Operations

How To Get Your Service Soaring With More Class

Martin Romjue
Posted on October 2, 2018
A British Airways first class section (Creative Commons file photo)
A British Airways first class section (Creative Commons file photo)

I’ll admit I’m getting burned out on all the talk of cost-conscious consumers, especially those travelers angling for a $9 ride-hail. I understand the desire to save money where possible and not pay too much, but one consequence of the real-time, mobile-centric market is a mismatch between price and expectations.

Consumers collectively insist on low prices, thanks to more media at their fingertips. But they also want what they see all over the media, too: Other people enjoying the good or better life, or a carefully curated life on Facebook.

Welcome to envy-eyed, selfie-stickied, cheapskate Americana brought to you in part by Uber and Lyft.

Sorry to deflate anyone’s smart shopping strategy, but no matter how much money you can save thanks to an info-surged, competitive, e-commerce market, you still get what you pay for in one way or another.  

That’s why a recent Forbes magazine report about a start-up luxury airline got my attention. At a time when so much of our commerce has become commoditized, the idea of an all luxury air carrier offers vast potential. If anything, the boldness of going against trendy peer pressure deserves notice.

As Forbes reported, a Taiwanese entrepreneur plans to launch StarLux Airlines by 2020. It intends to go “above and beyond the everyday wide seats and free champagne typically found in business class,” the article states. While focused on the top 5% wealthiest travelers, it seeks people looking for new experiences. “Passengers will also be able to use a customized on-call function to set their own schedules for sleeping, eating, and drinking while in flight,” all in redesigned aircraft interiors.

That sure sounds familiar in LCT circles: Luxury = customization + comfort + convenience (the 3 Cs). Now, StarLux has not disclosed pricing, routes, and seating options, and plenty of experts question if this airline would succeed. While it won’t be cheap, the concept is a proven winner. Appetites for luxury products, services, and experiences have increased as the economy strengthens and consumer eyes grow bigger as their wallets fatten. The challenge is to take appetite and turn it into non-cheapskate demand.

For a luxury transportation business, the StarLux approach embodies a classic business calculation: When everyone is going low class, you go high class:

Selling/offering added service

“Thirty minutes after we drop you off at your hotel, do you need a trip somewhere for an errand, appointment, or meal?” I’ve more than once checked in late at an unfamiliar destination, hungry, tired, and clueless about where to go eat, and wished I would have been asked that question. What about giving clients the option to hold the chauffeur over for an hour or 90 minutes to take them to and from a restaurant when none are in walking distance? Would such “added service” arranged via app be a bonus experience you could offer? It’s easier for a client to request or reserve additional trips or errand runs they think of as they’re heading in from the airport. Why make them go to Uber? Putting yourself in the shoes of the clients and their situations could yield new service opportunities.

Upgraded luxury vehicles

There was a time when many travelers relished being picked up in a stretch limousine. Those days are long gone, but what about using corporate-style limo and road show vans or SUVs for occasional airport transfers for those clients wanting the “StarLux” difference? Would clients facing one hour-plus trips from the airport to the outer burbs or another part of the state pay a little extra for some “cabin comfort?”

Concierge training

Let’s face it — anyone can drive any vehicle with the proper training. As I’ve heard operators explain, what often distinguishes your service or brand are your frontline chauffeurs. How well do most of them know the city and all those tips and insights you don’t get in tourist manuals or even online? How much flexibility do they have in accommodating real-time client requests and side trips? How well connected are they to local complementary services and resources? Good information from a friendly, attentive chauffeur can define your brand and instill customer loyalty. Not all employees grow up in your city or area. Do you invest in giving them a head and heart for local flavor?
Those are just three ideas. The potential for customized services is as vast as the number of clients. As the price-plungers race to the bottom, luxury transportation operators can rise up through more layers of revenue. As Forbes quotes the airline entrepreneur: “He believes luxury should not be the exclusive experience of the elite, but readily available to everyone.”

What’s Included With ‘Luxury’?

The LCT team recently tackled the term “luxury” during our annual planning sessions. What values or concepts come to mind when you hear the word, and what should LCT convey through its content? Here were our top responses, which can define a company:

• Uniqueness
• Plush
• Fancy
• Exclusive
• Value
• Worry-free
• Quality
• Safe
• Step above
• Experience

Related Topics: airlines, building your clientele, concierge, customer service, innovation, LCT editor, new ideas, VIP service

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • john michael

     | about 3 months ago

    Great article with real substance, I read it three times! Keep this coming, and don't stop.

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