Sandy Miller sees a future in providing a level of chauffeured service that TNCs cannot.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The audience for the Fast40 Seminar at the International LCT Show was a diverse group of operators from all ages and background, who came together to hear the panelists speak about how the Millennial Generation is altering the business landscape for chauffeured transportation. Titled “How Millennials View the Industry,” the panel consisted of five industry business owners who have experienced firsthand the challenges of the new workforce.
Moderator Christopher Quinn, CEO of Corporate Transportation Solutions in Sacramento, Calif., opened the presentation by addressing first how younger employees are meshing with older employees as they work together to provide top-notch chauffeured service. Panelist Danny Bacher, a frequent Fast 40 speaker and CEO of Topper Worldwide in Atlanta, Ga., said that in his experience, younger chauffeurs are very apt to work hard and hustle on the job. But they are not looking at the position long term and it can be a challenge to get them to pay attention to the more nuanced details of customer service.
Panelist Reza Choudhury, CEO of Reliance Worldwide Logistics Solutions in London, England, said, “Older chauffeurs are more etiquette-driven.” Choudhury has seen that although older chauffeurs can have difficulty picking up new tech-related procedures, they have impeccable customer service and really understand how to cater to client needs.
Panelist Travis Latham, president of Fellowship Fleet Limousine and Bus in Chicago, echoed this sentiment, saying, “We are a sales company and we sell customer service. The older chauffeurs can at times be resistant to change, but they tend to give better customer service.”
Millennial Buying Power
The conversation then moved to how the new generation — as they ascend into more positions with purchasing power — is changing the way clients procure and use chauffeured transportation services. The tried-and-true revenue stream for limo operators has been corporate transportation. Often, there is one travel manager who sends reservations for numerous transportation needs for his company, which is then handled by an experienced limo operator. Historically, this was scheduled out well in advance, but now as the new generation rolls in, timelines are getting tighter.
“Our generation is infamous for instant gratification,” said Bacher, who qualifies as a Millennial on the older end of the spectrum. “And what we’re seeing now is big group orders with just a day or two notice. These are big transfers with sometimes over 100 runs in a day, and it has made things more stressful.”
Dan Sutich, who owns Perfect Limo, a limo reservation software company, said that when it comes to dealing with younger buyers, you need to shoot straight with them on the business, because they have likely researched the market extensively on the Internet before they even talk to you. “When you have a person who is very Internet savvy, they have a big knowledge base. If you try to trick them, they will know. They’ll take your rates and crunch the numbers, and the challenge you have is to convince somebody my age that it isn’t just about the numbers,” he said.
Selfie Generation & Social Media
Although covered extensively in other sessions during the Show, the use of social media had to be mentioned as it has become synonymous with the age group. Social media has definitely changed not only the chauffeured transportation industry, but all industries alike. As most Millennials have been raised with technology since at least adolescence, they continue to use social media in their working lives.
But for many operators, there is a discrepancy in how they view social media as a business tool and what they expect to get from it. “If you are retail, then Facebook and other social media is crucial,” Bacher said. “But for us, we don’t look at it as a sales tool.”
Latham made the point that his company views it more as a marketing device, and that business owners need to use social media in a context appropriate to the platform. “It’s about the convenience of it and meeting the customer where they are,” he said.
Sutich noted how many companies are beginning to use Twitter as a customer support tool, providing real-time answers to customer questions. “I was never an advocate for social media when it came out,” Choudhury said. “But it’s a game changer and you need to get onto the map.”
Finally, the panel broached the topic of the vehicle market, and what Millennials have in mind as their ideal chauffeured ride. Green vehicles have become a hot issue among the younger generation, and although many operators feel eco-friendly vehicles have failed to catch on with clients, things soon may change.
“People get stuck in a box in this business. I was the same way, in thinking you must have a Mercedes S Class or other premium vehicle,” Bacher said. “But then you realize that it just doesn’t make money. A lot of things do come down to numbers, and in fact, we just bought Chrysler 300s because the numbers make sense. I never thought we’d be doing that but here we are.”
The panel concluded that having more tech amenities in vehicles is becoming increasingly important. Internet browsing and WiFi already have become standard in many of the panelists’ operations, and as new technologies emerge, it will be up to operators to figure out ways to incorporate them into their service.
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Five Benefits Of Following The LCT Fast <40
1. The panels at the sessions are geared toward the next generation of the limo industry, tackling subjects like new technologies, interpersonal work relationships with younger and older generations, progressive vehicles, and entrepreneurial advice.
2. The collection of young operators who are assuming more leadership positions across the industry are volunteering their voice and experience in how they are conducting business in an evolving landscape.
3. Networking with other like-minded operators who come from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and geographic locations.
4. Keeping informed on emerging technologies before they hit the mainstream. Subjects like driverless cars, and dashboard holographics can be talked about and conversed over how they could one day come into play.
5. Giving yourself an opportunity to voice your ideas and concerns to a collective group of operators and vendors who care about other people’s success in this industry.
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