Operations

Handling The Rise Of Worldwide Limo Service

Jim Luff
Posted on August 9, 2011

In the last decade, the chauffeured transportation industry has seen a boom in company name changes that include terms such as “Worldwide,” “Global,” and “International.”

LCT Publisher Sara Eastwood-McLean has even suggested that the word “Galactic” be used to illustrate the casual and exaggerated use of the above terms. After all, if you provide luxury sedan service to a future spaceport where clients board sub-orbital supersonic jets, why not call yourself “Chauffeured Services Galactic?”

Houston operator Erich Reindl says developing a global clientele requires much attention to detail. It is an endeavor for the serious-minded only.
Houston operator Erich Reindl says developing a global clientele requires much attention to detail. It is an endeavor for the serious-minded only.

Providing an occasional ride abroad or farming-in an order from another country doesn’t necessarily qualify an operation as “worldwide” in scope. Companies with extensive experience arranging regular trans-national transportation work hard to develop their networks, and serve as instructive models for operators of all fleet sizes who aspire to serve a truly global clientele.

Growing the business

Arrow Limousine Nationwide, based in Red Bank, N.J., has not changed its name to fit its global efforts, but certainly has made a name for itself in the global transportation market. Kevin Callinan, sales and client services manager for Arrow, says that the growth has been gradual. “The key to any good, sustained growth in our industry has been patience,” Callinan says. “Our primary concern was to vet our affiliates and establish a comfort level before offering the service to all of our clients.”

For Kris Korkian, CEO of Australia-based Penguin Cars and Limousines, reaching exclusive agreements with companies was key to building worldwide business. Penguin provides service in the United Kingdom, U.S., and Hong Kong. It advertises that it provides service to more than 100 airports. Korkian says his face-to-face meetings with affiliate managers and directors of companies such as Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services, Music Express, LimoLink, and LimoRes were important. He notes that most of those meetings took place at LCT’s International Show in Las Vegas, but he also has relied on business trips during the last two years to establish affiliate relationships. Korkian also attributes web presence to helping build the business.

“We do regularly market on Google and Yahoo via Adwords targeting specific international markets such as the U.S., U.K., and Canada,” Korkian says. He adds that the company also targets global travel agencies using Constant Contact marketing software.

Another step to growth is to attend conventions and association meetings, says Joe Ironi of Global Alliance Worldwide Chauffeured Services Ltd. of Toronto. “We began to develop the affiliate relationships of people we could trust with our VIPs,” he says. One simple way Ironi discovered in developing global business was to just ask clients, “Do you require a chauffeur in your destination city?”

“At the beginning the response was, ‘You can do that?’ Now it is just second nature,” he says. Ironi also uses blast emails.

United Worldwide Private Car co-founders Jason Dornhoffer and Terry Murtaugh treat arriving clients from foreign nations as if they belong in their Boston backyard.
United Worldwide Private Car co-founders Jason Dornhoffer and Terry Murtaugh treat arriving clients from foreign nations as if they belong in their Boston backyard.

For Avanti International based in Houston, providing global service was a natural extension of the business since it serves many Fortune 500 firms with headquarters in Houston. These companies work in a global environment. “It was a combination of offering the service to the client and the willingness of the client to try and see how it works,” says Avanti’s Austrian-born CEO Erich Reindl.

Boston-based United Worldwide Private Car has worked consistently to develop inbound work for clients seeking service in the Boston area, which is dominated by financial institutions. Founders Jason Dornhoffer and Terry Murtaugh have strived to instill a value in their staff to treat global clients as if they were in-house clients. This includes creating signs bearing the logos of the affiliates sending the work so that clients feel more at ease when arriving at airports.

Adjusting operations

One dilemma in serving a worldwide market is dealing with fluctuating prices. A quote given today could easily change tomorrow due to currency exchange rates. Operations must remain flexible in establishing pricing guidelines so that clients know what to expect, Callinan says. He emphasizes that such a stipulation is never provided to quotes within the nation.

Australian operator Kris Korkian stresses the need for face-to-face meetings and formal agreements in building global affiliate networks.
Australian operator Kris Korkian stresses the need for face-to-face meetings and formal agreements in building global affiliate networks.

Another obvious challenge is language barriers. “It is important to continue to look for value and tenure in all of your affiliates,” Callinan says. “No (single) international booking is worth compromising standards.” Korkian created a new position called affiliate relations manager who figures out how to improve service for global travellers. Penguin’s fleet mix was changed to better serve the demands. Because of time differences, Korkian realized the need to provide service by telephone and email 24/7 to handle last minute quotes and reservations. “We guaranteed providing quick invoices within 48 hours of job completion,” he says.

Ironi also emphasizes the need for an affiliate manager to oversee all affiliate orders.  “Our adjustment as a company was to get buy-in from our entire staff in asking the right questions with our clients, as well as properly handling a farm out order from beginning to end.”

It is apparent that having dedicated affiliate managers to communicate with each other helps both companies provide the level of service expected of one another. In certain cultures, protocol for things as innocent as greetings could make or break a level of confidence. For instance, in some cultures, religions and countries, such as in some predominantly Muslim nations, shaking the hand of a woman is considered inappropriate. Other factors to consider are the time differences, which when spanning 12 hours, means calls in the middle of the night on your end are calls in the middle of the business day for faraway affiliates. Of course when the call comes in, either your staff must speak the language of the caller or the caller must speak your language in order to provide proper service and understand the details of the order, vehicle types, and special requests.

Advice for providing global service

Ironi offers up some tested wisdom: “If you stay true to your clients and offer them real value in using your service globally, your company will be rewarded financially. However, if you chose to overbill and make unrealistic profits per affiliate transfer, your clients will see right through that part of your business and it will never be successful.”

Toronto operator Joe Ironi warns against overbilling inbound foreign clients, who can quickly spot such practices.
Toronto operator Joe Ironi warns against overbilling inbound foreign clients, who can quickly spot such practices.

While it may be easy to tell a client about an overnight rate reduction, it might not be as easy to disclose a steep rate increase. Almost all operators interviewed agreed that global profits are attained in small pieces of work done on volume. The mark-up margin is razor thin in most cases, and to make any substantial profit, operators must engage in global sales regularly. The key to success and repeat business is to make sure the service you deliver is the same exact service the client is accustomed to on their home turf, regardless of where that might be.

Reindl advises paying attention to the details. He also advises operators not to attempt to enter the global market unless they are serious about it. “There are many obstacles you don’t even know about until they occur,” he says. “These include language barriers, time differences of two to 12 hours, and office hours of your affiliates, and of course the currency exchange rate and additional costs credit card companies add for international transactions.”

Reindl suggests working with a company that already has international affiliates until you really understand the business.

 

Related Topics: affiliate networks, business expansion, business travel, business trends, Global operators, networking

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Video

LCT East: Catch the Wave of Success

LCT/NLA Show East takes place November 5-7, 2017 at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and offers a complete trade show marketplace, networking forum, and educational lineup ideal for limousine and bus operators nationwide and based on the East Coast.