Operations

Now = Wow! Answering All The Time

Jim Luff
Posted on June 7, 2019
To ensure seamless call service, you have to balance the 24/7 needs of customers with an answering system that doesn't enrage or stress out your employees. (LCT image via Getty)

To ensure seamless call service, you have to balance the 24/7 needs of customers with an answering system that doesn't enrage or stress out your employees. (LCT image via Getty)

Operators have been grappling with the best way to handle incoming calls since the birth of the industry. Almost all operators advertise as a 24/7 service. However, the term 24/7 doesn’t simply mean you will provide rides at any time day or night. It means you will answer your phone 24/7 as well.

You can’t truly be a 24/7 operation but offer only certain components. You have to accept orders and fulfill orders around the clock. If you are still using an old-school answering service that asks a caller general information and then connects you to the caller, you are likely losing business. By the time the answering service has dialed your number, the caller has likely hung up and called someone else.

The Now Factor

We have become a society that wants everything now. The fact that Amazon is experimenting with same-day drone delivery proves how fast we want service. Ten years ago you would rarely see a U.S. Postal Service truck cruising your neighborhood street. Today, it is commonplace largely due to Amazon’s quest to get your package to you as fast as possible.

We can use the internet to look up any information we need on any subject at any time. We can order a pizza from our phone and track the progress from the making to the baking and finally to your table. In the future, Pizza Hut will begin offering delivery vehicles that bake your pizza on the way to your house.

Shortly after that technology is unveiled, the pizza driver will be replaced with an autonomous vehicle that will pull up in front of your home and text you a message to come outside and retrieve your pizza from the oven. Won’t this be a “wow factor”? The “now” factor is driving the “wow” factor and you have to deliver both the now and the wow. That means being ready to accept reservations, and to dispatch and fulfill orders the moment your client wants to do business.

Not Just the Phone Calls

Today’s clients aren’t just calling. They are emailing and keying in their own orders. They are sending messages in social media and texting you. But you have to sleep sometimes and there will come a point where you just can’t do it all by yourself anymore. You will get tired of taking calls at the grocery store, in your car, on the golf course, and even in the bathroom. We have seen that happen at limo shows. Speaking of limo shows, you should be delegating incoming communications to someone else while you attend industry shows so you can network, attend educational sessions, and walk the show floor without interruption. We no longer have to worry about who will answer the phone. We need to worry about who will respond to reservation-related emails, social media contacts, and text messages.

Technology has made our companies more efficient but our jobs more challenging. We just need to find the right balance.

Harnessing VoIP Technology

One of the best technology solutions to grace the industry is the invention of VoIP phone systems. Voice Over Internet Phone harnesses the power of the internet to eliminate international phone charges and reroute incoming calls where you need them to go based on the time of day and circumstances. VoIP systems allow the one-man-show operator to appear much larger in size and be more efficient.

With VoIP, you can forward your calls based on the time of day to the person designated to handle calls without any human interaction. As an example, calls to your business number can be automatically rerouted to your cell phone at the close of your business day. They can also be set up to ring on your office phone and your cell phone so if your office staff is busy on another call you can still answer from wherever you happen to be. You can set up a reroute at midnight to go to an employee who takes calls from home or an industry answering service. You can also easily merge client calls with their chauffeur facilitating airport pickups or other passenger/chauffeur communications.

VoIP systems start at about $600. They don’t take a lot of technical knowledge to install and can easily be managed without any training or experience. Phone calls can be recorded, conference calls established and they even integrate with email platforms and CRM systems such as Salesforce.

Specialized Outsourcing

As the industry has evolved, companies such as Limo Command, LimoLive24, and Limousine Call Center have launched to answer incoming calls and emails when you can’t. These are not your typical answering services. These are companies that specialize in providing backbone services such as reservations, dispatching, driver wake-up calls, and can even respond to emails the moment they arrive. They have all the popular software applications such as FASTTRAK, Limo Anywhere, Ground Widgets, and Samara.

If your software is preloaded with rates it makes it easy for an outsourced company to answer calls, quote rates, and dispatch on-call cars and drivers. It depends upon how much control you want to empower them with. The cost of services can be as low as 50 cents per hour to a maximum of about $5 per hour. These companies are American-based with fluent English speaking operators. They can be trained to function exactly the way your staff handles calls during the day. They include skilled operators with flight tracking experience, airport meet and greet procedures, and can even be trained what to do in a breakdown situation unlike a typical answering service.

Invest in the right communications structure that ensures callers reach a friendly, relaxed answering environment. (LCT file photo)

Invest in the right communications structure that ensures callers reach a friendly, relaxed answering environment. (LCT file photo)

Creative In-House Management

If you aren’t ready to let a third-party handle your calls but you don’t have enough business volume to warrant the expense of hiring overnight staff, you can get creative and use in-house staff that might want to earn a little extra money by working at home. Absent a VoIP phone system that would route calls to your employee’s cell phones, you can invest in a service offered by your local phone company. It’s called Remote Call Forwarding. It runs in the same suite of services such as Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and Three-Way Calling. The cost is about $5 a month. You dial a phone number and follow prompts that reroute calls to any other phone number in the world. This accomplishes routing the call but this is where creativity comes into play.

Your employee can be contracted as an independent contractor to work from anywhere. It is important that you not mandate your contractor answers calls from a specific place but rather allow them to take calls from anywhere at any time. Using cloud-based software such as Limo Anywhere or FastTrak Cloud, your contractor can do all the things they would normally do in the office or that an outsourced answering service would do.

You can pay them for their services based upon an agreed upon fee per call answered. If you want to incentivize them, offer a commission based on each ride booked. This can be a percentage of the ride or a flat fee such as $10 per booking. Make sure you never “assign” an employee to answer phones during a specific time. Instead, share a schedule of when you need coverage and ask who would like to take it. This protects you from the employer-employee relationship since your employee is functioning as a contractor and working when they want as opposed to when you schedule them to work.

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Related Topics: call centers, communications, customer service, How To, telephone etiquette

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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