Undercover investigation reveals Limo Broker Ltd training staff to use illegal sales tactics
Cardiff based company Limo Broker Ltd, who are a part of the Transport Broker Group Ltd, claim to be the UK’s biggest and most trusted limousine hire provider. They have on offer Audi, Ferrari and Stretch limousines and claim that they’ll guarantee the customer an occasion to remember. But an undercover investigation by Watchdog reveals that you might be remembering them for all the wrong reasons.
Published 16 October 2013:
For an arrangement fee Limo Broker Ltd say that they’ll do all the ‘leg work’ when a customer calls to let them know what type of limo they want.
However Watchdog has received complaints from many unsatisfied customers, which suggests that this isn’t always the case - complaints about wrong deliveries, colour and time. And there are even cases where limos have not turned up at all.
Matthew used the company to arrange a surprise for his girlfriend Gemma’s 21st birthday. Gemma explained that, ‘[He] had booked a limo to pick us up from the bar we were at and take us to London. All of our friends had come down. Everyone got dressed up and made the effort to come out.’
Matthew paid Limo Broker an £84 arrangement fee in advance. But the company left his plans for Gemma’s special night in ruins. Gemma and her group ended up waiting outside for over two hours in the rain and the limo never turned up. She explained: ‘The disappointment was just completely overwhelming and then the night was ruined.’
Gemma eventually received her money back but she never received an apology.
Helen and Paul Sansom also hired from Limo Broker Ltd for the most special event of their daughter’s life – her wedding day. They booked a Bentley with the request that the car be decorated with a ribbon and bow for the special occasion.
Paul explained: ‘They promised us a uniformed driver [who would] arrive before 1pm to take my daughter and myself to the church at 1.30pm.’
But the limo didn’t turn up on time so Paul and his daughter had to hire a local taxi to get to the church. This meant that daughter Gillian was late for her own wedding and Paul feels a moment between father and daughter was ruined, and it’s one that they can never get back.
A car did eventually turn up yet it was clear that the driver had no idea about the occasion he’d been hired for. He was in the wrong car, he was not dressed appropriately and the car was not decorated.
Paul and Helen also eventually received their deposit of £174 back but it was little consolation for the damage done on their daughter’s big day.
Watchdog decided to investigate the company that claims to be UK’s biggest and most trusted limousine hire provider - to find out what was really going on.
We sent team member Anna undercover into the parent company –Transport Broker Group Ltd - to train as a call handler.
Over the course of Anna’s four days undercover it became clear that the company was far more concerned about making sales than it was about ensuring bookings were made correctly.
Watchdog’s investigation revealed that the person in charge of the company’s HR and training at the time, encouraged Anna to put pressure on customers by implying that their best prices were only available for a limited time.
He said: ‘… a little bit of ‘let me just put you on hold, let me speak to my boss, I’ll take £50 off it if you book it now’ kind of thing sounds very believable.’
On review of Watchdog’s undercover film, law expert Professor Margaret Griffiths explains:
‘That’s absolutely horrendous. It’s reasonable to think that as the head of training, every single person he trains is going to be using these techniques.’
This was proven when on Anna’s first day she was handed the company’s training manual. This highlighted a section called the ‘sales staff cheat sheet’. Sales lines, which should always be incorporated into the conversation with the customer read:
‘I can hold that price for a couple of hours after that the price will go up.’
‘I think we’re fully booked now because we’re very busy today, can I pop you on hold?’ Then in brackets it read, ‘leave the customer on hold for a little bit… making them fear a little bit more.’
Professor Margaret says: ‘Those statements are illegal because they’re what’s termed as an unfair commercial practice. The purpose is to ramp up the pressure on a consumer and force them into a decision they might not otherwise make.’
And what Anna was told on day three by another of the call handling staff indicated lying to customers was also taking place.
‘Sometimes they’ll send a Jeep limo. It’s similar to a Hummer but it’s not a Hummer limo. So its things like that isn’t it. You lie to the customer…’
In just four days inside the company team member Anna uncovered illegal pressure sales tactics, saw senior staff disrespecting paying customers and found out that it was considered acceptable to lie about bookings.
It explains why customers like Gemma, Paul and Helen had such unpleasant experiences booking through Limo Broker Ltd.
Margaret explains that, ‘They seem to be absolutely without morals, their behaviour is immoral, it’s purely and simply to take advantage of consumers. Some of what we’ve been seeing is almost certainly illegal.’
Limo Broker Ltd inform us that they have stopped using the training manual.
A SPOKESPERSON FOR LIMO BROKER LTD SAYS:
We would like to personally apologise to both Mr & Mrs Sansom and Mr Rogers for any inconvenience they felt they have experienced whilst booking through our company.
We have made severe alterations in recent weeks to staffing and procedures to ensure this is no longer possible. Our mission is to provide the highest standard of service possible, continuing to work on this ethos for our clients. Our newly appointed HR & Training Manager has 25 years of sales training experience and is using his expertise to ensure impeccable customer service standards are met across the business.
The two customers in the report had their full deposits returned and we would like to offer them a free hire on the date of their choice as a good will gesture. It is not in our interest to mislead a customer as we value their business and opinions on the service we provide.