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Since joining the company in 2012, GroundLink CEO Liz Carisone leads improvements for the global chauffeured app, such as offering customer innovations in mobile apps, web and call center service; scaling the company’s infrastructure to allow seamless bookings, rides, and billing for customers; and leading duty-of-care and safety standards. She previously was CFO of Kroll Consulting Services, a global provider of risk management services and CFO of London-based Gullivers Travel Associations, a provider of global travel products and services.
NEW YORK — With all the complaints about Uber and its contempt for regulations, a growing tech-enabled car service called GroundLink shows how to properly run a professional ride app. GroundLink would be an apt tutor to Uber on some of the finer points of tech-based, high-end chauffeured service.
Since 2011, GroundLink has operated as a provider of “near-demand” executive black car service in major cities worldwide, offering an on-time guarantee, professional chauffeurs who are background checked and licensed, client duty of care, and late-model luxury vehicles insured at limousine industry levels. To underscore its flexibility, GroundLink takes bookings via its iPhone and Android apps, its website groundlink.com, and a 24/7 customer call center.
The chauffeurs, many of them owners of limousine services, work as independent affiliates to GroundLink, often supplementing their locally generated client revenue. CEO Liz Carisone describes the company as a “hybrid model,” meaning the company combines the technology of newer transportation network companies (TNCs) with the safety and reliability of more traditional chauffeured operations.
“We deploy service and safety and technology,” Carisone said. “We offer competitive pricing to Uber Black, but have fully vetted drivers and overarching insurance coverage. When booking, we provide blanket security.”
GroundLink includes 550 partners spread across 110 nations worldwide with a vehicle network of 10,000+. (An exact figure on the number of cities Groundlink serves was unavailable). Its holding company, GroundLink Holdings LLC, is owned by a private equity firm, Comvest.
As with TNCs, GroundLink clients can track their vehicles before pickup. All tracking, communications, and billing are electronic. GroundLink is supported by one of the limousine industry’s leading software and app providers, LimoAnywhere, which handles GroundLink’s GPS tracking and all information for its affiliates.
GroundLink relies on a thorough process to vet and approve all chauffeurs and vehicles. For chauffeurs, the company does background checks, including fingerprinting where required and/or available, as well as licensing and insurance verifications. All chauffeurs are evaluated based on client feedback, and the company immediately follows up on any service violations or failures.
“We have strict standards and keep full records,” Carisone said. “We do onsite auditing based on complaints and feedback, and do mystery (riding) as well. Because we operate in (110) countries, and the industry is not universally regulated the same way, we take care to follow the rules in each country.”
All Classed Up
In the U.S., black-on-black fleet vehicles correspond with service tiers including:
- Economy class: Vehicles include the 2011 Lincoln Town Car sedan, and 2012-present model years of the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Camry and the Honda Pilot.
- Luxury class: Vehicles include the Lincoln MKT, Lincoln MKS, and Toyota Avalon.
- VIP class: BMW 7-Series and Jaguar XJ sedans
- Mercedes-Benz class: S-Class models
- SUV class: Cadillac Escalades and Chevrolet Suburbans GroundLink also books vans and stretch limousines.
GroundLink works with independent operators in New York and Chicago, as well as affiliates around the nation and world. The drivers and affiliates typically get 75% of the rate, with GroundLink receiving 25%. Chauffeurs are provided 15% gratuities and all toll fees.
GroundLink uses auto-dispatching, and recently launched an algorithm that provides chauffeurs updated information on what areas of the city are likely to produce the most demand. This can help reduce waiting times for both chauffeurs and clients while improving customer service.