Operations

Doubling Down On Luxury Service

Martin Romjue
Posted on February 6, 2017

Summoning an Uber ride every time you add a shopping bag would get tiresome. ©iStock.com/ Tom Merton
Summoning an Uber ride every time you add a shopping bag would get tiresome. ©iStock.com/ Tom Merton
We’ve never lived in a time swaddled in so many luxury products, services, and places, yet where the term luxury risks losing its allure for being so imitated and commonplace.

Take Uber, for example. The TNC succeeds in presenting a veneer of luxury at mass market prices. But like a Louis Vuitton knock off, Uber can only take it so far, given its mass economies of scale and public image. No matter how black or high-brand the vehicle, it’s still a glorified taxi. Even an Uber Black-level ride, which in California at least uses TCP-licensed and labeled vehicles, doesn’t match the quality of a chauffeured one. The drivers often don’t wear suits, lack onboard bottled water, and if you look or feel close enough, often drives with minor vehicle defects that flunk the limo test. You get what you pay for.

I came across an approach recently that answers the leading challenge for operators, at least if you notice all the fear and outrage about TNCs on social media. A colleague of mine received a glossy magazine advertising the 2017 Lincoln Continental, titled “Defining Luxury: What Makes An Experience Better.” This could be the slogan for every limousine service in America. The issue, with articles on luxury concepts and products and Continental test reviews, points to an overarching solution to prospering in a disrupted, faux-luxury market.

Limousine operations belong in the old guard of industries qualified to define, or redefine authentic luxury. Far from trying to mimic TNCs, this is the time to double down on luxury advantages and practices. Here are some ways I’ve noticed:

Upward mobility: Check out these websites presented in luxury overtones: www.eagleeyelimo.com and www.eckolimo.com, run by operators and cousins Ronnie Singh and Harry Dhillon respectively. In an always-on world, your instant company image clicked on a mobile device creates a first impression. Make sure it communicates a luxury experience, instead of just a driving service. Upgrading your website is a worthwhile investment, and for younger generations, serves as a standard for judgment.

Priceless promotions: Chances are many of your clients patronize arts and cultural venues, or at least devote time to entertainment leisure. Think of the ever-present society shots of hobnobbing socialites at urban charity and gallery functions. Several years ago, I visited a limousine company near Beverly Hills that held a fleet vehicle open house event — complete with hors d’oeuvres, champagne, jewelry and luxury product displays, and of course, vehicle tours. Whether at your company, a rented venue, or travel event, this would be a suitable way to show off Continentals, Escalades, or Sprinters, or any new luxury vehicle in your fleet. Throw in some artisanal drinks and swag bags, and your service will resonate with a targeted clientele.

Pitch the (aspirational) rich: While thumbing through yet another luxury magazine, DuJour (Dujour.com), I saw one of the best ads for chauffeured service, from Empire CLS. “Don’t be driven by success. Be driven to success,” the motto states beneath a photogenic, fashionable couple headed into a vehicle. Clever advertising pitches coupled with lifestyle imagery can set your business apart. The more you can depict the real luxury thing, maybe using real clients, chauffeurs, and your vehicles in exclusive settings backed by testimonies, the more you distinguish your brand.

Creative encounters: The five-star Palazzo Versace hotel, located along Australia’s Gold Coast southeast of Brisbane, offers what it calls extravagant adventures to the most fashionable boutiques in the city, complete with a stylist, according to a report in the London Daily Mail. The “Glamour E Lusso Experience” includes traveling in the hotel’s bespoke Rolls-Royce Phantom at $1,750 for one guest and an extra $900 for each additional guest. Beyond shopping, does your service region offer possible one or partial day excursions to small upscale towns that attract a luxury clientele and lie along scenic routes to get there? In Southern California, the towns of Los Olivos, Ojai, and Montecito come to mind, while New York offers the 10-county Hudson River Valley. Besides shopping, how could an operator adapt this approach? A tour of museums? An art gallery roundabout? Designer home routes, themed on an architectural style? Endless ideas.

Speaking of the Lincoln Continental, we’ve all by now had a chance to sit and ride in them. This new luxury sedan, with its devoted industry fan club, more than makes up for the loss of the larger Town Car. Its total ease-of-control amenities along the rear armrest command entertainment, seats, lights, and climate. With operators embracing fleet vehicles like this in the market, the industry is far from losing its identity.

Related Topics: building your clientele, client markets, customer service, Editor's Edge Blog, LCT editor, luxury market trends, marketing/promotions, Martin Romjue, VIP service, wealthy clients

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