OCT. LCT: The company plans to help operators ease the ride booking process for travelers.
Over the years, Michael Lindsey, owner of Lindsey Limousine in Hartford, Conn., has seen areas in his business where technology solutions would reduce the time and costs needed to perform tasks. So far, he has developed three key technology solutions for his company that he now shares with limousine operators nationwide so that they can become more efficient.
“I am a bit of a ‘techie’,” says Lindsey, who is not formally trained in computers or software. “As a kid, I was the one who took stuff apart and put it back together.” This curious nature led Lindsey to develop three tools for his business which are transferable to any company in the limousine industry.
Lindsey, who has been in the limousine industry for 25 years, built his business by working with other companies.
“I wanted to be every limousine company’s Hartford affiliate. I was working with all the big companies and a lot of the little ones,” Lindsey recalls. “Every company was calling asking us to fill out their affiliate application which could be four to 40 pages. I wanted to make it easier to do business together so I worked with a web company and developed Rate Butler in 2009.”
Rate Butler acts as a centralized location for companies to go to in order to get affiliate information and pricing. Companies visit the Ratebutler.com site and fill in the affiliate information, fleet make-ups, and pricing.
“It is designed for you to share your information with companies you have a relationship with while they can do the same with you,” he says. “You upload your data on the site. Next, you choose who you will allow to see your information. The site is totally secure so that only those you allow access to your information will receive it. It’s essentially the Facebook for affiliates, except that nobody can see your friends,” Lindsey jokes. “You pick who sees your information, and just because someone shares their rates with you, doesn’t mean they can see your rates.”
There are 742 companies using the Rate Butler Program. It’s up to each company to update Rate Butler with price changes but they only need to do it once on the Rate Butler site. It saves the time of sending out pricing notifications to all of a company’s affiliates.
Lindsey offers Rate Butler to other limousine companies at no charge. “We’ve grown the site strictly through word of mouth,” he says. “The more companies that are on the site, the better it works, and the more beneficial it is for everyone. If I don’t have an affiliate in a city, I can go on Rate Butler and it will tell me which companies on Rate Butler serve that city. I can then contact them and ask them to ‘share’ their information with me on Rate Butler.”
Rate Butler integrates directly with Livery Coach software. For companies not on that dispatch platform, the site is built with the ability to work with other software. Lindsey recommends contacting your software vendor and asking them to develop a link with Rate Butler. Even without Livery Coach, Rate Butler has a desktop downloadable search tool called Rate Butler Lite which allows operators to put the tool on every reservationist’s desktop. They can quote prices without having to put a client on hold or get back to them while they call an affiliate for pricing. The system allows you to build your markup into the price so that your reservationist is quoting what you want to charge for the job — no fumbling around with a calculator.
One of the best features of the program is its ability to track insurance certificates. “I have not found any company, even the big ones, that track affiliates’ insurance certificates as well as this does. You enter the expiration date into the system, and 10 days before it is scheduled to expire, a notice is sent out requesting the update,” Lindsey says. “We’ve improved the site over the years through the input of the people who use it. “Users give us suggestions and we incorporate them to make it better for everyone.”
Chauffeur/Staff Scheduling Tool
Lindsey developed a new scheduling innovation in 2007. “This is a problem that everyone in the industry faces: Unless you have shifts for your chauffeurs and set schedules, you are at the beck and call of your chauffeurs.”
Prior to this program, Lindsey’s chauffeurs would fill out a form stating when they were available to work. Someone in the office would then take all the forms and merge all of them onto an excel spreadsheet which dispatch would use to schedule chauffeurs and cover jobs. He would run into chauffeurs that said they had emailed or called someone in the office and notified them of their changes or they would refuse work or be unavailable. That led to him developing a software program which would take away the need for the manual merges and would make the chauffeurs responsible for inputting their availability.
Lindsey launched this new tool in March 2013 with much success. He explains: “The chauffeur goes to the site and puts in his availability for a period of time. They can go on anytime and make changes to it. We set up a locked out period of 48 hours where he can’t make a change. The tool has a reporting element as part of it which tracks things like how many changes chauffeur[s] make, how much work they turn down and the reasons why. The chauffeur[s] also can see a dashboard of their own availability and missed opportunities to work. They can look and compare their work availability to the company average. Chauffeurs often call and say they are not getting enough work. We now can show them if they were more available or available at different times they would be able to get more work.”
This tool also helps fight unemployment claims, as it allows an operator to print out reports which plot how much work the employee turned down and how much money they would have made had they worked. It also shows when the jobs were offered. “Everyone says at an unemployment hearing that they were always called at the last minute. This report will show that this isn’t always the case,” Lindsey says. “Since we began using this we get far less refusals for work.”
He also has added a piece to the tool which allows him to track the office personnel schedules and approve and track personal time off.
Lindsey eventually wants to make this tool available to the industry for a fee. “I have some friends in the industry beta testing it. They are essentially kicking the tires for me to make sure we have worked out all of the kinks,” he says. “We will probably set it up as a subscription-based service based on the number of employees you have, and you pay a particular per-employee rate.”
Lindsey introduced LimoSurvey.com a year ago as a way to get feed back from his clients. He believed many clients felt the Survey Monkey program was hokey while setting up a link on his website was too personal. “People inherently don’t like conflict,” he says. “Even when they aren’t happy with the service they don’t call you.” Using LimoSurvey.com gives the appearance of a third-party site collecting the data. He puts the LimoSurvey.com website on all of his invoices and receipts inviting customers to rate the service.
“The survey has all of the standard questions you would ask like: ‘Was the chauffeur on time?’ and ‘Did the chauffeur assist you with your luggage?’” Lindsey says. “What it does as well. . . is it also looks at the trends.
“One of the biggest advantages is that it shows each company how [its] feedback compares with other companies in the same industry based on everyone’s results — and no other survey can do this.” With the information from his company and the subscriber companies, he has developed metrics which show the users how their companies are performing compared to others. It does not show specific companies but rather trends of all the companies.
Lindsey offers LimoSurvey.com to industry members for their own use on a subscription basis. You can customize the survey or use the standard template. A customized link has your company’s name on it.
“I like solving problems that lead to my company being more efficient,” he says. “If I can share them with the industry and recoup some of the cost of developing them that is great too.”
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