Operations

How To Keep Winning Lifelong Customers

Jim Luff
Posted on May 26, 2016

Panel moderator and Toronto operator Joe Ironi visits with an attendee at the Show session, titled Mastering The Art of Winning Lifelong Customers.
Panel moderator and Toronto operator Joe Ironi visits with an attendee at the Show session, titled Mastering The Art of Winning Lifelong Customers.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — There are many reasons why we want to keep our clients for the rest of their lives, or the lives of their companies. An obvious one is to earn a living. But clients can be more than a single source of revenue. A client who is treated well and enjoys your service can become an ambassador for your company.

In fact, a satisfied and happy client can become one of the best salespeople imaginable for your company. A client referring business to you requires little effort on your part to close the sale. It is more a process of simply accepting the new orders.

At the International LCT Show on March 1, Joe Ironi, CEO of Global Alliance Worldwide based in Toronto, moderated a session of longtime successful operators including Rick Brown of La Costa Limousine in San Diego, Calif., Neil Goodman of Aventura Worldwide Transportation in Miami, and Michael Southwick of LTI Worldwide Limousine in Boston. Each operator has decades of experience in growing their businesses. They answered audience questions and provided solid advice for growth through client loyalty.

Ironi laid out the foundation for what it takes to keep a client for life. His first piece of advice: “Sweat the small stuff.” While this is opposite of what we usually hear, Ironi explained the difference between providing a ride versus providing one with great attention to detail. “You must differentiate yourself and focus on customer satisfaction at all times,” Ironi said.

Relationship Managers
Southwick advised dedicating someone in-house to manage the relationship. That person will call a client to ask if everything was okay and how the relationship has fared in the past. By encouraging communication between the client and the company, the client is less likely to ask his assistant to “get me another car service,” Southwick advised. If they have a dedicated relationship contact, they are more likely to call and report problems and seek a resolution instead of simply going elsewhere for their transportation needs. Goodman said when a regular client goes “MIA,” he will call them to ask if everything is okay or if something happened that he is unaware of.

Job Follow-Up
Goodman also said he calls the booker of every major job Aventura performs to see if the vehicle arrived on time, was loaded on time, and everything went exactly as planned. Southwick offered his personal cell number to all large jobs, and any client who wants to be able to talk to the top boss in the company. Such action allows a client to see the commitment to service. “You’re only as good as your last ride,” Goodman said.

Disaster Recovery
Sometimes jobs don’t go well. Perhaps traffic or an accident caused a chauffeur to arrive late for a pickup. Southwick advises the best course of action is to immediately remedy the situation with sincere apologies and meaningful actions, such as sending flowers to a hotel with an apology note if something went wrong at the airport. Does this seem extreme? Maybe. However, close attention builds loyalty. The client knows the mistake occurred and now sees a sincere apology effort.

Out & About
While approaches such as shared cell numbers, post-trip follow-up calls and dedicated relationship managers help, the information needs to be shared with potential clients. Goodman views his attendance at numerous charity events as “his job.”

“You have got to be out and about in your community all the time attending charity events, dinners and serving on committees to expose your name and your level of service,” Goodman said. All panel members agreed networking is an important part of landing new clients, and that means connecting with your community.

Community Participation
All panelists agreed donations to community groups are a good way to show potential clients you care about the community and are willing to earn new business by investing in it. The panel members also concluded monetary donations should be avoided in favor of ride donations only. Because of the service operators offer, namely high-quality luxury vehicles, they can get more bang for their buck with the vehicle on display at an event and out on the road when the free ride is redeemed. “Our profit margins don’t support large cash giveaways,” Brown said.

Employee Retention
The panel discussed the merit of longtime employees who tend to give better service to clients. The biggest reason is long-term employees perfect their job performance over time. They truly understand company values and principles and know the expectations of customer service. It’s not just the chauffeurs who matter as much as the entire team contributes. Reservationists who repeatedly serve the same clients can generally take the reservation quicker and know the client’s particular desires for a certain type of vehicle or a specific chauffeur. Long-term car detailers and preppers know the expectations for each vehicle they prepare and improve their performance with time and training.

Of course, the most important employee is the chauffeur who will serve the client. The chauffeur will be primarily responsible for customer satisfaction, and will have the most face-time with the client. The chauffeur’s actions determine success or failure. When a client lands at an airport late at night after a long business trip, the familiar face of a chauffeur waiting in baggage claim can be a welcome and comforting sight. Chauffeurs who pay attention to detail will recognize clients’ luggage as it comes down the conveyor belt and will grab it before the clients do. This is another “wow” moment.

Details, Details, Details
Everyone wants to feel like they’re special. Every client wants to be remembered. Little things like grabbing luggage without being asked can command attention.

Knowing exactly where the client’s office and home are located instills confidence and allows them to relax and enjoy the ride instead of feeling the need to help with directions. If the client always stops at Starbucks on the way home, asking about a coffee stop before the client does shows how much you care.

Having it in your hand when they appear in baggage claim might be priceless. It is the attention to particular details of each client and anticipating their needs and requests that set companies apart in service delivery. Chauffeurs should pay attention to conversations in the vehicle without intruding, but should capture details that could help them anticipate a need or request and be ready to act upon it. A small example could be overhearing an out-of-town traveler wanting to eat Italian food and then recommending a restaurant.

Related Topics: Aventura, customer service, employee retention, Florida operators, Global Alliance, How To, ILCT 2016, industry education, Joe Ironi, La Costa Limousine, limo tradeshows, Neil Goodman, Rick Brown, VIP service

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • anthony

     | about 2 years ago

    #1 deliver what you promised #2 treat every customer as their first time using your service #3 never ever send a dirty vehicle #4 service #5 service #6 service We want to be as good or better then the customers service provider back east

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