Fifty-five sets of eyes could be upon us on any given trip taking note of everything we do to deliver service to our passengers. Any mistake will be seen by at least a few pairs of eyes at the moment it happens. If the mistake jeopardizes the safety or lives of the passengers, the entire bus will know in a matter of minutes as passengers talk amongst themselves.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
The “goods” in this case are our passengers. Our job is to ensure their safety from the time they first board until the last farewell at the end of the trip. Whether we are delivering service in a 55-passenger Prevost coach or a 25-passenger Tiffany Coach limo-bus, clients have come to expect more for their money; the more lavish the equipment, the better.
However, the fanciest and grandest of all buses cannot offset the most important aspect of delivering good customer service and completing the job. The skills and company represented by the driver are the keys to success, referrals, and repeat business. A poor representation almost guarantees that every passenger will tell at least one person about the bad experience. And if you had 55 passengers onboard, 110 people know about the bad experience.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?
How do you know if your drivers are representing you well? How do you know if your customers were happy with their trip? Are you asking? The best way to strive for complete customer satisfaction is to find out how you are doing today through customer satisfaction surveys. The results of the surveys can help you identify areas where your company fails or falls short most frequently so you can correct them. If you don’t survey your customers, you are likely unaware of certain problems. There are several ways to accomplish this, from traditional mail surveys, email surveys, a final exit survey card, or telephone inquiry. You also can use a professional survey company such as Survey Monkey to collect the data for you. While you are at it, make another survey for your drivers to ask them how they feel about the conditions at work. Happy drivers make happy customer service specialists. Unhappy drivers can quickly become a cancer in the company if left unaddressed.
Customer Service Survey Methods
- Telephone inquiry
- Regular mail
- Final exit mail-in card
DESIGNING A CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEY
When designing a survey, think about all aspects of customer service, such as how a customer found your company, how the reservation was placed, how special requests were handled, and finally, how well the trip went from start to finish. Think about every contact the client has from the first moment he decides to charter a bus until the driver returns to the yard. Take the opportunity to ask about where the customer got your company phone number, such as a particular phone book or Web site.
This can help you target similar clients by advertising in those venues. Ask about the cleanliness of the bus, the courtesy of the driver, and whether the customer felt safe or not. You can ask about the appearance of the driver and even if the parking location was acceptable. While you could literally ask a hundred questions, being brief and concise is likely to produce more returned surveys since most people won’t complete it if there are more than about 10 multiple choice questions. Be sure to leave a space for any comments the client might wish to add. Refer to the sidebar for sample questions on a customer satisfaction survey.
Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions
- Where did you hear about our company? (ie. Phone book, Internet, saw a vehicle)
- About our prices? (About what I expect, a little high, much higher than expected)
- About the reservations process? (Poor, Average, Good, Excellent)
- When did the vehicle arrive? (More than 15 minutes early, on time, late)
- Vehicle cleanliness? (Poor, Average, Good, Excellent)
- The driver? (Professional, courteous, knowledgeable, confident, prepared)
- Interior servicing during your trip? (Refreshed and cleaned frequently, not at all)
- Parking location? (Safe and convenient or difficult to find and access)
- Would you charter from us again? (Absolutely, maybe, probably not)
TRAINING FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
Good customer service starts with good training and orientation as employees are hired. The culture of the company and the desire to exceed customer expectations should become the foundation of driver education. It is almost impossible to determine every situation that could possibly arise during a charter. Being prepared for common situations, such as handling intoxicated passengers with a firm but courteous approach, or more serious ones, such as taking charge with an action plan and good training in case of a crash, demonstrate consistent customer service despite difficulties.
Empowering employees to make basic decisions as ambassadors of your company is one method of improving customer service by eliminating layers of red tape. If a client has a scheduled departure time of 2 p.m., but decides as the driver is spotting not to leave until 3 p.m., it should not be a major problem. The driver should be able to firmly inform the client of any additional charges as a result of the delay, obtain a signature on the paperwork amending the time of departure, and document any additional charges without having to call and get approval. No one wants to hear the driver say they have to check with someone else. If the client is willing to pay and the overtime will not overlap on the vehicle schedule, there should be no problem with quickly resolving the issue in one brief conversation.
If there is an equipment failure, such as the air-conditioning system, the company should have a policy in place on whether a partial refund is given, a full refund, or some other resolution, so that the driver, as your ambassador, can handle the situation appropriately. It can calm tempers and make for a more pleasant experience when the customer knows something will be done.
If during a pre-trip inspection a driver believes a vehicle is not in proper condition for a trip, empower them to declare a vehicle out of service. The driver is the captain of the ship. Any problems that develop during the trip will be the driver’s responsibility. So the right to declare a vehicle out of service should be taken seriously. For example, a bus that needs a $500 pump for the heater to work may not seem like a problem to management in August. But if the driver encountered a situation such as rain or high humidity that caused the windows to fog, and he has no defroster because of the bad pump, the issue becomes a problem for the driver and the safety of the passengers. A safety-conscious driver should anticipate such challenges.