ATLANTA — In the chauffeured transportation industry, there is an implicit standard of what most clients expect: Professional and knowledgeable staff, new and clean vehicles, properly uniformed chauffeurs and 24/7 availability.
Here are six points that may seem basic but will greatly enhance your clients’ experience and help you distinguish your company:
1. Warm, friendly responses
When customers contact you, they want a warm response. It can still be businesslike but you and your people need to look and sound friendly and likeable. Remember, a smile can be heard over the phone.
2. They want to feel important
They know you have many other clients, but they love it when you make them feel special. Spend the few minutes speaking with them when they call in; don’t always ask them to send an email or rush them off the line to finish something else.
3. Someone to know their name
A person’s name is one of the sweetest sounds they’ll ever hear. If you use customer names when you talk to them, it indicates that you recognize them as individuals. Don’t use it too often as it can become irritating, but definitely at the start and end of a conversation.
Customers hate to hear the word “No.” It’s not always possible to say “Yes” to a customer. But it is important to be as flexible as you can. Tell customers what you can do, not what you can’t do.
When things go wrong, customers want you to solve their problems quickly. They don’t want to hear excuses or who’s to blame or why it happened. They just want it fixed fast. Customers will often judge the quality of your service by the way you recover. They will even forgive your mistakes if you recover well. Don’t be afraid when something does go wrong; it’s often a great opportunity to show customers the high quality of your service.
Send a personal, handwritten thank-you note or pick up the phone and call them personally to say thank you.
Overall, customers just want to feel good. They want to feel better after they’ve dealt with you or anyone in your business than they did before. If you can create that feeling, then you’re well on the way to giving customers what they really want.
3 Vital Standards: Consistency, Reliability & Peace of Mind
I was recently at an affiliate meeting where they had a panel of clients giving feedback on their experience with the chauffeured transportation industry. One of the panel members made a statement that really caught my attention: “You make a reservation and then you pray to the limo gods that nothing goes wrong.”
Clients want peace of mind more than anything else these days. Every passenger is a “Major VIP,” and the booking agents and executive assistants are in constant fear of something going wrong and them being thrown under the proverbial bus. Our clients want to trust us, even if it is for their own sanity. As in any relationship, trust must be built and earned. We as operators need to build that trust and give our clients reasons to trust us.
One of the best ways to build trust within a client is through a proven track record, consistency and honesty. If a client calls for a last-minute reservation and you don’t think you can make it on time, be up front and let the client know that the vehicle can be there at 12:15, not 12:00. If the chauffeur does arrive at 12:00, then you just under promised and over delivered. On the contrary, if you tell the client you can have a vehicle there by 12:00 and the vehicle doesn’t arrive until 12:15, you just over promised and under delivered. More importantly, you gave the client a reason not to trust you in the future.
Another situation where clients really appreciate and expect honesty is when a service issue occurs. There are many moving pieces to our business and it is only a matter of time before there is a service issue. Clients don’t expect us to be perfect; they know that is unrealistic. The difference between a good company and a great company is how those service issues are handled. Clients want honesty. They are more educated about our business now than ever before. They don’t want to be treated like idiots and told the vehicle was late because of a flat tire; how many times have they heard that one? Be honest, make it right, and in most cases you can satisfy the client and turn a bad situation into a good one.
Vehicle Choices Can Add Value
Almost every operator is faced with the challenge of what vehicle to choose to replace the Lincoln Town Car. Personally, I think the Chrysler 300 Limited and Toyota Avalon are good options for the chauffeured transportation industry. Clients keep driving down prices and operators must find ways to cut operating costs without sacrificing service and quality in order to stay competitive in this ultra-competitive space. The Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon cost nearly $12,000 less than the Lincoln MKT Town Car and Cadillac XTS. The rear leg room in the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon are comparable to the Lincoln MKT and Cadillac XTS as well.
(Related: Chrysler 300 Review: Enough Luxury For The Limo Biz?)
Fuel efficiency also has become an important factor with operators. Both the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon are more fuel efficient than the Lincoln MKT and the Cadillac XTS. Toyota also has plans to release a Toyota Avalon Hybrid in 2013 with an estimated fuel economy of 40 mpg.
(Related: Toyota Reveals Redesigned & Roomy 2013 Avalon Sedan)
The Chrysler 300 and the Toyota Avalon offer great combinations of value, rear legroom and fuel efficiency. Operating in a highly competitive service industry means only one thing matters: What do the clients think? Many of our corporate, athlete, artist and celebrity clients alike have told us that a Chrysler or Toyota vehicle is not approved for use with any of their passengers. They want the “luxury” nameplates such as Lincoln and Cadillac that they have become accustomed to. They want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth. However, I think for companies that primarily focus on the value proposition or operate in a smaller market, both the Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon are great options.
Danny Bacher is the CEO of Topper Worldwide, a chauffeured transportation company serving the Atlanta region. He can be reached at [email protected].