Opinion: Don't stop posting on social media...just do it in a helpful way.
The March panel included Ken Carter of Aadvanced Limousines in Indianapolis, Ind.; Derek Maxwell of Chosen Technology Group; and Rick Versace Jr. of A1A Airport & Limousine Service in Boca Raton, Fla.
Versace said his company tries to focus on providing clients with value even when they're not riding in A1A vehicles.
“I know a lot of the decision makers, travel managers, and meetings and events planners don't even get to ride in our cars a lot of the time,” he said. “So how can you provide them with something outside of just providing good service when their clients or employees are traveling?”
A1A does this by setting up automated workflows to regularly contact clients and connect them to the latest digital content, tools, and information. For meetings and events planners, Versace said his company will put together an eBook based on a relevant topic such as the top 10 new tech trends in the meeting and event industry this year. They then set up an automated email that regularly sends such educational information.
“We're not just inundating them with the same boring information, but giving them interesting content they can use and that keeps them engaged with our brand even when they're not using our services.”
The company reaches clients daily through Facebook, LinkedIn ads, and a variety of different digital marketing techniques so their brand can appear to targeted audience segments. You don’t just want to put a message out with typical pictures of your fleet vehicles or a video of you picking somebody up at a hotel. You need to show you care about more than just a sale.
Once a customer downloads the eBook, A1A captures their information and sends them a brochure about the company. The next message they might receive is a link to set up a meeting with Versace or one of their salespeople to talk more about their ground transportation needs. “Instead of cold calling and reaching out to them on a daily basis, they're actually reaching out to us.”
One way to get this information out is through Facebook ads. A1A uses freelancers through companies such as Upwork that can set them up for you. “That way you’re not spending a ton of money by hiring a digital marketing company on a monthly basis or spending two and a half years trying to learn the ins and outs of setting one up.”
Valuable content never gets old, and a properly designed drip campaign targets the client to receive more when they engage more, Maxwell said. If the recipient clicks a link of an email, they are going to your site, and if they click through there, they will get additional emails. If they just passively received the email, they generally won’t get the same amount of follow up from your company.
Once you have acquired the customer or at least their contact information, there are many different tools you could set up to create email workflows to drip information to them. One of the easiest ones to use is MailChimp. Constant Contact has the same functionality.
“For every different buyer persona, every different clientele we have, we have different drip campaigns for each of them,” Versace said. “If you're sending wedding planners a lot of information about the wedding industry and how they can improve their business and best practices to get more wedding clients this year, they will love you at the end of the day. Then, when they do have a need for ground transportation, you will be top of mind.”
Also, don’t forget to reach out to your existing customers. Get their opinions and ask them to fill out reviews. “We use a service called Signpost that’s integrated with our Outlook for our reservations inbox. It started reaching out to every one of our clients, asking them for Facebook, Google, and Yelp reviews.”
If they give you a five-star review, it then sends them another email and saying, "Thanks for giving us a great review. Can you go leave that review on Yelp or Google as well?" If they give you a two-star review, you’ll receive an email that alerts you to the fact the client isn’t happy and you should reach back out to them.
“They should know not only am I Derek Maxwell and I've been a client since January of 2005, but I just came in on American Airlines flight 1982 from Los Angeles and I'd like a curbside meeting and I'm super impatient. So why aren't we doing that?” he asked. He talked about how a phone number is now ubiquitous. When you go to the grocery store and have a loyalty card, you don't bring your loyalty card with you, you enter in your phone number.
In many cases, this type of integration is available with no change to your reservation software or phone system. Maxwell said almost every new VOIP compatible phone has the ability to send a web service call to your software. What that does is it sends the caller ID and extension number of the call back to your software, and your software can then look up information based on that phone number. “Now, obviously, there's a little bit of a challenge. There are people who call from these big companies that come out as one phone number. However, most people are making calls from their mobile phone or direct dial now.”
Talk to your software provider. If they don't have integration with open source telephony platforms, they need to do one. “This is something that can make a change in every one of your operations that can make every one of your staff members more powerful, engaged, and your customers far less frustrated and more likely to pull out that other app on the phone,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell also spoke about a conversation he had with a small but powerful operator who said he will no longer take reservations from a company that will not use GRiDD Technologies G-Net. The reason for this was the number of 24-hour confirmation calls he was receiving. This particular operator was so frustrated he gets calls at three, five, or eight in the morning to confirm a trip that's already been confirmed, only for him to say it’s still just as confirmed as when it was confirmed the first time.
“You know what? If you got a confirmation and you've received an automatic driver info notification through G-Net, Limo Anywhere, whatever it happens to be, what else could possibly have changed? Trust the technology. You're literally paying people to make a phone call to pay someone on the other end to answer that phone call to tell you what you already know. If you're not using a G-Net, Limo Anywhere, or a livery delivery type tool, consider starting. You're wasting money by employing people to make these calls. I know some of you believe you have to in order to have service levels, but consider giving it a shot.”
Versace said he has spoken to some operators who don't want to set up with Affiliate Connect or G-Net because they don't want to pay the per reservation transaction fee. “The money it's saving you in the long run is 10 times that. If anybody's hung up on this, the amount, time, and efficiency…the mistakes eliminated from it more than make up for it.”
Having your data easily available on the go is vital. If you're on back-office software that can integrate with Zapier, you can take your reservations and move them to Google calendar or even Outlook. Every time somebody puts in a new reservation, Zapier will move that data (with however much detail you’d like) to your Google calendar. This will allow you to access reservations right on your phone.
“If you had a situation where you had to look and see if you had a vehicle available, you could easily scroll through in a much more mobile-friendly environment to see what kind of workload you have. The other way we use this is with Google Sheets, which is a free product from Gmail and is something we're going to implement to be able to have our data if our software ever goes down,” Carter said.
Every time his staff puts a reservation into their software, it moves the reservation to Google Sheets. This way, if your software was ever down, you’re not without data.
“You'll never be held hostage because you'll have all of your data right there. So you’ll be able to continue to work until they figure out whatever's going on with their servers.”
Setting up a Google voice number also helps in case of an emergency. These are free and build redundancy in your business so when your phone service does go down or the Internet is out, or you do have a storm that came through, you can continue to operate. You can put the app on multiple cell phones and when somebody calls, several people are able to answer that phone.
Related Topics: business management, customer service, How To, ILCT 2019, industry education, LCT Show, reservation management software, reservations, reservations management, software, telephone etiquette
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