It once was thought that “chauffeured” limousine service was affordable to only the most affluent and discriminating clientele. According to Limousine and Chauffeured Transportation (LCT), as of July 2005, approximately 3% of all the U.S. operators generated revenues greater than 7MM annually. The 2006 US Census Bureau identifies the Limousine Service industry has just over four thousand firms with 65% (2,646 firms) of the firms employing 0-4 employees and only 2% of the firms employ 100 or more.
A current industry review by Dun & Bradstreet classifies this multibillion dollar a year industry as FRAGMENTED. D&B indicates livery companies with 20 or more vehicles get up to 75% of their revenue from corporate accounts. LCT magazine states livery companies with three or fewer vehicles generate most of their revenue from weddings, proms, nights on the town and tours. There are only a handful of livery companies servicing all 50 states. These companies traditionally charge much higher rates than the Mom and Pop local service providers.
For the consumer, I would recommend finding a limo company that is reasonably priced and offers qualified service. The combination of an affordable price point and premium service is a rare combination. The big 5 limo companies attempt to provide the qualified service, however their price point is on the high end of the scale. Small Mom and Pop companies are affordably priced but there service offerings are significantly limited. Affiliate networks (groups of independent operators working together on one geographical area to provide collective service) can offer the right price point with qualified service, however there is no standardization over the service platform. The affiliate network often leads to changes for the customer resulting from the lack of a standard service platform such as how to book a reservation and how the terms of that reservation are communicated to the customer.
To get the biggest bang for the buck, I would suggest looking for a mid-level, no frills service provider. When I say no frills I mean no frills – a clean car with a smooth ride and a friendly chauffeur. Who really needs a copy of the Wall Street Journal in the back of the car? Who knows how many people touched that paper before me…heck, isn’t there a little thing called Swine Flu going around? The true mid-level provider has more than competitive price points. In fact more often than not the mid-level provider offers the best price in the market because they can take advantages of the economies of scale. The service offering is standardized with reservation and pick-up process the same from trip to trip.
A true mid-level limousine service provider offers a variety of service levels such as:
Shared Rides – Regulated to high volume corporate opportunities, Shared Rides allow dispatch to combine two or more individual airport transfer reservations into one trip, thus affording the individual customer a value proposition that is second to none. Rates are based on a per traveler charge.
Multi-load Rides – Similar to shared rides, this corporate or Meeting and Event product allows dispatch to combine reservations from a manifest. This service is priced per vehicle with the most appropriate vehicle being selected based on timing and number of travelers. On Site personnel (if offered by the limo company) will help coordinate the process. Multi-load rides are the best value for large scale corporate or Meeting and Event activities.
Private Car – the highest end service still can be affordably priced and can be used for airport transfers or point to point transportation.
Charter Service – this is uninterrupted service that is ideal for corporate events or personal occasions. A good mid-level service provider can meet any and all transportation needs from Luxury Sedans to Executive 55 Passenger Coaches.
In an effort to stay one step ahead of the competition, successful limo service providers have a number of innovative customer service initiatives that will keep the company a top service leader in the market.
For example premium service is afforded to corporate accounts with annual revenues in excess of a specific dollar amount such as $500,000. Dedicated Account Manager(s) are assigned to a premium account.
The Account Manager will be the primary point of contact for customer service, manifest reservation assistance as well as quality assurance and dispatching.
The institution of the account manager concept is designed to provide a “boutique” feel to our most valuable accounts. The account manager will be intimately involved in all aspects of the premium accounts travel plans.
In short, when looking for a limo company I would look for a no frills, mid-level service provider that can exceed all of my expectations as the customer and not cost an arm and a leg at the same time.