Operations

Think Like A Client, Act Like An Operator

Posted on March 1, 2017

LONGMONT, Colo. — Simon Chen, founder of Eight Black Transport, names three specific aspects limo companies provide that Uber and Lyft don’t: Consistency, reliability, and amenities.

With this understanding, he’s able to tap into retail and corporate markets and make clients realize if they want high quality, they’ll get what they pay for with chauffeured service.

Don’t Pinch Pennies

There are clients out there who want something better than a random, unvetted vehicle and driver — that’s why limo companies still exist in the 21st century, after all. When observing Uber Black’s “upscale” business model, Chen noticed it was often unpredictable. “Globally, their product is very inconsistent. One time you’ll get a nicer new car, and the next you’ll get a beat up, eight-year-old Suburban,” he says.

Chen set out to run his company in such a way that would not only impress clients, but make them come back for more. With 15 years of experience as a black car client and a deep knowledge of what the modern traveler wanted in terms of service, he started Eight Black Transport in 2015.

Strict attention to detail is needed to provide the most personalized and dependable service possible. For example, the company’s largest client has two executives who are extremely health conscious and enjoy drinking Kombucha. The Eight Black staff detected this after they noticed empty bottles of it in the car. A chauffeur took a photo of the bottle, found out where to buy it, and the company now keeps it stocked for that client.

“It’s a challenge to constantly stock it as its perishable and costs $3.50 a bottle, but we went a step further. When they traveled to London, we had our affiliate ensure the same drink was in their car,” Chen says. “We even pick up their kids from school sometimes and don’t charge them.”

In Colorado, providing alcohol in chauffeured vehicles is legal. Chen says they have another client who likes bourbon, so they ensure the vehicles are always stocked when he travels. They have another who likes a specific white wine; again, it’s always there.

“Some operators have questioned our intelligence, but the expense is minimal and the added value is immense. I want our competitors to think we are crazy,” he jokes.

When the company runs Sprinter trips to the mountains, it places blankets on each seat and fully stocks the cooler and snack basket. The Sprinter has dual network Wi-Fi, high-speed charging cables for phones, multiple 110v mains power outlets, and a 32-in. TV that can stream movies via Netflix or Amazon. “We create a business class travel experience for them. The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Chen says.

From New To Loyal

Eight Black advertises for local clients via Yelp and through its website, which is designed to be user-friendly. They make sure to stay active on social media with weekly postings. Additionally, Eight Black has 72 positive reviews on Google+ and Yelp.

“We do not have any negative reviews to date. We conduct customer service surveys through a third-party and any critical feedback is elevated to our directors who must respond within 24 hours,” he says. Chen believes the best advice for newer operators is to understand your digital reputation is everything.

The business also employs a third-party search engine optimization company to work on its website content; traffic has been growing 50% month over month since.

Another marketing tool the company has introduced to keep new clients coming back is a frequent user system which calculates trip credits collected every time a client spends $2,000.

“Even wealthy clients like free stuff. This has been invaluable as a loyalty marketing tool. The directors of the company personally drive these individuals,” Chen says.

Don’t Skimp On Safety

Chen worked for Murcotts, Australia’s largest driver training company, for 15 years, so he knows much about vehicle safety and driver performance overall. “I still consider myself a student, but I’m confident I’m experienced enough to teach our team the fundamentals that will keep them safe, our clients safe, and our vehicles out of the body shop,” he says.

The company never compromises on maintenance and fits winter tires to all of its vehicles…at a large expense. “My background in driver training and personal commitment to safety means it was never a cost issue,” Chen says. “This is the same reason all our cars have fire extinguishers, first aid kits, jumper cables, and tow ropes —they are just necessary.”

Whenever the company hires new chauffeurs, they spend a lot of time training them behind the wheel. All are provided with mandatory advanced driver training, winter driving training, and first aid courses. Chen wants to personally ensure his chauffeurs can drive anything from a small, nimble BMW to a large passenger van.

This means chauffeurs must learn about vehicle dynamics, such as driving in snow, ice, or heat, with a weighted vehicle and with an empty vehicle. Chen also warns about having loose items in cars, tire safety, and maintaining enough distances between cars in traffic.

“Driving in a climate such as ours is unique and we do not send a chauffeur on the road with a client until we are confident they have this mandatory skill.”

Chauffeurs regularly attend safety meetings as part of continuous training. When the company buys new vehicles, it thoroughly trains chauffeurs how to operate them.

Keeping Up With The Times

As a small operator, Chen believes investment in technology is a big must as the client base increasingly depends on tech.

They use LimoAnywhere, which has a built in flight monitoring software to double check through a third-party tracking tool. “We are committed to total redundancy. We also use Verizon Fleet Tracking for our GPS monitoring,” he says.

The company texts clients when its chauffeurs are on site through an automated confirmation system. The information includes the chauffeur’s name and plate number of the vehicle. They use ZipWip which prompts the client after the ride for a rating.

All chauffeurs carry electronic signs and update their statuses through iPads. Chauffeur staff close out jobs in real time. Clients can place reservations online via the company’s website, and admins can log in to their corporate accounts and look up past trips, print receipts, and review upcoming trips.

“We want the booking process to be frictionless,” Chen says. “Some clients and their staff simply send us a text, some send us emails, and some make their own online reservations. We understand most of our clients lead busy lives, and that’s why we want to make the booking process as simple for them as possible.”

Related Topics: Colorado operators, customer service, driver safety, driver training, Lexi Tucker, mobile technology, onboard amenities, passenger safety, Sprinter, Uber, vehicle safety, WebXclusive

Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
An ROI (return-on-investment) on a moving vehicle is easy to understand, but difficult to keep consistent. (LCT image)
Article

A Walk Through Coach Profits

NOV. LCT: These simple return-on-investment formulas will help you truly see if your buses of all sizes are making enough money.