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Santa Barbara Service Reaps Rewards From Repeat Customers

Michael Campos
Posted on April 5, 2013
Santa Barbara, Calif. operator Maria Yepez draws on her multilingual skills to serve a diverse mix of retail and corporate clients. (LCT photo)

Santa Barbara, Calif. operator Maria Yepez draws on her multilingual skills to serve a diverse mix of retail and corporate clients. (LCT photo)

[Updated 3/8/19]

What they did before: Before founding SB Chauffeuring and Tours in Santa Barbara, Calif. in 2007, Tony Talia owned a shop that sold accessories for women. Maria Yepez has a degree in hotel management with a minor in business, received training as a concierge, worked in the hotel industry, and also once owned a business. In their careers, they developed customer-centric service philosophies. Talia speaks four languages, which qualifed him for a brief stint as a tour guide.

Why they got into the business: In 2006, Talia and Yepez booked an airport transfer. After reflecting on the service, they believed they could do better, especially with their combined backgrounds of customer service and business management.

Start-up costs and methods: Talia and Yepez started with a Toyota Avalon. In 2008, they added a Lincoln Navigator L and a stretch limousine to focus on the region’s wedding and wine tour markets.

Biggest mistake: Starting with an Avalon sedan and an all-white fleet. “It was hard for us to sell the Avalon, and we got hurt having white vehicles because corporate clients didn’t want them,” Yepez says. “White vehicles for weddings and wine tours were fine, but it wasn’t until the first ILCT Show we went to that I learned corporate travelers couldn’t use us because of our white cars. I learned this at the women’s breakfast. We changed our fleet to black and changed the Avalon to a Town Car. I have learned a lot from the educational sessions at the Show. It’s why we go.”

Best marketing strategy: LSB Chauffeuring & Tours tried many marketing angles, from advertising in the Yellow Pages and magazines to Google AdWords. The company discovered the Internet works best. Social networks and user-review websites, mainly Yelp and WeddingWire.com, drive new business. They have redesigned their website several times and offer a mobile-optimized version for smartphones and tablets. Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers generate new clientele. The company’s name also helps attract international clients because they identify more companies whose names say “chauffeur” instead of “limousine.”

Unique approaches to customer service: Flat rates instead of hourly rates for transporting wedding guests from reception back to hotel; complimentary champagne and beverages; car decorations for bachelorette parties; red carpet and Just Married sign for weddings; group photos that can be put on CDs and magnets that are mailed to clients with a Thank You card and discount offer for future service. “We look for repeat customers,” Talia says. “We treat our customers like VIPs. It doesn’t matter if they pay less or more. We get a lot of repeat customers from the photo magnet because they keep that picture on their fridge and see our name and call us.”

What they like about the industry: Talia and Yepez enjoy getting to know customers and driving them. Talia has a passion for cars, driving and serving as a tour guide when needed. “It feels good when you do your best and make people happy. It’s a fun job. I love it,” Yepez says.

Advice to operators: “Don’t buy white cars!” Talia says. “Focus on service, go to the ILCT Show before opening your business because it will help you avoid heartaches and headaches, and focus more on online advertising, especially with the target market in town.”

Future plans: Expand service to smaller hotels in the region, enhance email marketing efforts, and buy a new vehicle. “We might have to go with the Lincoln MKT Town Car. We don’t really like the look, but you have better benefits going with Lincoln. Cadillac is not as comfortable, and the Chrysler 300 is not a good fit for us.”


FAST FACTS about SB Chauffeuring & Tours 

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Founded: February 2007
Main service region: Santa Barbara County
Types of vehicles: Lincoln Town Car Executive L, Ford Expedition SUV Limited EL, and Ford Expedition Stretch Limo SUV
Fleet size: 3
Employees: 3
Annual revenues: $123,000
Owner: Maria Yepez
Website: www.sbchauffeuring.com
Information: (805) 563-5132

Related Topics: California operators, management, marketing/promotions, mobile internet, mobile technology, New Operator, small-fleet operators, web marketing, websites, weddings, wine tours

Comments ( 3 )
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  • Lynn Johnson

     | about 6 years ago

    This is some great info. My husband and I, just started a Limo & Transport business in Central Florida. Things started out slow but now progressing. Just like you said we started out with a White Limo & 2013 Chrysler 300 Black on Black. We will be using this info. Thx Black Pearls Luxury Transport

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