You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: What percentage of your reservations comes through a website, app, phone call, or email? Are certain clients more willing to embrace one method? What are the pros and cons of each way?
Earlier this year, we started tracking our booking sources. I’ve found that it’s about 55 percent phone to 45 percent online. We have plenty of clients who still want to pick up the phone and call us to make reservations. Also, we have clients who are comfortable sending us an email for a trip with only two hours’ notice.
Nick Boccio, Fleet Manager
Buffalo Limousine in Buffalo, N.Y.
Our reservations breakdown is roughly 60 percent via our online system or app, 30 percent via the phone, and 10 percent via email.
Those booking online or through our app are looking for efficiency and convenience, so we ensure that reservations are verified and accepted ASAP with confirmations being sent within minutes of booking. For our email clients, we provide detailed quotes and information regarding services so they can review and book within their own timeline.
Because our website can provide instant quotes for about 90 percent of the services we offer, clients who call in often need additional information or attention (e.g., special event, group, unfamiliar with limo service, etc.). We always ensure our phone reps take the appropriate amount of time to answer questions while explaining services, rates, and processes to these clients.
No matter the medium these reservations come through, we pride ourselves on being able to effectively and productively handle them all in a manner appropriate for each specific client.
Erica Bugbee, Operations Manager
Prestige Worldwide Transportation in Aurora, Colo.
We get 15-25 percent of our daily bookings from an electronic source, such as the web, app, or global distribution system. Phone reservations still account for about 35 percent of the trips we take in, while email accounts for the remaining 40 percent. We offer all of our clients a 5-percent discount on any trip booked via the web or app.
We find that most travel managers have been quick to make the change to online booking so they can control and manage the entire reservation process. Our biggest online users are still our corporate agencies booking through the GDS. They book all of their travel in one shot directly into our system. The only con with GDS is the additional cost for us per transaction, but the savings in man-hours more than make up for it. However, we do not allow our large vehicles to be booked online because of availability concerns.
Esteban Carranza, Affiliate Relations
Cooper Global Chauffeured Transportation in Atlanta, Ga.
The majority of our clients send email requests—but without everything needed to complete the reservation. There are often lots of back-and-forth emails and even phone calls between the client and us before they give us all the info we need, including their credit card.
People who are booking special events or a wedding want to speak with us directly to get ideas from our staff, while corporate clients and airport trips know what they want—they’ll email us their e-ticket and say “set me up.”
Gary Day, CEO
American Limousines in Baltimore, Md.
We handle hundreds of phone calls a day: Almost 50 percent of our reservations are made over the phone. Even when a reservation is simple, our clients and bookers appreciate our reservationists’ willingness to help and familiarity with their account—and sometimes they just want to talk. Roughly 30 percent of our reservations comes via email, and the remaining 20 percent is through the various platforms linked to our software (Livery Coach), website portal, and mobile app. As our older clients become more tech savvy and our younger client base builds, I anticipate these numbers to flip over the next three to five years.
Offering a discount by using our website portal or mobile app is something we have discussed, but have not yet implemented. Theoretically, more online bookings will reduce errors and payroll, and since it seems we are always short of staff to answer the phones, assist with questions, answer accounting issues, and communicate with our affiliates, I am weighing the pros and cons of not hiring more staff as we grow and encouraging and educating our clients to book online. With that said, our margins are already tight so I would have to do some serious math if I were to commit to that path. Lastly, what do we have as a company that TNCs don’t have? Smiling faces answering the phones, relationships, and customer service—I’m not sure I want to give that up.
Eric Devlin, President/Owner
Premier Transportation Services in Dallas, Texas
The majority of our corporate clients and their admins prefer booking online or via email. Most of our older clients still prefer speaking to a live person. It really depends on the type of service: For funerals and weddings, clients prefer a live person—it puts more confidence in our service abilities. For airport transfers and point-to-point riders, clients find it easier to input those reservations online.
We sometimes offer an incentive for our corporate clients. If they book all their travels online, we offer a discount of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent depending on the amount of work. The biggest pro to online reservations is time. It saves a lot of time for our staff to allocate other duties if reservations are coming over the internet. The con, of course, is the loss of a personal touch. You build a stronger relationship with clients over the phone or in person than over an email. I also believe you can up-sell better over the phone.
Sam Emam, General Manager
BBZ Limousine & Livery Service in Bergenfield, N.J.
Maybe 10-15 percent of our reservations comes through our app, while the rest is via email. I think our clients prefer email to the app because of the personal service that they receive from our side. We sometimes offer promotions for special events, but not to push our clients toward any booking method. We will take care of their needs though the avenue they prefer.
Ylse Escamilla, International Market & Roadshow Manager
Alquimavi Transportation in Mexico City, Mexico
We require 100 percent of our reservations come through email or online system. Even if the clients call in, we still require them to send an email with details, or through our other online systems or app. So far, all of our clients are willing to cooperate.
We don’t offer promotions to push clients to use one method over the others, but we do ask them to send us an email with details to confirm we have all the correct information. I think getting an email confirmation or having clients enter information themselves is the best way to be sure the details of the reservation are input correctly, especially since not all of our staff speaks perfect English.
Cathleen Lamprecht, General Manager
BCDLIMO-CHINA Services in Shanghai, China
About 50 percent of reservations come through email, 45 percent phone, and 5 percent online portal. We are pushing our affiliates to use the online portal, but not our regular clients. An advantage of online booking is that it saves time in the office, but often things are spelled wrong, not capitalized, or it looks messy. The emailed reservations leave us with a backup copy of data and are faster than a phone call; however, a phone call helps us build relationships with our clients. This is something we might not be able to do down the road as we move to a move technology-driven system.
Becky Laramee, CEO
All Points Limousine in Millbury, Mass.
We are noticing online reservations come in at a higher percentage every year. Since 2014, we have jumped from 7 percent online booking to about 58 percent online booking, while phone and email bookings are dropping every year. Taking the time to educate each customer is paramount to the success of the online/app booking process and we are finding very satisfied customers with this efficiency.
Gus Ortis, CEO
Executive Transportation in Minneapolis, Minn.
A large majority of our clients still prefer to book via email for corporate and by phone for retail work. We receive some bookings online from clients who know exactly what they want every single time. Then we have “those few” who send bookings via text. Usually, they require a little bit of “translation” by the reservations team, but that’s OK—we’ve learned their language.
Tracy Salinger, President and CEO
Unique Limousine in Harrisburg, Pa.
Nearly 95 percent of our business comes via online reservation systems and email. Telephones are mainly here for emergencies and confirming trips. Tech-savvy customers like booking directly online with no reservation agent intervention.
Many larger accounts transfer reservations directly from their system to our email, and we input them into our reservation system. The cons for having to enter so many reservations is the time it takes, but we do see fewer errors because the agents can just cut and paste across multiple screens. The pro for us is we are able to pin down errors (e.g., missing information, wrong vehicle types, wrong flights, etc.) and it gives us the opportunity to get the correct information in a timely manner.
Barbara White, CFO & Co-Owner
VIP Transportation Group in Orlando, Fla.
My client base still prefers the phone to make 85 percent of our reservations. I’d say about 10 percent is emailed to us and 5 percent is online reservations. I believe we could increase online reservations if it were easier and more convenient, but I don’t believe our clients feel that it is. A thought I had for my next rate increase was to offer an incentive to book online to keep old rates.
Randall Willms, Corporate Ground Transportation Manager
Minuteman Limousine and Car Service in Hopatcong, N.J.
We promote the ability to make reservations from our app, web, text, or email; however, we do not push one method over the other. From a marketing perspective, we want to make sure that all of our clients—or potential clients—know the various means of communicating with our company.
Mike Zappone, CEO
All Transportation Network in Newburgh, N.Y.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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