A look at the finalists for LCT's 2002 Operator of the Year Awards and Association Award for Excellence.
Robert Alexander, RMA Chauffeured Transportation
Fleet size: 59
Since 1988, Robert Alexander has used a combination of charm, humor and hard work to create a successful company. Alexander has helped increase the visibility of the limousine industry by acting as both an official and unofficial spokesperson regarding national and local industry issues.
Alexander believes that exceptional customer service is the first priority in this industry. He applies this to both his clients and his staff. His customer service staff has developed a phrase that sums up Alexander’s belief, ‘everyone feels a smile.’
Alexander has developed a comprehensive in-house program to train new chauffeurs. Senior chauffeurs teach the 30-hour program. Continued education continues through article in a monthly newsletter, in-house ‘mini courses,’ instructional videotapes, guest speakers and semi-annual written tests and evaluations. Senior management participates in two off-site retreats each year that focus on strategic planning and training.
Alexander's team has rolled out and refined several programs to improve overall service.
Airport Concierge, a program that personalizes the simple meet and greets. Pocket Net, a communication system, which sends out a written message from dispatchers to chauffeurs. Alexander created a technology department within his company to handle the ever-growing technology needs.
In addition, Alexander has increased his company’s visibility by developing a new logo, adding subtle trim to his vehicles to make them stand out and issuing drivers a leather briefcase and an embroidered company tie.
Jon Epstein, Royal Coachman Limited
Fleet size: 109
Jon Epstein’s father established Royal Coachman Limited in 1969. The company was instrumental in bringing regulation to the industry in its infancy by lobbying and supporting the ‘livery’ license plates. Epstein continues to help the industry by supporting our local and national organizations as well as representing the industry as a truly dedicated and professional operator.
Epstein received the Operator of the Year award in 1990. He and Royal Coachman continue to adjust to the changing times in all areas of operation while keeping in mind our most important asset - the clients.
Epstein’s ‘hands-on’ style of ownership responded rapidly after 9-11, and he has made the necessary adjustments to remain profitable and continue to provide the level of service and professionalism that his clients demand. Royal Coachman Limited is extremely proud of its comprehensive driver training program. Richard Levens, the company’s director of safety and training, is a 28-year veteran of the West Orange, N.J. police force.
Epstein has invested in technology that benefits both his staff and his clients. Increased communication between dispatch and chauffeurs has helped Royal Coachman provide more efficient service to its clients. The company has also increased its efficiency by taking reservations online and equipping all of its vehicles with GPS systems.
Norman Ginter, Amm’s Limousine Service
Fleet size: 67
Norman Ginter is president of one of the oldest and largest limousine companies in the Chicagoland area. Established almost 50 years ago, Amm’s Limousine Service, Inc., has weathered the trying events of 2001 and has become what Ginter believes to be a ‘better, stronger company today.’
Ginter prides himself on the ability for Amm’s to create and deliver innovative packages and services to its clientele. The company generates flexible packages based on the clients’ needs. Amm’s has been providing shared rides, a service popular in Chicago, since 1958. This provides lower per-trip costs and networking opportunity for the customers. Ginter believes in personalizing a client’s trip. That’s why Amm’s has an individual account representative to work with the customer as well as a wedding consultant and special events coordinator on staff to provide assistance for the customer’s needs.
Amm’s provides a through training program for its chauffeurs. It covers the basics as well as the importance of giving service. The company also has a thorough training program for its dispatchers and reservationists. Ginter wants to make sure that that client’s needs are well take care of. He runs his company by the No. 1 rule: “If we do not take care of the customer, someone else will.”
Robert Vaughn, Best Limousine and Transportation
Huntington Beach, Calif.
Fleet size: 35
Robert Vaughn has consistently raised the bar for Best Limousine & Transportation. Since the company’s inception, Vaughn has worked on expanding the educational and service standards of his chauffeurs and office staff, and implemented new methods and technologies to streamline operations.
Best Transportation can provide an array of services for its clients. The company can provide the spectrum of meeting and event solutions. The Orange County Register named it the Best Limousine Company in Orange County for 2001.
Vaughn has established a through hiring and training process for both is chauffeurs and office staff. He has also implemented a competitive compensation package for his employees that consists of healthcare, paid vacation and a 401(k) program.
In an effort to improve working conditions and standards for his staff, Vaughn is always exploring and investing the many avenues of technology. This includes state of the art computer hardware as well as flight and vehicle tracking systems.
Sean Duval, Golden Limousine
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Fleet size: 19
Sean Duval and Golden Limousine recently celebrated 10 years in business.
Golden Limousine is a two-year winner of the Washtenaw County Fast Track Award as one of the area’s fastest growing business. Duval is active in a number of local charities and is an active member of the Great Lakes Limousine Association and frequently works with its members to keep them advised of the progress of the National Limousine Association’s legislative efforts.
Duval was instrumental in helping create the affiliate version of the Boston Coach Affiliate Chauffeur Training Program. The program provides Boston Coach Affiliates with extensive training in driver safety, customer communication skills, map and route planning, customer service, accident avoidance, technology training and paperwork.
Duval has implemented a 40-hour training program for all Golden Limousine chauffeurs. He has put a team system into place where each shift manager (dispatcher) is in charge of a group of chauffeurs. The teams meet to discuss new procedures, training concerns, issues facing chauffeurs and company direction. The meetings increase communication in both directions and make it easier for chauffeurs to get ideas across to company managers.
Stephen Qua, Company Car
Fleet size: 12
Stephen Qua stress to his clients and his staff that he’s not in the limousine business, but rather he value business.
Qua has implemented a comprehensive training program for his chauffeurs and his office staff. Since the clients only contact with the company is the chauffeur, Qua’s chauffeurs complete a full day of sales training. He wants to make sure that his chauffeurs understand the pricing structure. He runs his sales staff through Sales and Accuracy 101. This includes thorough training of the company’s computer system, and in depth sales training and phone etiquette.
Qua believes that this type of management places a great burden on employees to take ownership of all that makes the company what it is and put it into use to provide customer value. Company Car is has taken up the cause to support children with muscular dystrophy, and gave blood to help those in need after Sept. 11.
Eric Weiner, All Occasion Limousine
Fleet size: 15
Eric Weiner started his company in 1990, in between his freshman and sophomore years in college. His goal with the one-car company was to gain experience in running a small company while completing his degree in business.
After receiving his degree in marketing, he made a full-time commitment to grow his business. Over the last eight years his business has grown by at least 20 percent each year.
Weiner knows the importance of utilizing technology to offer the best possible customer service. He uses a state-of-the-art Windows-based reservation system, GPS, in vehicles and is currently testing the Drive Cam product to ensure safety.
Weiner has placed a great emphasis on staff and chauffeur training. A thorough program of training, evaluating and continuing education has been a staple at All Occasion Limousine. He also takes great pride in being able to offer a comprehensive benefits package to his staff.
Weiner is active in state, regional as well as national organizations. He has been a board member of the New England Limousine Association for more than six years and has worked on getting industry issues addressed in his state.
Bill Goerl, Clique Limousine Service
Bay Shore, N.Y.
Fleet Size: 6
After 18 years in the limousine business, Bill Goerl credits his company’s success to ‘old-fashioned service.’ This means placing a confirmation call to clients the night before a booking, sending gift baskets to clients throughout the year, and publishing a monthly newsletter for his clients. The company’s computer system helps keep track of clients along with their likes and dislikes so personal requests can be accommodated.
By deliberately keeping his business small, Goerl has been able to offer a very personalized type of service to his clientele. He says he’s generally on a first name basis with the majority of his clients and he keeps payment terms manageable for them. He strives to known as a, ‘friend in the limousine business.’
All of Clique’s chauffeurs go through an extensive training program, are required to always be well-dressed and there is ‘zero tolerance of lateness.’
Goerl serves on the board of directors for the Nassau Suffolk Limousine Association (NSLA), his local Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the National Limousine Association and the Knights of Columbus.
Michael Hanowski, Broadway Limousine
Elk River, Minn.
Fleet Size: 5
Sixteen years ago, Michael Hanowski sat in a bank parking lot for over an hour, trying to decide whether to start his own limousine business. After years of being a chauffeur, Hanowski knew he had a passion for the industry and that he could make his own business a success.
Hanowski enjoys being a small operator and wants his business to stay that way. He says this allows him to have a more personal relationship with his clients, and he knows that customers want to be valued and treated as if they are the only customer.
Broadway Limousine’s most unique marketing service is a party platter offered to customers. Hanowski has found that many times his customers are in a rush, and they appreciate the option of having food taken care of by the company. This is just one example of how he is always looking for a little something extra that will make his customers grateful and also help out with his company’s expenses.
As a former president of the Minnesota Chauffeured Transportation Association, Hanowski recently started the Minnesota Professional Limousine Owners Association. He designed the association logo, Web site and wrote the code of ethics for the Association.
David Schovajsa, Corporate Houston Car Service
Fleet Size: 5
Before hiring a chauffeur, David Schovajsa expects every prospect to have at least two years of experience in driving passengers in and around the Houston area. After screening for driving history, drug use and criminal history, he verifies that the applicant is familiar with the major areas, complexes and buildings within Houston.
Every new Corporate Houston chauffeur spends several hours driving an experienced staff member to selected points in order to monitor driving habits. Schovajsa views this as an opportunity to make sure the new hire knows where to park at the various airport terminals and knows where to wait for clients.
Staff training involves instructions on how to properly answer the phone and interact with callers. Schovajsa considers the telephone the lifeline of his company, and instructs staff to ensure that all callers receive a positive, pleasant and constructive reception with each contact. Since the company is small, office staff has frequent contact with all chauffeurs on a daily basis, and Schovajsa uses that as an opportunity to both formally and informally reinforce instruction and training concepts.