Referrals are one of the key forces that drive any successful business. In the limousine industry, there are no exceptions.
A referral can make or break a deal with a potential client. The idea of generating a referral portfolio tends to become overlooked when you’re busy trying to run your own business. There are so many things that need to be done on a daily basis that many business owners forget that businesses grow based on word of mouth and referrals from their clients.
Of course, advertising and marketing help spread the word about your business—but it’s one thing for people to see an ad for your company that states what a great service you have to offer them, and another thing entirely for them to hear it from someone who has actually used your services. People trust what other consumers and businesses have to say. If it’s nothing but great reviews, you will definitely see your business affected in a positive way.
However, your clients aren’t the only sources that can get people talking about your company. Building a reputable referral portfolio with businesses such as hotels, airports, wedding planners, and other customer service industries is just as important. These industries are usually able to reach more potential clients than the individual client who used your ground transportation services in the past. Hotels, airports, bridal expos and travel industries serve a large volume of people, and the right type of people who have a need for your services, making it easier for them to spread the word about your limousine company. But how do you build a relationship with these businesses? With a few simple yet consistent steps, you can build your company a referral network and watch your business grow substantially.
Having a great reputation is the most important step in gaining potential word-of-mouth clients. Great reputations are based on providing excellent customer service to anyone who gets into your vehicle, and to those who are potentially going to be in your vehicle. This might seem like a no-brainer, but customer service can make or break a limousine company. This is a customer service-based industry, after all. Since this aspect is an expected part of the business, it is easy for it to become overlooked at times.
Chauffeurs should arrive to all appointments on time, be extremely courteous, and also be genuine. They are there to make the client feel comfortable and confident that they have chosen the right company, and more importantly, make them want to use your service again or recommend it to others. Chauffeurs are the face of your company; an ongoing training program helps to ensure that all your clients’ needs are met.
Another potential way to provide excellent customer service is through phone and face-to-face inquiries. The people answering your customers’ questions should be professional, patient, and polite, as well as knowledgeable about your vehicles and the type of services you offer. Training on new vehicles and new services that may come with them practically guarantees excellence with your reservations staff. Potential clients will appreciate that they are receiving great service before they step foot into your vehicle, and this will encourage them to use your service over the competition. Having a great reputation with your clients will encourage businesses to refer your company. Don’t forget to use customer satisfaction surveys and/or ghost riders to help you keep your great reputation. Other customer service businesses want to be affiliated with companies that have great reviews, assuring that their own reputations don’t become tarnished.
Finding potential affiliates is an important process that requires a lot of effort. Don’t let this step discourage you. Building a business comes with the notion that hard work is to be expected. The task itself is simple: contacting companies and asking for their business. The hard work comes when you begin contacting many companies to expand your business to its full potential, but this experience can also lead to a wealth of knowledge.
For example, you may call a hotel and ask them if they’d be willing to use and/or recommend your business to their guests. Even though there are many businesses that will agree to refer you, there will be times when the company you’re speaking with will turn you down because they already use another service. Instead of becoming frustrated, use this as a learning experience. Ask questions, such as what they like about the other company, or if they are happy with the services being provided. You could learn a thing or two about what makes the other company appealing to the hotel, and use that information to improve your business.
There’s also the potential that your company offers a service that the other does not. In that case, the business might consider taking you on as another recommendation. Even if this process is a demanding one, never let your frustrations show through during the conversation. Be respectful to the business you’re speaking with and to those with whom they affiliate themselves. Thank them for their time and consideration, whether they turn you down or not. They will be more likely to recommend your services in the future if they remember how professional you were.
Besides contacting companies through the traditional long-distance communication practices, you might also want to consider meeting the faces of those companies in person. This can be done without setting up business meetings. Look in your areas of business and the areas you wish to branch into, to see if there are expos and conventions where there will be businesses that have the need for your services, or who deal with the types of customers who need limousines.
Exhibiting at bridal expos is a great way to spread the word about your company. If obtaining your own booth isn’t an option, go to the expo anyway, and be sure to bring your business cards along. Talk to venues, caterers, and even dress boutiques. All these businesses will be in close contact with the brides and grooms who will need to find a limo service for their big day, and could potentially refer your services to them.
This same technique can be used at travel conventions and other relevant expos. Even when there aren’t conventions and expos, or if there aren’t any in your area, you can still obtain one-on-one time with the businesses you want to reach. A great way to get them interested in your company is to allow them to experience your service firsthand. Offer them a free trial or invite them to visit your business. Chances are that once they see how professional and dependable you are, they’ll more than likely give you the referral traffic you’re trying to generate.
Last but not least, it’s important that you develop a sales pitch that is clear and also unique, so that it sets you apart from the competition. You’ll use this pitch through emails, phone conversations and face-to-face interactions. A good sales pitch is crucial when trying to expand your business. It should be professional but not mechanical. It needs to be genuine, and to express what your company is all about. Mention all of your services, any awards or professional reviews you’ve received, and why your business is the best option. Developing a sales pitch will not only be useful when reaching out to potential clients, but also when inquiries come to you. You’ll have a confident answer to their question without stumbling or having to develop one on the spot. Being fully prepared will boost your reputation as a reputable company.
Referrals are more significant for a business than many people may realize. Providing excellent customer service, and working to reach out to companies that have the potential to use and refer your services, will only help you in the long run. Don’t let the importance of referrals slip your mind while you’re working to run a successful business. All businesses have either expanded into great companies or failed due to word of mouth. In order for your company to be successful, you want to make sure people are talking, and that they only have positive things to say about your company. As long as you are professional, dependable and hardworking, you too can develop a referral portfolio that will expand your business to its full potential. //LD