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“As owners, we want to book all the business we can, and deliver on what we promise,” said keynote speaker Randi Busse, founder and President of Workforce Development Group, Inc. in Amityville, N.Y. The coaching and training organization advises clients on how to improve customer service, retain clients, and boost revenue.
“Customers expect exactly what’s there. But do we always give them exactly what we promise on the website? We try to. We want to retain our customers and grow our business.”
To get to all those “mores,” Busse first explained why the five steps are needed in the first place.
Warnings About Customers
The key to attracting new customers and retaining repeat ones is to know how to engage them, and how to handle their complaints and concerns, Busse told an audience of trade show attendees on Nov. 9. Not all customers will be happy. Most won’t tell you, but they’ll tell others, especially in the era of instant, mobile, online communication, social media and forums.
“Word of mouse is more powerful than word of mouth,” Busse said. “The smartphone is a weapon that customers can use against you if they are not happy with their experience. If a customer is calling to complain, they want to make it right. Get back to the customer relationship.”
Lead and Build Trust
Customers often don’t fully know what they need, so a business should know how to lead them, Busse said. “They’re calling you as an expert. You can educate them so you can make the right decision. When a customer calls and wants price, do you really think they want price?”
A business needs to solve customer problems, she said. “They need to get from point A to point B. Can anyone in this room solve that problem? Price is important, but if all you do is give customers the price, how are they going to make the right decision?”
Giving away price at first turns customers into price shoppers instead of problem solvers, Busse said. “There’s a time and place to say price and it’s not the very beginning. They’re calling because they have a need, and if you don’t book the business, your competitor will get it.
If you’re not the cheapest, you shouldn’t talk about price, she advised. No limousine company wants to be the cheapest. “If all your customer wants is price, and that’s all you talk about, then you won’t get business.”
No Phoney Baloney
The way you answer the phone, what you say, and how you say it determines if you land a customer or customer says, “I’ll call you back,” Busse said. “The best time for a customer to say yes is on the initial phone call.”
Employees taking customer calls for limousine service should be trained to ask questions and carry on a conversation, since phone selling is all about forming a relationship. Employees should alternate questions such as “How many passengers? Where are you going? When? How far?” with comments such as, “I can help you with that. Thank you for calling.”
Many savvy consumers habitually contact three companies or vendors so they feel like they’re doing their homework and not getting ripped off. “They want to feel like they have a connection to you,” Busse said.
“Don’t say ‘Mam,’ or ‘Sir,’ Busse said. “Nothing is sweeter than the sound of someone’s own name. Give your name. Get the customer’s name and use your name.”
Avoid multi-tasking, since it interferes with listening. Busse referred to the old saying about every person having “two ears and one mouth,” which means “we’re supposed to do twice as much listening as talking.”
“When I’m calling, I want to be made to feel like the queen,” Busse said. “Everyone is listening to the same radio station. Don’t be I, I, I. When customers are calling, they are the most important people.”
TWO: Ask questions, but don’t interrogate.
Employees can be tempted to interrogate because there are so many questions that go into arranging a limousine reservation, Busse said. “Interrogation makes customers feel like they are in jail. You should have a conversation back and forth. If customers feel rushed, will they feel valued and appreciated? Take your time. It is not a race. Two word suggestion: Be curious. What are you curious about? About them, their event, why going, where, where they live. There are so many avenues you can go down to make that connection and have more of a conversation.”
Never assume that longtime customers will remain. Operators are only as good as their last ride, Busse stressed. All customers should be schmoozed in friendly conversations in which they feel valued. “We often take our clients for granted. Like marriage, you don’t take a customer for granted. Take care of clients you have. Don’t act like it’s just about getting the most customers. If you take care of them, they will stay loyal. Instead of spending on ads, cultivate customers who give free word of mouth.”
A limousine operator is not just a business owner, or a salesperson, but also an expert in luxury ground transportation, Busse said. “What do experts do? Customers are looking for you to tell them what they need. Educate your customer, but don’t do it in a condescending manner.”
To share expertise, the people handling calls cannot sound rushed. That could stress out or alienate a caller, and result in a lost sale. Invest in 24-hour phone service and enough staff that can afford patience, Busse recommends.
Customers call because they have a problem. The limousine operation is the problem solver. “Solve it, don’t sell it. Recommend transportation based on what they are telling you.” You need to give them a reason for your service, she says. And when giving price after explaining the overall value, it’s better to say, “It’s ONLY $125.”
“You need to be in the ball park, but it doesn’t mean you want to be lowest in town. If you get a hang-up click, you didn’t connect.”
FOUR: Address worries, concerns, and objections
Sometimes customers will come up with an excuse, such as, “Oh, I have to check with so and so” before deciding. That’s why it’s important to overcome and address any concerns they have, such as reassuring them the car will arrive early, Busse said. “Give them peace of mind. We have to help them by saying, ‘Let’s go ahead and make the reservation.’ They have to feel they did their homework. You should be confident in your recommendations to satisfy their needs and solve their problems.”
FIVE: Assume the sale
Assume customers will do business with you, Busse said. There’s nothing wrong with asserting the solution and assuming the sale. “Give them a reason to say yes.” One common technique to help the sale along is to ask, “What other questions can I answer for you, before we make the reservation?” Busse said. “Be curious. Customers have a lot of things on the to-do list. They need to book a car, hotel, go to the dry cleaners. Don’t make customers work harder than they need to.”
Even if you have engaged a customer who is still reluctant, don’t give up, Busse advises. “Ask, ‘May I call you back in a few hours? Show you care and that you want to make it easy for them.”
Finally, limousine services taking calls should avoid customer service scripts, and instead follow guidelines and suggested verbiage that balances consistency with conversational flexibility, Busse said. “Your customers want to do business with you. How you treat them determines whether they become a customer once, or for a lifetime.”
Summary: How To Control The Customer Call
• Provide an assurance of help
• Get and use their name
• Listen and respond appropriately
• Be genuine
Ask Questions and Listen:
• Why are they calling?
• Who do they need?
• “Based on what you’re telling me, I recommend. . .”
• Use clues you got to resolve concerns/objections
Assume the Sale
• “Let’s go ahead and. . .”
Source: Workforce Development Group Inc.
An expert covers the M&A environment, the dreaded AMT, and tips for sound financial tracking.
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