Operations

French Company Is An Ambassador Of Chauffeured Transportation

Lexi Tucker
Posted on December 4, 2017

Martineau believes you should be proud of what you have built and never sell out.
Martineau believes you should be proud of what you have built and never sell out.
Who: Valérie Martineau, co-founder and general manager, Güt & Berg Limousines, Paris, France

Customer service: The hardest part of chauffeured transportation is sustaining service quality, Martineau says. You have to be flexible enough to adapt to each client and affiliate. “We have capital in the form of confidence with our customers. If any glitch happens, we feel it drops back down to zero and we must build it back up.” Every ride is a mission. “If you are at the airport chatting with other chauffeurs and see your client, you drop everything; at that moment, they are the most important person in the world.”

Biggest success: Martineau’s company maintains a spotless image. The base of faithful clients they have built also pleases her. “My biggest joy is when they say, ‘With you, I know I never have to stress.’ It’s so incredible being the first person to welcome a traveler to your country.”

Fast Facts

Location: Paris, France

Owners: Gutemberg Nkounke and Valérie Martineau

Founded: 2011

Vehicle types: Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, V-Class, and Luxury Sprinter

Fleet size: 7

Website: www.gutandberglimousines.com

Start-up costs and methods: Güt & Berg began with three Mercedes-Benz vehicles, which Martineau and her business partner Gutemberg Nkounke wanted to own outright. They threw themselves into the business, and learned everything they needed to on the spot. Both desired to show clients the city and suggest excursions that fit their luxury brand. For two years it was all they talked about.

“We’d talk about it at every dinner we’d go to and to every person we’d meet,” she says. A big step in the company’s growth was joining the National Limousine Association. “A lot of business comes to France from the U.S., so meeting American operators at shows really helped us grow.”

Advice: Don’t sell out. “You have to have rates that will enable you to do this work correctly. We haven’t raised or lowered ours in the last six years; be clear on your positioning and stick to it,” she says. This industry is difficult and takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s one in which your competitors can also be your greatest allies. “Sharing experiences and reevaluating the way you work by consulting with fellow operators is important.”

Gutemberg Nkounke “on the field” at Le Bourget Airport in Paris.
Gutemberg Nkounke “on the field” at Le Bourget Airport in Paris.
Origins: Before the company started in late 2011, Martineau owned a healthcare advertising agency, which became complicated due to strict industry regulations, while Nkounke had retired from professional soccer after a last season in Hong Kong. They brainstormed workable ideas, and since they lived in a beautiful country and an incredible city, tourism was the best option. “This was when Uber was nothing more than a German word, so competition was scarce,” she jokes.

Future plans: Providing service nationwide, while proving to potential clients the clear difference between TNCs and chauffeured operations. “As a result of our high-end positioning, more and more clients turn to Güt & Berg for VIP excursions and concierge services in addition to transportation.”

Lessons learned: Improving time management. “We want everything to be perfect for every ride, and much of our time goes into attention to detail. You have to know when to stop,” she says. There’s one way the business wants to make a name for itself. “While technology helps things run more efficiently, taking the extra time to speak with someone and make a human connection is what this business is about.”

Free time: Attending parties with friends and good wine.

Related Topics: customer service, European operators, French operators, international, small-fleet operators

Lexi Tucker Assistant Editor
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