Industry Research

Fine Tuning For Top Clients

Martin Romjue
Posted on February 22, 2012

 

After the economic tumult of the last four years, operators in many respects are rediscovering and revamping the basics of client service.

The original clients of chauffeured transportation — known alternately as affluent and wealthy — have changed their outlooks and expectations. Operators now must constantly stay attuned to these client changes in real time, requiring new strategies to attract and retain wealthy clients.

Affluent/wealthy clients received renewed industry attention at the LCT Leadership Summit in September 2011 when wealth expert Dr. James Taylor explained to operators how their companies must adjust to the shifting habits and expectations of this lucrative market. [See “Wealth Adapts To New Vibe,” LCT Magazine, Dec. 2011].

The LCT Operator of the Year Class of 2012 pursues stellar service by focusing on all facets of the chauffeured experience, and making sure technology, training, and policies help chauffeurs and employees deliver the best quality of service.

Demand is constant, expectations are high, and competition is tough in the post-Recession chauffeured world. Before we introduce the 15 finalists, LCT offers this compilation of their advice in response to two key questions. Many offered similar points in the summaries below:

Question ONE: What changes have you observed in recent years in this segment’s expectations, demands, and
chauffeured protocols?

  • The notion of “luxury” has given way to a more understated refinement. People of considerable means are more sensitive than before about the choices they make, considering widespread economic challenges. Clients are looking for smart, seamless transportation.
  • More than ever, clients want to get the most services and amenities for their dollars spent on transportation.
  • Clients are all stressed more than before, especially business executives. They are pursuing opportunities in a difficult business climate with smaller support staffs than before. 
  • Clients need to be serviced at any cost. If they need service and you are booked, figure out alternatives.
  • Clients need to justify the extra “spend” for the service and expect that service level more than ever.
  • An average chauffeur wage of $19/hour at Rare Form Limousine (including pre-billed gratuity) helps retain the best chauffeurs available. New high-end affluent/wealthy clients this year told the company that they stopped using their last chauffeured transportation company due to speeding, [chauffeurs] talking too much, and [chauffeurs] not helping with the luggage as they expected.
  • Wealthy/affluent clients have become accustomed to immediate gratification in almost everything in a 24/7 society. They are used to getting their way, so last-minute service needs to be seamless and convenient.
  • Inquiries on pricing and perceived value have become more important regardless of a client’s net worth. Everyone wants to feel as if they are getting a good deal. Some clients need to be “re-educated” on the value of chauffeured service.
  • Wealthy/affluent clients belong to an exclusive club that thrives on word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • More and more wealthy/ affluent clients want to have a chauffeured transportation company’s entire staff sign their specific confidentiality agreements and also conduct their own background checks. Operators should have their own confidential agreements and background checks in place as well.
  • Wealthy/affluent clients are not difficult to deal with — as long as everything goes smoothly.
  • Clients are more concerned about environmental sustainability and are looking for greener service providers and vehicles. Clients expect more choices on vehicles, pricing and emissions-reporting options.
  • More and more clients are asking what technologies operations use compared to competitors that will ensure high quality service and help cut their costs.
  • Affluent clients are aware that this is still a buyer’s market, despite improving economic conditions. Gone are the days of careless spending and stand-by vehicles. These clients are now looking to get more value out of their entertainment dollars. They seldom book vehicles on an as-directed basis unless they have to. While not exactly price shopping, they are pushing for the best quality-value proposition.

 

Question TWO: What successful strategies have you learned/followed over the years that attract and keep high-end affluent/wealthy clients?

  • Charming, polished, high-quality chauffeurs professionally dressed in black suit, black tie, silver vest, and white shirt.
  • Chauffeurs/employees who use respectful, formal conversational grammar.
  • Meticulously clean vehicles at all times in all circumstances.
  • Check vehicles daily by chauffeurs assigned to them using a full commercial vehicle check process addressing mechanics, comfort and cleanliness.
  • Chauffeurs equipped with latest text/talk/data technology for instant interactions.
  • Punctuality: To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.
  • Never late guarantee; if one minute late, the first hour is free; if more than 15 minutes late, the entire reservation is free.
  • Precision: Getting all the details and listening to the client.
  • Personal and corporate involvement in organizations that attract high-end clients.
  • Office team needs to get permission to say no. There is almost always a way to make the service happen.  
  • Don’t let your best clients know you are too busy to service their needs.  
  • If there is a special event in your town, reach out to your best clients well in advance asking if they should need a vehicle during that event.
  • State-of-the-art consumer grade in-dash navigation systems complete with XM Traffic integration. Train chauffeurs extensively on the proper use of navigation systems, including how to leverage their many advanced functions to keep from getting lost but also to manage the client’s reservation time and assist the client when making as-directed changes to a reservation.
  • Be a solutions-based service with a “YES” attitude; always look to solve the clients’ problems.
  • Take examples of successful trips and calls and circulate them among employees to reinforce a culture that builds a satisfied network among clients.
  • All chauffeurs must be able to serve all clients in all vehicles.
  • Assign specific chauffeurs to top high-end accounts based on client preferences.
  • Log and profile the likes and dislikes, drinks, snacks, and favorite stops of clients into the computer system.
  • Knowing each client’s preferences including minute details will earn their lasting loyalty. They are used to being catered to and coddled on a daily basis.
  • Train chauffeurs and management as a “mobile concierge service” to do whatever it takes to please clients. Wealthy/affluent customers expect it.
  • Advertise in high-end media outlets to put your name in front of this client group.
  • Contribute to many of the charities of affluent clients to boost name recognition and be brought in to do work as a favor to clients.
  • Start a high-end customized transportation service under a different name that gives the most discriminating customers on-demand access to the fleet and unparalleled access to the top restaurants and attractions. (Ex.: Grand Avenue Chauffeured Transportation’s “Grand Select” service).
  • Maintain onboard amenities checklist: Candies, gum, water, flowers, coffee/tea, newspapers, beverage of choice, preferred chauffeur.
  • Provide superior onboard technology: Premium sound systems, leather seating, iPod jacks, heated seats, multiple DVD screens, chrome trim packages, extra dark tinted windows.
  • Consistent contact with familiar reservationists and chauffeurs.
  • Offer Fiji-brand bottled waters only.

Related Topics: customer service, Operator of the Year Awards, tips for success, wealthy clients

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