Based out of Charlotte in Western North Carolina, Van in Black is the highest-rated premier transportation company in the area. It specializes in day trips to some of the most gorgeous wineries of the southeastern United States. The company is so busy with tours that it relies on a booking system hosted by PluginHive to automate its bookings and provide a flawless booking experience to its customers without any hiccups.
From Information Technology to Guided Tours and Weddings
It was in 2018 when Ryan Watts decided to leave his job as Chief Informational Security Officer for a Startup in Atlanta. He decided to set up his own business using the Mercedes Benz Sprinter van he owned. Yet, he had no idea what he wanted to do, or how successful a transportation company could become in Western North Carolina. “Monetizing the van that I had was an easy decision,” says Watts,” [but] I really had no idea what I was doing; I was so out of my comfort zone.”
After a long process of starting Van in Black in alignment with the many state regulations, Van in Black launched and instantly found its place in the transportation business, despite there already being quite a few companies in the area. Watts found his niche in the winery and pub crawl market, becoming profitable from the longer bookings (about eight hours) required for trips such as these. By late 2019, Van in Black became the leading wine tour provider in Western North Carolina with a repertoire of 5-star ratings and a calendar that books more trips than all of the other providers put together.
Thankfully, Watts could use his strength in the IT industry to push his business online from the very beginning. “I always knew I was going to have a website that was good, I wanted people to be able to book online and I wanted it to be as automated as possible. Coming from an IT background, that’s what we do. Everything is automated and hands-off.” This is when Watts and his team found PluginHive. “We looked at a couple of other booking plugins and [PluginHive], for the cost and functionality, was exactly what we needed.”
The simplicity of the website itself and the streamlined ability to gain information and quickly book transportation, a necessity for the younger generations, is part of what Watts says he owes his success to – that and PluginHive.
A Booking System More Automated Than the Vans They Drive
Van in Black currently has three vans ranging in different sizes with a plan to add a fourth sometime this year. While they began their business being able to easily use phone communication and Google Calendars to book their services, it was something that obviously would not work in the long term. Watts and his team began looking for a booking plug-in that would take these tasks off their desk and become an automated integration with their WordPress website.
“Once we got that working it just became a lot easier. It’s really helped us as we’re not constantly having to answer the phone. The site runs itself now. Customers can go to the booking tab and can clearly see what’s available and what type of vehicles we have. They can easily see when [a vehicle is] available and if that meets with their dates then they can go ahead and book it.”Ryan Watts
Although they do book for airport shuttles and other shorter trips, Van in Black typically books day trips for tours so there wasn’t a clear need for an hourly booking system. For shorter trips, the team prefers to speak in person with its customers to arrange something specific to their needs.
Van in Black has Been Happy with PluginHive From the Very Start
“It was flawless. We’ve had zero problems. It was super easy, although I have an IT background so it comes easy to me. I did reach out to support once because of the workweek. By default, it started on a Monday and we needed it to start on a Sunday. They quickly responded back and gave us another plugin that adjusted the workweek so we put that in there and it’s been flawless ever since.”
Van in Black continues to use Google Calendars as a resource to track and plan their bookings and is pleased with PluginHive’s integration with Google. Instead of needing to go to the website to see bookings, Watts and his team can easily check their calendar to see everything there in real-time.
When asked if Van in Black would recommend PluginHive to other businesses or networks, Watts responds, “Absolutely. It’s been very integral in our business. It really helps with the whole workflow and everything.” Watts has also recommended the system to the wineries that he works with and trusts that require bookings for tables or even rooms.
“[PluginHive] works well. It really fits our needs perfectly.”