Leros Point To Point acquires Royal Coachman Worldwide.
Got email access? An updated, grabby website? 24/7 call center service? Great, you really know how to connect with your customers. Pre-2010.
We’ve seen a revolution of sorts in the last decade, where email has become too slow and younger clients don’t want to talk to anyone on the phone. That’s still hard to believe for anyone who was ever a teenager in a household with only one landline.
Customer service and good client relations, especially in ground transportation, now centers on mobile access and instant connection right here, right now. Delays of a minute or even fewer than 60 seconds are like dead air time on radio. In an always-on world used to calling up rides at any time, limousine and chauffeured transportation services need the tools to stay current, as in post 2010, or even pre-2020.
Being able to see a chauffeur heading toward a client location in real time is a vital part of that, he says. “If people have to call in, that is bad customer service,” Ullman says.
Easy-touch, well-designed mobile self-service now defines good customer service. “Fewer people want to call in, and they prefer access on their phones to ride history, billing info, receipts, rates, and reviewing drivers. That’s 100% necessary to meet expectations.”
Tech — Time = More Revenue
So what are some practical tips and solutions operators can deploy that save time and money, and attract more revenue?
Facebook Messenger: Faeth sees Facebook Messenger as a useful tool for customers since Facebook outpaces other Internet platforms by 4-5:1 in terms of average user time per day. Users can reserve and pay for rides through Messenger as long as payments are done via registered debit accounts. The transfer remains secure, and unlike credit cards, does not involve processing fees.
“If you have a debit card inside, you can email money,” Faeth says. “If I don’t accept, it doesn’t get pulled out of my account. Most of our industry is retail, so this helps with Millennials or prom kids booking and paying for a reservation.”
Easier Interactions: Busse emphasizes the need for easy, one-time interactions across all channels, whether online chat, apps, texting, or email. One big irritant for customers is if they have to re-enter or restate basic information that should be on file.
Communication should be personal, with confirmation emails or texts that state specifics and reassure clients of accuracy, Busse says. Too often, service providers send “do not reply” confirmations which can annoy customers who need to correct details or contact a business. “Now I have to find a better email address or call you up on the phone,” Busse says. “We as companies need to literally walk in the customers’ shoes and go through the steps they do.”
With all the technology and customer service, it’s about “anticipating what their needs will be,” Busse says. “If they ask you one question via email or text, anticipate the follow up question. Use social media or whichever mode of communication.”
Based on his close observations of operator, affiliate, and client interactions, Zafar has noticed the challenge of getting clients to download apps when it’s only for one company as opposed to a wider platform.
“An app is ultimately for customer service,” Zafar says. “Operators have tried to bring their customers onto apps, but it didn’t turn out as well as everyone thought. Not as many passengers as expected are using the mobile app.”
One approach Zafar sees succeeding is generic text message URLs or SMS links that allow clients to track vehicles and chauffeurs. Notifications provide another level of assurance and customer service, especially for clients traveling abroad.
“Anything we can do to give tools to enhance the experience of consumers is what we are focused on,” Zafar says. “Getting feedback from clients helps us build exactly what they want to improve customer service.”
A.I.: Zafar foresees artificial intelligence overtaking mobile apps as the preferred way for clients to book, reserve, and/or demand rides. A.I. could include chat, voice, or text bots handling requests in real time based on stored data.
“A bot will know your habits,” Zafar says. “The technology is becoming more intelligent. It’s the next thing as users are getting lazier.”
Good customer service is more about learning where they are going and catching up with them, Zafar says. “Where they are going is faster, quicker booking. You can know who your customers are. Uber doesn’t know who I am. My preferred method of travel is working with a company that knows me. A lot of people would rather be in a familiar surrounding if it was convenient.”
Chat Bots/Live Chat: Despite all the drawbacks and bad actions of Uber, clients overall see it as having good customer service because it provides real time self-service technology, Ullman says. Most customers overlook Uber’s lack of phone service and delays in replying to e-mails.
Limo companies can do one better by providing that extra layer of customer assurance and interaction beyond the self-service technology through chat bots and live instant-messaging.
Chat bots can work well if you can predict the top 50-60 questions a customer may ask, Ullman says. Likewise, if your company is completely digitized with chat bots able to access essential data, such as receipts and reservations, then they work well.
If not, then chat bots need to be backed up with live instant-messaging help. “The important part is to have back up ability to respond. People should make sure they have the manpower to handle that so expectations are met properly. You convert more customers if you have live I.M. help.”
Another advantage is if a company can add live chat services along with chat bots, then it can gather data and optimize around it, Ullman says. “You’ll know the context as to why people are coming or leaving.” That helps assess engagement and boost conversions.
Operators Try Tech
As transportation becomes more near- or on-demand, or same-day reservation-based, operators are finding ways to customize technology to create more responsive customer service.
At Devine’s Chauffeur Service in Dublin, owner Colin Devine ensures an ownership mindset prevails among reservationists, dispatchers, and chauffeurs when dealing with clients. “Our goal is to try to make everything as consistent as possible,” Devine says. “The challenge for us is to see what can be automated so we don’t lose focus on important details.”
The company uses individual customer automation where bookings land directly into its software so employees can spend more time with quality checks instead of data entry, says Devine, who runs an operation that has grown from 20 to 35 vehicles during the last two years.
From booking to billing, a good guideline is to automate routine specifics and communications to free up time for employees to have the flexibility to please guests.
“We’re investing in the culture of the company by having better data on employee engagement,” Devine says. “We spend time on collecting data, analyzing what the business is telling us. We can turn that into meaningful planning and forecasting. It’s a challenge in small markets to determine how many trips we can do in house, and how many to book with partners.”
Leros Point To Point acquires Royal Coachman Worldwide.
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