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 email@example.com for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: What solutions including tech, have you pursued to reduce labor (short of simple layoffs)? Tell us about your successes or even challenges with this technology.
Stay tuned for more responses to this week’s question in the upcoming February issue of Chauffeur Driven.
The one platform we have been using (even before COVID) is FrontApp for our email. Two main areas that have been game-changers for us are reducing interoffice email and follow-ups. Between forwards or replying to all, it’s an impossible task to empty your inbox. FrontApp allows you to collaborate on an email without replying, forwarding, etc. You can share a draft prior to sending it and solicit feedback. The other area is following up with customers on quotes and questions. For so many years we would just reply to the customer with their quote and if they liked it, they would email back or call us. If not, that was it. We had no follow-up process. In FrontApp, you can set a reminder with one click and the email will pop back up in the shared inbox if we haven’t heard back from the client. The platform has paid for itself hundreds of times over with the amount of bookings we obtain on follow-ups alone—many times it may take five or six emails.
Johnny Donohoe, President
Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services in Newtown, Pa.
We didn’t have to reduce labor because we work with IO employees—both drivers and office team. As such, we did not have to furlough any of them. We hire them at a bit more per hour than salaried workers, but we only pay them when we need them. The Netherlands has become a typical IO country, where even our phone teams are hired as IOs and working remotely. All other costs such as our web services and phone lines were kept active to have them “alive” to avoid a complete stop in activities.
Richard de Krijger, General Manager
DMC Limousines in Amsterdam, Netherlands
One way new technologies can help companies save money is by reducing the amount of time staff spends on low-value administrative work. Administrative tasks can be essential to the smooth functioning of business processes, but they can take up a significant amount of time that could be spent more productively. For example, adding a self-service component to benefits administration and enrollment allows employees to update their own information, so HR teams may spend less time answering routine questions and direct more effort toward high-value activities such as talent management.
Another example: Using GNet is a great idea to get some transfers from affiliates and their fees are very low. With live chat, we’ve reduced phone calls and the customer experience has been great. Ultimately, workflow automation may help staff become more productive by allowing them to focus on more important tasks associated with their position.
A significant source of labor costs and lost revenue is overscheduling. We’ve made scheduling changes with our staff with the "best office hours" for us, which ensures the business is adequately staffed to meet demand.
Agustin Hernandez, Owner
BCOTravelers in Mexico City, Mexico
On the topic of reduced labor costs, I cannot stress enough the importance of having fully licensed chauffeurs who can drive every vehicle in your fleet. A chauffeur who has a city chauffeur’s license and a full CDL is one who can drive a sedan on Monday, an ADA bus on Tuesday, and a motorcoach on Wednesday. This diverse licensing allows you to employ one chauffeur to cover three different trips rather than paying three different types of licensed drivers. It is a tremendous benefit to the employer and the employee.
Michael Jedrzejewski, Chauffeur Manager
Windy City Limousine & Bus in Chicago, Ill.
Our industry relies heavily on people, increasing that labor cost. During the beginning of the pandemic, we instituted remote working and expanded online reporting through Microsoft Teams. Working at home has allowed for some cost reductions, but we are aware that technology as an option is not free and may not be an acceptable replacement to all client verticals. As many areas have had travel restrictions, we’ve been required to maintain reduced staffing in order to communicate those adjustments with clients.
Edison Kahakauwila, President
L.A. Limousines & Transportation Services in Victoria, Vancouver Island
With 2020 being what it was, we didn’t spend any money that we didn’t absolutely have to, so there were no new technologies added last year. Prior to 2020, we evaluated and continue to evaluate what would be helpful to us, and what’s just another gadget that’s a waste of money. We have found that GNet, Zipwhip (and texting in general), GPS in our vehicles and on the dispatch screen, direct phone numbers for certain departments, and better defining each individual’s role and responsibilities helped us from wasting more time and effort. There’s nothing worse than something being bounced around the office because no one is sure what to do with it.
We have a challenge with integrating and computerizing vehicle maintenance records. There’s many places in several programs where we could do it, and each has their pluses and minuses. And many of our mechanics are old-school and prefer to handwrite their notes, but it can be done better. Though the maintenance files are accurate, up to date, and in physical file folders, it would be nice to also be able to run a report that gives us all of the information we need at a simple keystroke. This is one of those projects that we need to sit down, make a flow, and execute it. Those who have their own shops, I’d love to hear your solutions.
Tracy Salinger, President
Unique Limousine in Harrisburg, Pa.
We use a couple of online booking tools. Just like ordering a pair of shoes from Amazon or looking up a price of a computer online, our clients can easily look up prices for an airport trip to limousine rental online. We use two platforms: Book.limo and Lead Quote and Close system by Addons. The Book.limo is a one-stop booking platform that we have used for 5 years and includes our most recent rates. We are still learning new Lead Quote and Close system, but is an amazing system for automatic protocols typically handled by a CRM staff. This will automate our sales and marketing system. We believe these systems have cut down our phone calls by 50 percent, and the cost of both of these products per month is equal to a full week salary of a full-time employee.
Jess Sandhu, Director of Operations
A&A Limousine & Bus Service in Kenmore, Wash.
Our reservation system is Hudson, which has a very user-friendly online system. Our auto attendant message directs customers to our website to make online reservations if they prefer. Our general email is also listed on the auto attendant. While reservations are still way down, as a percentage I have noticed more online reservations through our system recently.
Andy Thompson, President
Rose Chauffeured Transportation in Charlotte, N.C.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org you just might see your query answered in our next E-News.