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As limousine and bus operators, we all basically start the same way. We get a license, get a vehicle and start driving people to their destinations. In the early years, most of us had Cadillacs and then the vehicle of choice became the Lincoln Town Car. Then, a few companies started breaking out and adding Chrysler 300s, Toyota Avalons, Mercedes-Benz sedans and/or BMW sedans in an attempt to distinguish themselves from competitors.
But they are just four wheels and an engine. What makes the difference is who operates the vehicles and how the orders are handled.
One of the most frequent destinations and pickup locations are luxury hotels. What makes them luxury? Is it the uniforms? Is it the building? Andrea Moore, a longtime manager for Marriott International, owner of the Ritz-Carlton brand, has some insights on what it takes to create a top-notch experience for our mutual customers — upscale travelers. Marriott International uses the slogans throughout its hotels: “At your service,” “Everyone has a bed,” and “Everyone has a restaurant” (alluding to competitor hotels). “Customer service is all we have that sets us apart. It is our single most important job,” Moore says.
Andrea Moore, a longtime manager for Marriott International, owner of the Ritz-Carlton brand, says customer service is all that really sets a company apart. It should be the most important aspect of a travel or transportation-related business.
Reservations Step One
The reservation call or email is your first contact with a client. How you treat that client from the first contact sets the stage of the relationship. Callers looking to book a room or a limousine should never be placed on hold if you want to achieve impeccable service from the start. “Time is money,” says Marie Joiner, owner of Luxury Limousine in Modesto, Calif.
“If you must place a caller on hold, always ask, ‘May I place you on hold for a moment?’ If it is a repeat client, having all the client’s information from previous service, such as their email address, mailing address, credit card information and past pickup locations, makes the client feel like you remembered him as truly valued and special.” This information needs to be at your fingertips to avoid placing the caller on hold, Joiner advises. Moore adds that hotel employees are encouraged to address all guests by name whenever possible, emphasizing that the client is “known” or a regular client, although it may only be their second visit to the hotel. Everyone likes to be remembered.
Hotel employees are taught to listen to conversations without being intrusive, to learn names and anticipate needs. From a chauffeur’s standpoint, that might mean hearing passengers talk about running out of the beer they brought along. With four hours left in the trip, a chauffeur might consider picking up some of the same brand of beer as soon as possible and having it waiting on ice without having to be told. Or, the chauffeur might ask the client if they would like to stop anywhere before their final destination such as a convenience store. If out-of-town clients discuss eating after a business meeting, they may appreciate a chauffeur’s offer to place a restaurant reservation.
No Second Chance for a First Impression
Much of what sets luxury hotels apart from other name brand hotels is in the employee uniforms. While the limousine industry has long departed from the traditional tuxedo suits to business suits, the chauffeur’s appearance at the pickup location is the first impression for a client, before ever seeing the vehicle. Joiner’s company uses the tag line, “When it comes to luxury, our name says it all,” and that commitment to luxury includes impeccably dressed chauffeurs with a crisp white dress shirt, shoes shined and subtle neckties that match the suit coat.