Operations

How To Train Customer-Friendly Reservation Agents

Bruce Heinrich
Posted on July 7, 2011
Kansas City operator Bruce Heinrich offers service and training advice for operators in each issue of LCT Magazine.

Kansas City operator Bruce Heinrich offers service and training advice for operators in each issue of LCT Magazine.

Kansas City operator Bruce Heinrich offers service and training advice for operators in each issue of LCT Magazine.
Kansas City operator Bruce Heinrich offers service and training advice for operators in each issue of LCT Magazine.

Before we even get started on training your reservation team, let’s determine if people will have the patience to wait to talk to one of your agents. Call your office as if you were a current or new client and rate your experience. Call at least four different times (morning, afternoon, late night and weekend) from a blocked number and rate your experience.
Customers want to be taken care of immediately, if not sooner, and if they must navigate a call tree that takes forever (> 20 seconds) or listen to a fake British accent while waiting to talk to someone, they are likely to hang up and try someone else.

Why do customers quit?
1% die. 3% move. 5% establish other relationships. 9% go to competition. 14% are dissatisfied with the product and 68% quit because of a perceived attitude of indifference.

What makes a customer choose a company? Trust, competence, and care. What are you doing to show an attitude of care and appreciation?

I believe we all agree about the importance of your chauffeurs as the first point of contact and the “storefront” of your business. Yet wouldn’t you agree that the person who answers that initial phone call can make or break the sale? Your stellar team of chauffeurs may never have the chance to show their stuff if your CSRs do not build trust and maintain the relationship.

How does your team of CSRs (customer service representatives) answer the phones?

Ring...  Ring... Ring... Ring... Ring... Ring...
“ABC Transportation.” (silence).
 “XYZ Limousine.” (silence)
“Thank you for calling XYZ Worldwide, this is Alex, how may I assist you?”

How do you think each of these answers affect the caller’s perception of your company? Remember, whether your service is geared toward corporate or leisure clientele, you are ultimately selling an experience. That first conversation on the phone needs to convey professionalism, competence, and as we would say at the Ritz-Carlton: “The genuine care and concern for our guests.” The caller needs to feel confident that he or she can trust you with a boss, wedding or whatever is needed.

Build the relationship and know your client
I will admit, I was more than a bit concerned after I hired Rene at LEADER. Coming from the Ritz-Carlton, I was taught to speak and converse with clients in a very professional, formal way. “Thank you.”  “My pleasure.” “Good afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” etc. Saying, “Yeah,” “No problem,” “Don’t mention it,” or “How’s it going?” were all grounds for disciplinary action and ultimately dismissal. The Ritz understood the importance of guest interaction.

Well I soon realized that Rene would not say “My Pleasure” or talk to our clients in the way I was trained. She would regularly use casual, layman’s language, bantering back and forth, laughing and referencing her personal life or even inquiring about theirs! I would literally cringe sometimes when I heard her on the phone; this was totally unprofessional and not what I had in mind for what LEADER represented! Correction seemed futile.

While taking stock of my options, I did know that relationship and trust are two of LEADER’s core values. I also noticed that she had incredibly close phone relationships and an almost fierce loyalty from those clients! When surveying our clients, invariably they would say, “I love calling your office and I really enjoy talking to Rene.”

I realized the problem was me, not Rene. While there were a few areas where she did need some fine tuning, she understood how best to communicate with those who reserve travel. She is one of the best at building and maintaining relationships.

Simply put: People want to be cared for and know they can trust you.

CSR’s Tipsheet for Success

  • Answer all calls the same way (Consistency creates comfort). Thank them for calling. Identify yourself. Ask how you can help. Smile. They can hear the difference. “Thank you for calling XYZ Worldwide, this is Alex, how may I assist you?”
  • Answer within three rings.
  • Affirm their request using their name. “We are happy you called Mr. Jones. We’ll take good care of you.”
  • Determine the source. “How did you hear about XYZ Worldwide?"
  • Determine the need. “What is the occasion? Event? Purpose of your travel?”
  • Present product before price. “Mr. Jones, your passenger will be greeted at baggage with a name sign and escorted to a luxurious black Lincoln Town Car by one of our professionally trained and certified chauffeurs.”
  • Ask for the business. “Would you like to confirm this reservation?”
  • If no, ask a resistance question. “What other questions can I answer for you that would assist you in making your decision?” (then answer their question with another benefit).
  • If yes, ask for credit card, confirm itinerary, and THANK them for their business.

About Bruce Heinrich

Bruce Heinrich is the founder and CEO of LEADER Worldwide Chauffeur Services in Kansas City, Mo., and a 2009 LCT Operator of the Year. He discovered his passion for great service working at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Los Angeles. He and his wife live in Kansas City. Readers can reach Bruce at [email protected]

Related Topics: Bruce Heinrich, customer service, How To, human resources, New Operator, staff training

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