What is Uber?

If you are in the limo business and you’ve never heard of Uber, trust me you will! Uber (www.uber.com) is changing the way the limousine business works. It is an online application that allows riders to reserve a limo from a competing network of limousine providers in some major metropolitan areas of the United States, Europe, Australia, Mexico, and even Asia. Not only that, the reservations can be easily made from an Android or iPhone app. Most importantly, customers are willing to pay extra for this service.

How does Uber affect Me?

Now the big question becomes: how does this affect my industry and my business model (Keep in mind there’s been a lot of resistance to Uber)… When a single company attempts to revolutionize an industry, it tends to ruffle feathers. Generally speaking, most people don't like change! My suggestion, in a nutshell, is to embrace new technology. The world is an ever-changing place and new technology will continue to lead. The one and only thing that will always stay the same, and create repeat customers, is outstanding service.

As Bob Dylan once sang "The times, they are a changing." It is important to realize that the customers using limos and needing rides to the airport are very often business travelers. These are the people who rely on technology on a daily basis. These are the people that have the Androids and iPhones. It makes sense offering the ability for the business (or even leisure) traveler to be able to book a reservation to or from the airport via a hand-held device. People who travel can obviously afford to travel! Uber has proven that the average person that can afford to travel is willing to pay a premium price to make sure they get efficient and reliable service.

What am I supposed to do?

If you wish to retain your current customers, and get new ones as well, your business model is going to depend upon technology. Giving customers the ability to focus on their busy lives by offering them an easy and convenient booking system actually eliminates stress to a great level. When your customer can open an app and take care of business without having to call somebody or make time to sit in front of his or her computer, you have done the customer a huge favor. Providing an Android or iPhone app is giving your customer the time to actually sit down and enjoy their meal or take care of other business.

There are other things to consider besides hand-held devices and apps to assist your customers. Another very important item is the design and layout of your website.  There is a difference between a pretty website and a useful website. Take for example, Craigslist. It’s not pretty, doesn't have a fancy flash intro, but almost anybody can figure it out and use it within a minute or a matter of minutes. That's why it is consistently one of the most visited websites in the world year after year. When designing or making changes to your website, make sure to look at it through the eyes of the user. Customers want to see prices without having to dig through your website. Having several general prices showing on your homepage, with a corresponding link to a more thorough price list, and the ability to make reservations, will save them time AND keep them from looking elsewhere! (Which is our ultimate goal, right?!)

Now, as every business owner knows, retaining customers should be as important as, if not more so than, getting new customers! There is a very easy and inexpensive way to keep your business in front of the customer and that is through the use of monthly or quarterly newsletters. Since you already have the customer's email address, why not use it? Generally a good business newsletter will be created in HTML format so when the customer views it the layout is professional-looking and looks like a webpage. HTML newsletter templates are available all over the internet and some can be even downloaded for free or at a minimal cost. Even if the customer does not open the newsletter at least that person is reminded of your name when they open their inbox. An email newsletter is also something that can be easily forwarded to another perspective customer. If your business provides a quality service then your customers will tell other people. A newsletter, combined with an app already downloaded on a hand-held device, will keep your business upfront and in the eyes of your customers.

It's important to truly realize that once the traveler has found a useful app, they will continue to use it! It is already something they know and understand. Having been a business traveler myself in the technology field for 17 years, there was always something new you needed to learn and embrace. It was always a joy finding technology that made life easy. Once you find it, you’re not in rush to change it.