Operations

Are We Talking the Talk And Walking The Walk?

Sara Eastwood-McLean
Posted on August 1, 2015
Uber causes a lot of problems and uses dubious tactics, but it sure makes it easy to get a ride. Is the limousine industry doing all it can for convenience?
Uber causes a lot of problems and uses dubious tactics, but it sure makes it easy to get a ride. Is the limousine industry doing all it can for convenience?

Uber causes a lot of problems and uses dubious tactics, but it sure makes it easy to get a ride. Is the limousine industry doing all it can for convenience?

Uber causes a lot of problems and uses dubious tactics, but it sure makes it easy to get a ride. Is the limousine industry doing all it can for convenience?
Uber causes a lot of problems and uses dubious tactics, but it sure makes it easy to get a ride. Is the limousine industry doing all it can for convenience?

TORRANCE, Calif. — It finally happened. This week I held a two-and-a-half-day exhaustive annual planning session with my team consisting of 10-12-hour days. So on the final day, it was no surprise to anyone I had failed to remember to book my ride back to the airport with a limousine company.
 
Feeling bad about the last minute gaffe, I told my editor, Martin Romjue, I was going to go by way of Uber rather than bother with an operator in the area. Taxis scare me because I’ve had so many bad experiences with them. Martin looked at me as though I had 10 heads and told me that would be absolute treason. What would the industry think if they ever found out? Martin asked, horrified. It was 9 a.m. and I needed a car by 11 a.m. for the 20 minute ride to LAX.

I e-mailed a company in the Southern California market with a medium to large fleet. The rep responded I did not give enough notice and they could not get me a car in time. I circled back to my editorial team and advised them that time was of the essence and I had no choice but to take a taxi or “Uber it.” I don’t have the Uber app on my phone so Tim Crowley, our senior editor who occasionally uses TNCs as part of his assigned “research” for LCT, booked the ride for me. While I was standing there, he did his thing and summoned Uber Black. Within 30 seconds, “John” contacted Tim to confirm pick up in five minutes with a Mercedes-Benz S Class sedan.

The car showed up in four minutes. The college student driver, while dressed a bit casual (and a stark contrast to his clean, spotless vehicle), knew his chauffeuring stuff. He used excellent etiquette and safe, smooth driving skills. It was a no-fuss-no-muss experience, surpassing that of a taxi. I cannot think of one operator who would have tolerated a chauffeur in jeans, an untucked button-down shirt and sneakers, so that was a big flaw.

However, I’ve been in the limousine industry for 24 years, so I have a discriminating eye and am very picky. The “average Joe” passenger might have been so impressed by the Mercedes-Benz and the driver’s efficiency (and so angry at the limousine company who rejected the trip), that he easily could have overlooked this detail.

I wish I could report to you I had a ride from hell. Perhaps it was just beginner’s luck that my first Uber experience was good. Maybe it was serendipitous so I could share this story with you as a cautionary tale — firsthand food for thought — to remind operators we are on the razor’s edge here with Uber service compared to ours.

Our clear mark of distinction always has been our service. And, thanks to on-demand technology, clients now expect us to perform in tighter time frames. We may not have to be Johnny-on-the-spot to please our clients but we need to do better in our communication and execution. And we should watch our back when it comes to service. 

Uber is trying to mimic us, and the brand borders could blur even further if we are not on our service game at all times. Strong, consistent, prompt, clean chauffeured service in all respects must be top-of-mind now and into the cyberspace future. Our industry depends on it.

Related Topics: building your clientele, customer service, LCT Publisher, Sara Eastwood, TNCs, Uber

Comments ( 2 )
  • See all comments
  • Mike Emerson

     | about 3 years ago

    I was wondering when our industry will realize the convenience Uber provides for riders! Uber has a monopoly in this on-demand market and has developed a fine mobile app, poured massive amounts of money into marketing, hired the country's best lobbyists to mandate a new sets of rules and regulations to accommodate their business model and are backed by financial giants. Uber has saturated many markets with drivers and their large number, and wide variety, of vehicles providing a most timely and convenient service. The chauffeured transportation has always shined with professional, safe, licensed, insured and consistent service. Our business protocol has always been "give us some time" for your pre-scheduled reservation. But that is all about to change. Now instead of your experience emailing just one medium to large company, imagine using a mobile app from your local or favorite operator, that connects you to ten, twenty or hundreds of qualified operators in compliance with all Federal, State and Local laws. You'll have your chauffeured vehicle immediately or schedule a pick-up in a few hours. That technology is just around the corner, and with the cooperation of dispatch system vendors and the participation of limousine operators we will 'talk the talk and walk the walk.'

More Stories
Article

How To Get Clients To See Value In Your Rates

NOV. LCT: We fear our own prices when comparing ourselves to TNCs, but we don’t compete with them any more than Marriott does with a Motel 6. Learn how to justify your rates without guilt.

News

2018's Luxury Travel Trends

Among the highlights for next year is a focus on far-flung destinations along with international trips of two weeks or more.

Article

The Art Of Sales

NOV. LCT: In the battle to obtain new clients and retain loyal ones, only those who know the best ways to reach, connect with, and educate them will survive.

Article

How To Handle Conflicts Of Interest

NOV. LCT: Forming relationships with your customers is a vital part of retaining them. But how do you ensure you and your employees never cross the line of professionalism?