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That is entirely TOO LONG for a phone conversation to happen, unless you’re talking to a meeting planner or travel manager about a group. Now here’s a really amazing piece of data: It takes two minutes and 38 seconds, on average, before a human being answers the phone.
There’s more data on these phone calls I think will astound you. And if you’re not appalled by the call times, then I believe you really need to step up your game if you see this as acceptable.
The average call duration is over eight minutes. The average on-hold time, before a human being answers, is more than two minutes. That’s an eternity, especially in the e-commerce and the get-it-now world we live in. But here’s the thing that really kills me: Once a CSR gets on the phone with a customer, they put them on hold for an average of 1.6 times during the call.
Of the 30 phone calls I mentioned before, the CSRs pick up the phone, answer, and then lack the basic information the prospective client is seeking! They either didn’t receive the information from their managers, or just flat out aren’t prepared, so they put the customer on hold again. If it takes two minutes and 38 seconds to get a human being on the phone and the average call is just over eight minutes, now we’re left with over five minutes, and the CSRs are putting the customer on hold every 37 seconds. That’s over one minute of hold time in a five minute span of call time.
How would you react if you were the prospect?
The interesting thing is a high percentage of the people who are being put on hold after waiting are ultimately hanging up. They’re tired of waiting for basic information, and your company is losing that opportunity to convert a prospect to a client.
During most of these calls, people are calling for quotes. So here’s the part where the sales component is almost nonexistent in our industry and why I believe we do not know how to sell our services.
When somebody asks for a quote, the response is almost always “the price is $____." You may not find anything wrong with that by just replying to a specific inquiry with the price you have listed. That’s because your CSR is just a data entry clerk and they’ve been trained to reply with numbers.
When an individual decides to book with you, all the CSRs do is take down the information from the potential client and load it into your operating system. That’s OK, but this approach will not lead to high client conversion rates.
What you have to do to succeed is start training your customer service reps to become inside sales reps. When a client or a prospective client asks you for a quote and she has no relationship with your service, she is what we call “cold traffic.” The job of your customer service representative is to turn that cold traffic into warm traffic. The only way to do that is by providing value.
“Mr. Faeth, do you need a sedan? Do you have any type of preference? We actually have two different model types. What time is your departing flight so we can assure you have plenty of time to get to the airport since you’re from out of town? We know the traffic patterns. We’re the experts in logistics management. By the way, our cars always arrive 15 minutes early, so that way if you’re ready for a meeting or get done with your breakfast early, we can get you to the airport early so you don’t have to wait.”
“Do you have any specific type of communication you would like us to use? We can email or text you to let you know when your chauffeur is on the way and on location. We can customize this trip exactly the way you want it. That way we know when and where you’d like to specifically be picked up, the time you’d like to be picked up, and also how you would prefer for us to communicate with you so you have a customized experience. All of this is included with our standard service at $____. ”
Now, you notice I haven’t said one thing about a vehicle. I’ve talked all about the customer care components about how you are going to take care of that customer because that’s their psychological concern. You may be sitting there thinking your clients are only concerned about price. That’s because it’s probably the only thing you’re communicating with them or you’re trying to attract the wrong clients. If you’re trying to attract premium, you must communicate the premium value the client will experience with your service before you deliver the quote.
So here’s the number one problem I’m trying to build up to: The sales process starts when someone finds you online, he’s handed you a business card, or when he calls in. It’s about how quickly we communicate with customers. We cannot allow them to stay on hold for two minutes before someone answers the phone. We cannot allow our customers or potential ones to be put on hold one to two times on every call because you, the owner, or business manager of your respective company hasn’t sufficiently trained or continued to manage your CSRs to be able to provide a premium level of service. If you want to charge a premium rate, your CSRs need to be trained to communicate the value your prospect expects quickly and cohesively.
What I see in the industry is a lack of sales training for your staff and everyone who is customer-facing. They need to be always on. They cannot sacrifice the time or knowledge of your prospects, whether it’s on the phone, website, or at a conference. We must completely know what they want and how fast they want it to drive value before we give a price.
If you want to succeed in this business in today’s market climate, you have to identify what the problems are that your clients want to solve and be able to deliver that to them in Facebook messages, on Twitter, over the phone, in your office, or on your online reservation system, or else you’re losing opportunity. You have no idea how much it will cost you if you are not.
The first thing I would tell you to do is record every call. You need to use those to better train your customer service reps to turn them into inside sales reps. Then you need to take the information you’ve learned through those calls and understand your clients’ problems based on client type. Because the bride’s problems differ from those of the business traveler, or a DMC, and so forth.
You need to address those problems on your website. More specifically, you should discuss their concerns on your quote, reservation, or ‘about us’ and ‘contact’ pages because those will be your highest traffic pages outside of your homepage and your fleet page.
If you do that, I promise you will grow as a luxury transportation company.
Bill Faeth is the founder of Limo University (www.LimoGrowth.com), Inbound Marketing Agents (www.inboundmarketingagents.com), and 23 additional startups, including Silver Oak Transportation of Nashville, Tenn. As a successful former operator and active advocate for the industry, Bill continues to invest into educating and training operators on how to grow, manage and sustain a more profitable business. You can reach Bill at [email protected] For more columns and blog posts by Bill Faeth, click here.
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