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Bill Atkins is the Owner of Red Bank Limo. In this interview Bill tells us how his attention to customer satisfaction has helped his company thrive and win the National Operator of the Year from the Limousine and Chauffeured Transportation Magazine.
Bill keeps his customer-focused company motto very simple: we get you there safely, on-time, with a friendly local driver.
Interview With Bill Atkins
Question: Bill, I’ve Heard You Give Presentations Sharing Marketing Tips That A Business Of Any Size Can Find Useful. Can You Summarize Some Of Those Key Points?
The key to being successful is differentiation. What makes you different? Maybe you deliver your product or service faster, friendlier, or in some other customer-focused manner. If you don’t know what makes you different, ask your existing customers. Why do you do business with me? Ask a few of your customers and you will see some common threads. Once you know why your existing customers do business with you, then you have the specific reasons you need to talk about with prospects.
Question: Gift Certificates Seem To Be One Of Your Favorite Marketing Techniques. How Do They Work For You?
When you give someone a “gift,” you are giving them something of value. Never give out coupons because, people treat coupons like trash and treat gift certificates as cash. The gift certificate should always be for a dollar amount and never a percentage off the regular price. Try to have as little fine print as possible; after all it is a gift. The amount of the gift certificate should the normal profit you would make on a first sale.
Question: You Also Team With Other Business Owners To Cross-Promote. Give Us An Example Of That.
We have a business relationship with the Atlantic Club in Red Bank. They are a well-respected health club that charges $99 a month for membership. We give our customers a free month’s membership at the Atlantic Club. They give their members a $25 Red Bank Limo Gift Card. They key is to have a partner company who also serves the same customer base that you do. Both businesses benefit by offering their customers something of value. And both businesses acquire new customers who were referred by another business that the customer already knows and likes.
Question: You Mentioned Some “Little Things” That You Do That Are Not Costly For You But Greatly Enhance Your Customer Satisfaction And Retention.
Well, there are two that we have found to be very effective. We call the first, “Your Express Pick up.” Imagine that you have just returned from a long trip, you then have to search for your driver in a crowded arrival area. Then after collecting your luggage you start the long journey to a car parked in a remote parking lot. Maybe it is a hot and humid New Jersey summer day. We offer “Your Express Pickup.” After you arrive and collect your luggage, you call a toll free number where you’ll speak to a live person expecting your call. You will be directed to the curb where your driver will pull up to you with the air conditioned car. Depending on the season, you will be offered a bottle of chilled water.
Second, imagine dragging yourself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to make an early flight. The sun isn’t even up and you’re still half asleep by the time you get to the airport. We’ll give you a Dunkin Donuts Gift card for you to “enjoy your first cup of coffee on us” before you board your flight. So whatever business you are in, you should look for similar “little things” like this that will enhance your customers’ experience with your product or service. It is truly the little things that make the difference.
Question: Many Businesses Are Making Heavy Use Of Social Media These Days. How Is This Part Of Your Marketing Strategy?
Red Bank Limo uses social media to build and maintain relationships. Often, there are local events or travel-related topics that we share with our friends. The more content we put out there, the more people will look for what we have to say. Social media helps keep us connected to our customers in a non-selling way and helps us keep in touch with customers who may not be thinking about Red Bank Limo on a daily basis.
We put videos on YouTube to strengthen our message and let people see that we are real people, which again helps to form a deeper relationship. Red Bank Limo is very community-focused and we talk about how people can help in the community, with an emphasis on local hunger & homeless initiatives. Each year we give 5% of our December gross sales to three local organizations that support hunger and homeless programs. We talk about and encourage others to support these programs as well. Using social media strengthens our footprint as a local company.
Question: Give Us An Example Of How You Use New Technology In Your Business.
When a customer wants to reach me, they want to reach me. In the past, if someone left me a voice message, I would have to dial into my voice mail to know that someone has called and what they want. But now I subscribe to a service that uses voice recognition to translate the voice message into text and then sends me an email, which I then instantly retrieve on my phone. So I can very quickly respond to the customer myself or have someone on my staff address the issue promptly.
We also offer a state of the art, real time reservation system for our customers who like to reserve on line. Our customers can also always speak with us directly if that is what they prefer. The choice is theirs.
Question: Finally, You Stress That Trying To Compete On Price Can Be A Dangerous Proposition. Why Is That?
Think of the last time you bought something that was cheap. It fell apart in your hands and you ended up having to buy what you should have in the first place. In my business, there are heavy costs regarding safety. Some operators carry no insurance on their vehicles. If there is an accident, the customer has no protection. Or, in another situation, if the car doesn’t show up or is late a half hour, you may miss your flight, which could ruin your business trip or your much anticipated family vacation. So we choose to compete based on our differentiator, the quality of service we provide. You need to identify your differentiator and compete based on this as well.
Thank you, Bill. Certainly these ideas can be used by businesses of all shapes and sizes. See you on our next trip!