Flora Kore a local University Student recently sat with Ali Oduor, President of Columbia Limousine Service. Here is parts of the interview transcript.
Limo companies, just as Taxi Service and other for hire transportation services have been greatly affected by the rise of the bigger ride sharing App companies such as Uber and Lyft. What is your take on this.
Yes it is true. Uber has been the big wolf. They have transformed the business and presented us with challenges but so far they haven’t managed to kill local limo companies. Most Limo and Taxi service providers that existed before uber are still in business.
This , in my opinion, is because there is more to the transportation business than just a ride hailing App. The only clear advantage these major ride sharing App companies have over local companies is their endless marketing dollars. That is how they became household names.
Whenever I arrive at a train station in Baltimore for example, on the way out the doors, I have noticed people are mostly looking at their phones and walking right into their Uber ride. This seems to suggests serious trouble for local taxi and limo companies.
Yes it is no doubt a serious challenge to local limo and taxi companies. Uber is no doubt very popular especially with the 25-40 age groups. Within younger people, our bookings for Airport Transportation and rides to train station has been steadily declining. People walk right past the Baltimore Taxi Services that usually line up at the train stations and into Uber X rides. It is clearly a challenge no doubt but the Baltimore Taxi Services are still in business. To survive, Limo and Taxi Companies need to be flexible and agile enough to occupy the gaps left by the Uber .
What do you mean when you say gaps left by Uber
By that I mean moving into the spaces where Uber is not doing so great. The main thing about for hire transportation is , the rider wants to get to their destination safely and on time. They also want a clean ride and a pleasant experience. Local Limo and Taxi companies are better suited to manage these simple basics than a massive ride hailing App which owns no car of its own and communicate to their drivers via App. There is an element of anonymity about Uber. That is just one gap.
Ride sharing Networks such as Uber are able to get people to their destination, on time and they have a review system which tells them what the rider thinks of the driver, helping them manage the quality of service. How then are Limo Service in BWI and Baltimore able to differentiate from Uber?
Though we occupy the same transportation business space, our models of business separates us. Uber is a ride sharing App Company with no ownership to vehicles. They provide the medium that connects the rider to the for hire vehicle. Columbia Limousine Service is a chauffeured transportation company with a scope of services much wider than Uber, providing Limo and Private Car Services, Airport Van Shuttle Services, Charter Bus Services, SUV Services, Corporate transportation services, primarily in the Baltimore- Washington Metropolitan area including Maryland Cities like Columbia, Bethesda, Baltimore, Ellicott CIty, Clarksville. Where we run into Uber is mostly in BWI Airport Limo transfer and Corporate Airport transportation.
Because we are in direct face to face contact with our drivers, we are able to control the quality of service better. Our riders can also contact us easier that uber and specify their transportation needs better. This includes, additional stops, special requests, and instructions such as how and where to pick up a party traveling without a phone. Corporate and business executive riders prefer us because they know exactly what they are getting -a predictable Limo Service. They dont want to risk the occasional surprises that come with the anonymity of a World Wide ride sharing App.
How is a Local Limo Service more predictable than a ride sharing App that provide for rides within minutes?
Columbia Limo Serviceis predictable because we are reputable and locally well known to corporations and businesses. We have been able to hold on to several corporate accounts over the years because we have a relationship with them. Most know our drivers by name, know our driver’s road habits, and feel very safe. Some use Uber in other Cities and share with us some of the challenges they experience with the random drivers.
When it comes to Corporate Airport Transportation needs, Instant request is not a selling point. Bookings are often made ahead of time.
How does Columbia Limousine Service intend to compete with the conveniences the Uber App features provide.?
We have long developed our own App Bluecs .
Currently we have about 1400 users and growing, though we have not made any aggressive marketing push. It has all or most of the features available on Uber or Lyft App.
With the Bluecs App, you can quickly request and track your ride, you can make a booking or instant demand for a ride, check status, view drivers location on map, get driver eta, edit cancel or update a request, duplicate a previous request, email yourself your receipt, chat with admin or driver and more.
Bluecs App is available on Apple Store and google Play.