Chauf­feur drive

ride on How has the chauf­feur drive sec­tor re­acted to com­pe­ti­tion of­fered by ride-hail­ing op­er­a­tors? Rob Gill re­ports

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

In a world in­creas­ingly dom­i­nated by ride-hail­ing brands and tech­nol­ogy, a tra­di­tional chauf­feur-driven trans­fer may seem like a lux­u­ri­ous anachro­nism for cor­po­rate clients, but the sec­tor is quick to talk up its ad­van­tages.

Qual­ity, safety and re­li­a­bil­ity are the words most reg­u­larly used by chauf­feur op­er­a­tors when de­scrib­ing their key sell­ing points over the likes of Uber, with duty-of-care an in­creas­ingly preva­lent re­quire­ment from cor­po­rate cus­tomers.

Client pro­files But what type of clients are us­ing chauf­feur ser­vices these days? And what are their ex­pec­ta­tions of this type of higher-end ground trans­port ser­vice?

Beth Samp­son, Com­mer­cial Di­rec­tor at Brunel, which is now part of the Europ­car Group, says: “We have an ex­tremely di­verse client base from many dif­fer­ent busi­ness sec­tors, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial, me­dia, le­gal, in­sur­ance, mo­bil­ity, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, ho­tels, TMCS and the en­ter­tain­ment sec­tor – all of whom rely on Brunel to pro­vide a safe, re­li­able and cost ef­fi­cient ser­vice.”

Jonathan Dow, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Club Class Chauf­feurs, adds: “While we don’t have a stereo­typ­i­cal cor­po­rate client, our clients range from medium to larger blue chip or­gan­i­sa­tions. These or­gan­i­sa­tions need a pro­fes­sional, safe and re­li­able ser­vice that ef­fi­ciently trans­ports their peo­ple.”

The type of jour­ney and num­ber of des­ti­na­tions be­ing vis­ited can also play a part in a client’s de­ci­sion on whether to use a chauf­feur ser­vice.

Heather Matthews, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Lit­tle’s, says: “If they have im­por­tant meet­ings, a busy itin­er­ary within one city, or a more com­plex sched­ule across mul­ti­ple des­ti­na­tions, a chauf­feur re­moves any el­e­ment of worry or stress about ar­riv­ing at the right place at the right time, free­ing clients up to worry about the im­por­tant busi­ness mat­ters of the day.”

Duty of care There’s no doubt that duty of care has risen up the pri­or­ity list for travel buy­ers. It has been ranked as the sec­ond-most im­por­tant is­sue, be­hind cut­ting costs, for buy­ers over the past two years, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Busi­ness Travel Show.

This is a key sell­ing point for chauf­feur­drive op­er­a­tors, par­tic­u­larly in des­ti­na­tions where other ground trans­port op­tions may raise po­ten­tial red flags and safety con­cerns.

Greg Men­doza, Re­gional Vice Pres­i­dent – In­ter­na­tional Op­er­a­tions at Carey In­ter­na­tional, says: “The abil­ity to be able to book chauf­feur-driven trans­porta­tion in over 1,000 lo­ca­tions around the world and be con­fi­dent that all the checks and due dili­gence has been car­ried out on your be­half is a ma­jor source of com­fort to TMCS, pro­cure­ment and travel man­agers.”

Men­doza also points out the im­por­tance of us­ing ground trans­port op­er­a­tors with ad­e­quate in­sur­ance ar­range­ments, with Carey of­fer­ing cov­er­age of $20mil­lion through its global in­sur­ance pol­icy.

“On your own, the min­i­mum in­sur­ance cov­er­age in some coun­tries can be as low as £1,000,” he adds. “In ad­di­tion, full chauf­feur vet­ting and the many checks per­formed add ex­tra value when us­ing Carey’s unique global fran­chised net­work.”

Craig Cham­bers, Group CEO of TBR Global Chauf­feur­ing, says chauf­feur spe­cial­ists also have the abil­ity to of­fer a “be­spoke” ser­vice to clients, which other types of ground trans­port providers can­not match.

“If re­quired, we of­fer per­son­alised pre­travel risk as­sess­ments and con­tin­gency route plan­ning, mak­ing ex­pert

rec­om­men­da­tions based on de­tails such as lo­ca­tion, size of party, itin­er­ary and pas­sen­ger sta­tus,” he ex­plains.

GPS track­ing of jour­neys is also be­com­ing more widely used, in­clud­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of driver be­hav­iour – Club Class Chauf­feurs of­fers “real time feed­back” on the qual­ity of their driv­ers’ per­for­mance, which can iden­tify “harsh brak­ing, speed, idling and cor­ner­ing”.

Cor­po­rate deals If duty of care is one of the sec­tor’s ma­jor sell­ing points, the abil­ity to over­come the per­cep­tion of be­ing an ex­pen­sive ser­vice is one of the hur­dles chauf­feur com­pa­nies have to over­come – par­tic­u­larly when ride­hail­ing firms, such as Uber, sell them­selves on be­ing sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than their com­peti­tors. Al­though many say this is a false com­par­i­son.

“In re­al­ity we don’t need to com­pete on price,” says Jonathan Dow. “Chauf­feur drive is a value-added ser­vice that is much more than bring­ing a per­son from A to B. It is an ef­fi­cient book­ing and plan­ning trans­port op­tion, which in­cludes unique cost ef­fi­cien­cies, man­age­ment re­ports, jour­ney and travel au­dits, as well as pro­vid­ing the pin­na­cle in duty of care stan­dards.”

Chauf­feur op­er­a­tors also em­pha­sise their flex­i­bil­ity for clients, which can al­low them to be more cost-ef­fec­tive on more com­plex and longer ground jour­neys. Of­fer­ing fixed prices for jour­neys, with­out peak pe­riod or “surge” pric­ing, is also seen as be­ing an ad­van­tage. An­other plus point for chauf­feur-drive firms is their will­ing­ness to of­fer cor­po­rate dis­counts – an ab­so­lute no-no for Uber, which has so far ruled out of­fer­ing these types of deals to com­pa­nies.

Brunel’s Beth Samp­son says: “We work closely with all of our cus­tomers on a con­sul­tancy ba­sis, whereby – based on a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors in­clud­ing vol­ume, lo­ca­tion and also time of the day – we ex­tend cor­po­rate dis­counts and in­cen­tives.”

Greg Men­doza, from Carey, adds: “We will al­ways be com­pet­i­tive in a like-for-like si­t­u­a­tion. Our sales di­rec­tors and ac­count man­agers will work closely with our clients to en­sure that our over­all value propo­si­tion, in­clud­ing rates, will of­fer the best so­lu­tion.”

In­no­va­tion and in­te­gra­tion As with all ar­eas of busi­ness travel, chauf­feur-drive spe­cial­ists are im­prov­ing their tech­nol­ogy to make it eas­ier for busi­ness trav­ellers to book their ser­vices us­ing cor­po­rate tools and plat­forms,

The abil­ity to over­come the per­cep­tion of be­ing an ex­pen­sive ser­vice is one of the hur­dles that chauf­feur com­pa­nies have to over­come”

in­clud­ing those of­fered by TMCS.  TBR’S Craig Cham­bers says: “We fo­cus on de­liv­er­ing peace of mind and ease of book­ing. Our in­house reser­va­tions sys­tem al­lows us to be flex­i­ble to the needs of our cus­tomers and man­age suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tions, which al­low them to book di­rectly from within their own in­ter­nal soft­ware sys­tem, mean­ing they don’t need to man­age mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions when ar­rang­ing travel.”

Carey says its dis­tri­bu­tion strat­egy is to be “avail­able wher­ever the cus­tomer wishes to book”. Greg Men­doza adds: “Carey is cur­rently avail­able on most cor­po­rate book­ing tools and var­i­ous other chan­nels in­clud­ing GDS.”

Some chauf­feur-drive spe­cial­ists are also ben­e­fit­ing from be­com­ing part of larger ground trans­port op­er­a­tors, such as Brunel be­ing a sub­sidiary of car rental gi­ant Europ­car and Ad­di­son Lee ac­quir­ing Tris­tar World­wide two years ago.

These moves have al­lowed the creation of a more in­te­grated style of ground trans­port com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent op­tions in­clud­ing chauf­feur-drive. Europ­car, for ex­am­ple, is now of­fer­ing a chauf­feur-drive ser­vice through Brunel as part of a wider range of ser­vices, which can be com­bined with tra­di­tional car hire. This al­lows cus­tomers to book a chauf­feur ser­vice for the first and fi­nal miles of their trips in Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, when nec­es­sary.

Clive Forsythe, UK Sales Di­rec­tor for Europ­car UK Group, says: “The key to suc­cess for or­gan­i­sa­tions is tak­ing a holis­tic ap­proach to mo­bil­ity; en­com­pass­ing car use by the hour, day or week, as well as car-shar­ing, car-pool­ing and chauf­feur-drive in or­der to meet their busi­ness travel needs.

“The so­lu­tions we of­fer busi­ness trav­ellers fo­cus not only on pro­vid­ing the best and most com­pet­i­tive price, but on sav­ing time for the trav­eller, thereby en­hanc­ing busi­ness pro­duc­tiv­ity,” says Forsythe.

De­spite the es­sen­tial fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy and of­fer­ing a wider range of trans­port op­tions, it’s old-fash­ioned high-touch cus­tomer ser­vice that the chauf­feur-drive com­pa­nies con­tinue to re­ally sell on.

This con­cept can still be a win­ning propo­si­tion for busi­ness trav­ellers, as Lit­tle’s Heather Matthews ex­plains: “Cor­po­rate clients value the per­sonal ser­vice on of­fer and the sup­port net­work sit­ting be­hind each car and chauf­feur.

“For air­port col­lec­tions, for ex­am­ple, live flight ar­rival times are mon­i­tored, en­sur­ing the chauf­feur is wait­ing in the ar­rivals hall no mat­ter if their flight lands early or has been de­layed. The chauf­feur will al­ways have a per­son­alised name­board and will es­cort the client and their lug­gage to the ve­hi­cle.”

Matthews also stresses how a chauf­feur­driven ve­hi­cle can ef­fec­tively be­come an “of­fice on wheels” where pas­sen­gers can still be pro­duc­tive while on the move, es­pe­cially on longer jour­neys.

With these ad­van­tages to the fore, there still seems to be plenty of life – and in­no­va­tion – in the chauf­feur-drive sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly for the more com­plex types of ground jour­neys that busi­ness trav­ellers of­ten have to deal with.

It’s old-fash­ioned high-touch cus­tomer ser­vice that the chauf­feur drive com­pa­nies con­tinue to re­ally sell on”

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