many business travelers don’t know what service their assistant booked. This caused a chain of calls from the passenger to his assistant, from the assistant to the limousine service. The service dispatcher would have to wait for the chauffeur to call in to say he can’t find his client, and then somehow get the two together by describing what each party is wearing, the color of the client’s suitcase, and/or waiting location.
Chauffeurs sometimes would use identifying devices on top of their cars such as a flashing red light (while stationary) or other colored lights. Flashlights with the ability to pulse light were common in the parking lots of large venues during the exit process. Now, text messaging eliminates all of this grief.
Make Sure You Get the Digits!
The ability to communicate with your client via text messaging depends on having the client’s mobile phone number in advance. It should be a forced requirement for every trip ticket to contain the mobile phone number of at least one passenger traveling and preferably two, if two or more are traveling together. Ditto for couples. It is unlikely that both would let their phones die while traveling, or that both would forget to turn them back on upon landing. Likewise, a reservationist always should ask if it would be okay to use a client’s number for text messaging important information about a reservation and to facilitate meeting the chauffeur in the correct location. Most clients welcome this.
Using Test for Initial Contact
Jeffrey Luff, operations manager at Limousine Scene in Bakersfield, Calf., who also happens to be the son of this article’s writer, implemented a policy in March 2014 that chauffeurs must initiate a text to an assigned client on the day of travel to eliminate any client anxiety. Luff says chauffeurs are instructed to send an original text message to say something like this:
“Hello, My name is John. I will be your chauffeur today. I am scheduled to arrive at 6:15 p.m. at 123 Any St. Please let me know if you have any special requests and feel free to text me anytime.”
This is a brief, non-obtrusive message and does not request any action on the recipient, yet provides the chauffeur’s phone number and message contact to talk if the client desires.
Using Text for Airport Arrivals
Most people fly with their cell phones set to “airplane mode,” so they can use their phones for other apps without being able to transmit or receive while in that mode. You still can send text messages to the phones in the air, and once the phones are turned back on, any messages received during the time will now be delivered. If a chauffeur is meeting an arriving airport passenger, he should not send an “arrival instructions” text to the client until he or she is at the airport, and the chauffeur has accurate information about baggage claim available from the TV monitors or carousel displays. Once the chauffeur is in position for the greeting, send a text like this:
“Hello, My name is John. I am your chauffeur today. I am at the airport. Your baggage claim area is carousel B19. I will meet you there. I have a sign with your name on it. Please let me know if you have any special requests and feel free to text me anytime.”
This text provides specific information that is valuable to the traveler. They don’t have to wait and get into the airport terminal to determine where their bags will be. They will be able to immediately begin walking to the meeting point.
Interactive Texting For As-Directed Jobs
On many as-directed jobs, chauffeurs are asked to stand by through dinners or meetings with no predicted time of exit. Mark Joiner, owner of Luxury Limousine in Ceres, Calif., created a simple and effective way to communicate with a client without the need for a lot of texting. Joiner first uses the initial contact message as described above. Upon dropping off a client, Joiner provides an estimate of time it will take from the client notification of “ready-to-go” to the time he needs to be at the curb-line pickup point. He might tell a client to text him the numbers 10 or the word TEN to indicate he will be ready to depart in 10 minutes. In the event the chauffeur must leave the area but was not planning to do so, the chauffeur should contact the client to inform him that he was asked by valet staff to move, or whatever the case. Joiner points out how easily angered people can be when their vehicles aren’t where they expect them to be. “Any significant delay in getting to where they want only adds to the boiling point,” Joiner adds.
Automated Interactive Texting
If you want to take texting to the next level, there are several software programs and online apps to conduct automatic texts, receive instant replies, and send coupons or marketing messages to a mass amount of mobile phones at once. Most people probably have received a text message from a doctor or dentist office, reminding them of an upcoming appointment. Some ask you to “Press 1” to confirm and others are simply a reminder. These automated systems can be used to load multiple messages at a time. For instance, for a single reservation, you might set up the following automated messages:
10/23/14 - 4 p.m.: To Client: ABC Limousine is confirming your transportation for 3:15 p.m. tomorrow at LAX. We show you are arriving on United Airlines flight #5344 and are scheduled to land at 3 p.m. Please Press “1” to confirm this.
10/23/14 - 4 p.m.: To Chauffeur: You are scheduled for an LAX pickup at 3:15 p.m. tomorrow. Sedan #14. Please Press “1” to confirm this.
10/24/14 - 12 p.m.: To Chauffeur: You are scheduled for an LAX pickup at 3:15 p.m. Sedan #14. Please Press “1” to confirm this.
10/24/14 - 3 p.m.: To Client: We are at the airport and waiting for your arrival.
Some of the automated text systems will even allow you to send an automated customer satisfaction survey following the trip. Here are a few of the automated text systems on the market:
*LCT Magazine does not endorse the products nor have they been evaluated.