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New products and technology often captivate the public eye, but there is always a flipside to anything new to the market that is yet to be discovered.
In the car service industry, there is no exception which includes the well-known car sharing app Uber. There is no doubt that they have created a unique product, however their service and social responsibility attached with providing a “real world” service experience have lagged far behind. From operating illegally in many cities, to recent news worthy incidents of both passenger and driver assault or rape, many clients have continually asked me…”How safe is Uber..really?”
This is one well -publicized news story of the incident with the Taco Bell Executive riding in an Uber car. See the story below:
UBER STRATEGY AND GAME PLAN
Uber’s strategy is very simple: Bull -headed market entry and disruption supported by infinite financial resources that use marketing, lobbying and fanatical customer base social media support .
In many instances, Uber has steamrolled into many cities and operated outside of any legal oversight, and in some cases in spite of city issued cease and desist orders.
When things get really ugly for them, they rely on their status as a third party technology company to buy them immunity from any liability. For a car service to default to technology company during questioning is quite disconcerting. Along with a very talented public relations team and corporate smooth talk that would make Donald Trump blush, they evade a full court press. Any question of liability safety precautions and responsibility, are ultimately made null by this nonchalant strategy, and Uber continues to do what they do best—generate revenue. Up until recently, this has worked for them. But the tide is changing and recent incidents have forced many to ask what is really going on behind the scenes to ensure my ride is safe?
This is where a lot of potential Uber users balk at tapping that button. Is Uber really doing their due diligence? Do they know who is driving me? Most established, legitimate car service companies must have drivers undergo a thorough in person hard copy “live scan fingerprint” background check of their drivers. This ensures that the person applying for background check is indeed the one being scanned. It’s kind of a no brainer you would think, but Uber’s policies are very flawed to say the least. In addition, all drivers must undergo a pre- employment drug urinalysis test as well as ongoing random drug tests throughout their time of employment. By law, all companies registered as Livery service providers with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must screen drivers based upon the most recent copy of their CA DMV H-6. This informs the employer of any infractions on the prospective employees driving record within the past 6-7 years. On top of that, they must sign up with CA DMV Driver Pull notice program. This sends an automated notice to the employer if their driver has been involved or convicted of any moving violations in their own personal vehicle or while off duty. Most legitimate limo companies will also use FBI modeled psychological/ personality profile test as well as situational interview techniques to further select from a potential pool of applicants before hiring a new trainee.
I can tell you that as a second generation small car service owner, my standards for potential candidates are very high. Based upon city, local and common sense guideline, I will not hire anyone convicted of certain crimes. I will also not hire any applicants, with more than two points on their H6 DMV record, a DUI or a major vehicular accident that resulted in significant injury or death. I will also issue them a multiple choice personality test and sit down and talk with them, asking a series of pointed and purposeful answers. I will also speak with their previous employers before moving on to the next phase of employment selection and new hire training.
While this may be seen as excessive, our passengers demand the best in service. And we differentiate ourselves as bringing the best in class to every ride, and to ensure safety of the customers.
VOLUME AND THE FUTURE
Here’s the kicker: our service does not do anywhere close to the volume of rides that Uber does. For a company that provides the mind-boggling numbers of customer contacts that Uber does, you would expect the bare minimum of safety and security to be equal to if not greater to established standards. Clearly something’s missing in Uber’s due diligence, and absolute refusal to abide by industry best practices in employee selection and customer safety . When the honor system and real world situations are left to play out with little to no regulation or oversight, who is ultimately held accountable and who can you really trust?
About a year ago, we posted an article about the dilemma facing both the Southern California limousine and taxi services in regards to the introduction of ride sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, these various ride sharing systems operate as a series of Smartphone apps for iOS, Android and other cell phone operating systems. The idea is that by using these apps, customers can ‘hail a cab’ online and a driver, usually unregistered with the State of California would pick up the customer and drive him or her to their destination.
Since that time, the controversy has escalated. Back in June of 2014, the Los Angeles City Council threatened half the operations of all Southern California based ride-sharing services. Even with the “ban”, these companies continued to operate their smartphone apps and provided rides all over the Los Angeles region. From LAX to nightclubs, the pink mustached vehicles of Lyft and similar ridesharing services were utilized everywhere.
As of September 18, 2014, a landmark decision has been reached rendering California the first state in the nation to legally regulate these ride-sharing apps and services. According to a press release from the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulations establish a new category of business called a Transportation Network Company, requiring those companies to obtain a license from CPUC, conduct criminal background checks, establish a driver training program, and hold a commercial insurance policy with a minimum of $1 million per-incident coverage.
While this decision is being hailed by the independent companies as an enormous victory, opening their relatively new foothold in the door even wider, taxi and limousine companies need not despair just yet.
Reading both the nuts and bolts of the argument and the comments, what stands out again & again is the issue of customer service.
These upstart companies (Lyft, and the rest) are succeeding because they are new and fresh. They are actually listening to what the public wants and needs and delivering it. Cars are clean, drivers are friendly, rates are affordable.
The taxi industry as a whole has had a bad rep for years but consumers have had no other choices. Due to their monopoly on the market, taxi drivers have become increasingly slovenly, surly, rude, etc. Overcharging is rampant. Drivers have been able to rest on their laurels because they know passengers are stuck with them and had no other options.
Limo companies are kind of lost in the shuffle between the two, but taking a limo or a Town Car has always signified class and a level of upscale service which has remained consistent throughout this “battle”. Limos are also surprisingly affordable, but that never crosses anyone’s mind.
If either company wants to succeed, customer service must be put at the forefront. Taxi drivers have the experience but not the attitude. Lyft has the friendliness, the cleanliness and the care, but not the professionalism or the finesse of premier limo service. That’s where the biggest edge of limo service comes in.
Consider both sides when making your decision.
Limo service offers these 3 things that ride-sharing services do not:Premier, personalized/vetted chauffeurs with
1. Premier, personalized/vetted chauffeurs with CONSISTENT price.
2. High-touch customer service and support.High-quality vehicle selection and variety.
3. High-quality vehicle selection and variety.
Consider a limo or a town car first before going for a trendy ride -sharing app.