Texting = Luxury?“We know seven out of 10 Americans would rather hit their thumb with a hammer than make a phone call,” Westra jokes. Apps aren’t the answer to your client’s prayers either. They are expensive, need updating, and if you can get more than 10% of your customers to download and use it, that’s incredible. The more affluent you are, the less likely you are to download and use an app, he says.
The company text enables existing phone numbers; the number thousands of people already have saved in their phone for your business. Text messaging is a standard feature on 99.8% of phones in North America, so you can communicate with literally anyone: clients, chauffeurs, affiliate chauffeurs, or IOs.
Zipwhip also has a group texting function available. As an example as to how this works, Westra says he consulted with a company that was losing half their same day bookings; they were receiving them more frequently because of the way Uber and Lyft have effected consumer mentality.
The company now has three tiers, each with 10 to 12 chauffeurs in it. When someone needs a ride within the hour, they’ll send a text out to the first group with details about the trip. They wait two minutes, and if they haven’t heard back from anyone in that tier, they send the same text to their tier two chauffeurs. The limo company’s operations manager says they’ve very sparingly had to contact tier three. They have a trusted driver with a confirmation in route within four minutes.
This is not like group texting on a personal cell phone, however. A Zipwhip group text is like sending an email with a BCC: No one knows there is anyone else on the text, and the replies only come back to the sender. Zipwhip also has an auto reply feature, so when someone texts in they get an immediate response so they know someone is on the other line. “It’s comforting because the client knows you received their text,” says Westra.
Custom signatures go out on every text, so if clients receive it and don’t recognize the number, they’ll still know who it’s from. You can even schedule texts to be sent at a later time. The software is integrated with Livery Coach, FASTTRAK, Limo Anywhere, Ground Widgets, and DriveWear with more to come.
What Took So Long?
Zipwhip was started about nine years ago by founders who had a background in the short code industry. They wanted to solve why businesses couldn’t use their existing phone number to communicate via text with their customers.
At the time, this was considered impossible; not because of technical aspects, but because of politics. “To do it properly, you had to have direct ties to all five major wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular). This took five years, and the company has been text enabling standard area code and toll free phone numbers for around three years. They have 150 employees, and serve over 400 limo operators.
Check out any post involving Zipwhip in a popular limo Facebook group and you’ll see nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback. “We got so much of it at a show once the woman manning the booth next to us said, ‘If I hear one more person come by your booth and tell you how wonderful your product is, I’m going to shoot myself,’” Westra says. “We make sure if people are experiencing issues they get taken care of quickly and fairly.”
Exclusive Sedan Service in North Hollywood, Calif., Premier Transportation of Dallas and AJL of Houston, Destination MCO in Orlando, Fla., Royal Coachman in Denville, N.J., and Windy City Limousine in Chicago are just a few of the companies in the chauffeured transportation industry pleased with the company’s service. All have two numbers: One for reservations and one for dispatch.
Business class is Zipwhip’s most popular starter plan, but most companies operating more than 20 vehicles after a short period of time will move to the multiuser platform because they want to know who sent what text message and don’t want dispatchers to delete messages or change settings.
More To Come
The company will release a new, more robust web application in the third quarter of this year, and also released a Google Chrome extension four months ago. If you are looking at a webpage, see a little “Z” icon next to a phone number. Click it, it opens a send text box that shows the entire past conversation you’ve had with that number — without leaving the software you’re in. They also recently introduced a D2D (dispatch to dispatch) feature for affiliate communication.