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Much can be said for conducting mystery rides. As owners of companies, we can easily get so caught up in the daily grind of back-office operations, we forget to keep tabs on what matters most - our service.
Mystery rides conducted by owners are immensely beneficial in bringing the basics back to the forefront of business. They not only keep owners in touch with reality, they are a true snapshot into the mind’s eye of the customer. Owners will learn the truth good or bad, about the level of service their company provides. What is the real first impression your reservationists project? What really goes on in that back seat? What is the last - and lasting - impression your clients have of your company?
The real answers will probably amaze you and may either elate your sense of managerial finesse or horrify you to the core. The good news is that once you evaluate your own company through the “client experience,” you will uncover the truth about your luxury service and can move forward to either enhance your programs or fix the problems.
It’s really quite simple to get a feel for how your clients perceive their “travel experience” when you place yourself in the vehicle as the client. Just think about all the things you would appreciate if you were the customer. A rushed pickup from the airport to an important meeting? A supply of freshen-up items, such as breath mints and a cologne sample, is obvious. If it’s been a long day and you just want to sit back and not think, how about a headset with relaxing music to help you unwind?
Your clients may very well feel that you treat them like princes and princesses. But it can never hurl to walk in their shoes from time to time. We promise you that you’ll get new ideas on how to treat them like kings and queens.
To make the case that this exercise is no waste of time, LCT staff conducted a mystery ride of our own (and we’re planning to do more of these this year). For the sake of protecting the privacy of our target, we’ll call the company that we hired, “Ajax Limousine Service.”
How expeditiously was the phone answered?
Ajax Limousine Service answered the phone within two rings. The rule of thumb for your reservationists is the phone should be answered after no more than two rings.
Ajax did not place me on hold at all.
Rule: Do not put reservation calls on hold - ever! We are not selling take-out pizzas. No matter if you are all alone answering the phones or if you have a full-service reservations department, no client who is booking a trip should be placed on hold. Take the entire reservation and end the call uninterrupted.
Ajax answered the phone (in a flat, tired sounding voice), “Ajax Limo Service.”
Rule: Always address each call, “Good morning/afternoon/evening! This is Jane Doe with Ajax Limousines. How may I be of service?” Make sure that the person you have answering the phones has a pleasant and upbeat phone voice, be sure that you invest in a quality answering machine if you are unable to man the phones at all times.
The next best alternative is hiring an answering service so your clients talk to a real person. Whether you are a big or small company, you must give the impression that you are a professional company. Old, scratchy answering machines are unacceptable.
Answering the phone while driving is the height of unprofessionalism to both your client (passenger) and the caller. Be sure that you make you first company impression perfect. If a client feels good upon booking the reservation, he or she will be more apt to have a positive experience during the ride.
Ajax did not offer an intro. They waited for me to ask to make a reservation. However, once I began speaking, the reservationist was very accommodating. The overall process was quick and organized.
#1 rule on bookings: Your reservationists should be ready to respond to a booking immediately. They should start with a friendly, “I’d love to help you with reserving a vehicle. What is your preference - sedan, limousine or SUV?” Following this, the reservationist asks for the number of people in the party, preference of vehicle color, date of booking, times, type of occasion, names of special guests (i.e., find out the birthday person, the anniversary information, the bachelorette’s name, the bride and groom, etc.).
The callback or written confirmation
While Ajax did reconfirm the reservation details upon booking, I did not receive a reminder call the day before (like many service businesses do nor did we receive a written confirmation via fax or mail.
#1 rule on confirming reservations: It’s best to both call the day before to confirm the pickup location and time, and send a written confirmation that includes all the reservation details and price. At the bare minimum, one of these two types of confirmations should be done with every reservation, even your corporate accounts that run steady schedules with you. Mirror other types of service industry businesses such as hotels. Beauty salons are famous for their personal calls the day before an appointment.