Operations

How To Sell Service In A Local Market

Jim Luff
Posted on December 20, 2016

There’s no doubt TNCs like Uber and Lyft are encroaching in local markets. With Uber introducing “scheduled rides” in many cities, operators are finding themselves challenged to maintain a share of the pie they once owned. There are still many advantages of using a livery service over a TNC, but we must sell those reasons to our business community.

What Happened In Local Markets?
Shortly after Uber launched in March 2009 in San Francisco, many small to mid-sized operators around the country watched in amusement. The thought of private citizens driving their personal vehicles with passengers seemed preposterous. No one believed it would take off. When TNCs began expanding into other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, the same operators shrugged their shoulders and falsely believed cities of less than 500,000 people would probably never see TNCs arrive in their communities.

That was shorter than eight years ago. Now, the small town of Shafter, Calif., with a population of only 17,000 people, is served by Uber. No one is shrugging their shoulders anymore. TNCs are here to stay. We should have been educating our small community markets long before they arrived. But we didn’t, and now we must play a catch-up game of convincing our once loyal local business customers why they should continue to use our service.

Throwing Media Stones
One tool TNCs continually give us to use against them is bad publicity. Everything from rapes to kidnappings, murders to uninsured accidents, and of course, their “surge-pricing” tactics. However, unless your business clients are living under a rock, you really don’t need to spend too much time throwing out the statistics of danger.

However, you might consider including in a “sell sheet” or proposal a few media stories about things that have gone wrong with TNCs. The Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Mich. accused of shooting six people in a rampage illustrates what can happen when ordinary citizens drive others with few or no background checks. You can use such incidents to show how this resembles hitchhiking in the 1960s and 70s, which was common. Too many hitchhikers were raped, robbed, killed, or left stranded, and eventually we saw hitchhiking drop off. The TNC apps of today’s era equate to nothing more than an electronic version of the same thing.

We Are Luxury
One of our biggest selling points is our fleets. Livery operators run premium luxury sedans, SUVs, vans, and of course, stretch limousines. When you order a TNC, you risk getting anything from a Honda to a Volkswagen. You don’t have the luxury of requesting a certain type of vehicle. You must accept whatever shows up.

If you are the marketing director of a company and you’re trying to impress a new client, having a Honda Civic transport your party to dinner doesn’t appeal. If the dinner party involves multiple passengers, someone may have to sit up front with the driver rather than being seated together in the passenger seats of a Sprinter or a Suburban. Is it a risk the marketing manager is willing to take?

With limousines, we still have the market locked up, but let’s face it: Limousines have fallen out of vogue except for weddings and funerals. Having a high-occupancy vehicle is an important consideration and one most TNC drivers avoid. Sell your fleet to your customers, and sell them on not taking a chance on the Volkswagen.

Airport Transportation Problems
Using a TNC to or from an airport creates a host of potential reasons business customers should use a legitimate livery service. If there are two couples traveling together, it’s unlikely their luggage and bodies will all fit in a TNC vehicle. However, there is no place on the app to indicate how many people or how much luggage you are transporting.

Imagine the horror of a TNC driver operating a Fiat who arrives at your home for an early morning flight when you have four people ready to go to the airport. Needless to say, it won’t work. This is yet another selling point for your company. The party will know without a doubt what type of vehicle is coming for them with a discussion about the amount of luggage completed in advance.

Many airports have rules or even restrictions on TNCs operating in the airport. It would be disappointing for a traveler to arrive at his destination after a long flight and find out TNCs are not allowed to pick-up at the airport. Be sure to share with your clients how airport authority programs work with decals, transponders, and permits. Share with your clients the constant filings of insurance certificates, vehicle registrations, chauffeur information, and other requirements of your airport intended to keep the traveling public safe.

Who’s Driving You?
Perhaps one of the most important selling aspects we have is the ability to say, “We know for sure who is driving you.” Anyone can become a TNC driver through an online application. Basically, if someone has a bank account, a driver’s license, and a vehicle registration, he or she can become a TNC driver. No job interviews or extensive background checks. TNCs have adamantly opposed mandatory fingerprint checks, the most reliable. Why? Because it costs money.

Use the adage, “You get what you pay for” in your selling. Explain how important passenger safety is during your sales pitch. If you require fingerprint checks (either mandated or voluntarily), let your prospective clients know you believe it is an investment in their safety. If you use a third-party background check service, share that information, how much it costs, and who performs them. It clearly shows your intent to make certain you know who you’re hiring. Share your training practices and compare them to TNC drivers who receive no formal training at all.

Sharing With Your Community
While the industry has placed great faith in the National Limousine Association to share the message about the perils of using TNCs, it’s up to local operators to share the message with their community in any forum they can. The best place to start is with community based business clubs such as Rotary International, Lions, Kiwanis, and even the local Chamber of Commerce.

These groups are always looking for speakers. You have a story to tell. Remember, sharing information about TNCs should not come off as a sales pitch about your company. The names of you and your company will be on the agenda. You will be presenting information as an “expert” in your field. You can refer to your company, such as mentioning you have all the required airport permits, and hiring and background check procedures. This is a positive marketing message that also educates people who know nothing about TNCs.

Related Topics: building your clientele, client markets, How To, Jim Luff, marketing/promotions, Sales & Marketing, TNCs

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 2 years ago

    Once the new administration is at the white house, i urge all of you talented writers to send a letter to President Trump explaining the illegal business tactics uber has done in the usa and how every state is loosing taxabke income from uber not classifying their personal as employees.

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