Your chauffeur is your storefront. Your chauffeur is the first, and sometimes only, person representing your business that your client will actually meet face-to-face. Maybe the reservation was taken in a friendly manner, and the dispatcher gave the chauffeur all the important details. However, it’s up to the chauffeur to make every new client a repeat client. In today’s marketplace more than ever, customer service and attitude are all-important. This is where good chauffeur training comes into play.
The following are five important tips to help you, the operator, properly train your chauffeurs and prepare them for the marketplace.
Do “ghost rides.” Once a month, Bob Doria, owner of Transportation Training Associates, Inc. in Exton, Pa., conducts ghost rides for Empire International Ltd. in Norwood, N.J.
“Basically, I’m doing quality assurance,” Doria says. “I use a fictitious name and I go for a ride. During the ride, I’m evaluating everything from customer service activities to driving skills.” Typically, the evaluation ride lasts approximately 45 minutes, and the chauffeur is under the impression that Doria is a corporate client. Areas of evaluation include how the chauffeur handles traffic, their behavior, if they are willing or not willing to talk, and if they keep their eyes on the road. Usually the chauffeurs Doria evaluates are those that have already received complaints. The next day he briefs upper management on the outcome. The chauffeur is also informed of the mystery ride and subsequent evaluation. If there are problems, they will be discussed at this time. If the chauffuer performed exceptionally well, they are commended.
Be proactive. Make up-to-date information readily available for your chauffeurs. Give them knowledge while offering incentives. Doria says this can be something as simple as issuing regular safety newsletters.
“Every month for Empire International, Ltd., I design a one-page brochure that has four safety-related questions,” he says. “We offer 10 $100 gas cards for those answering the quiz correctly. All those names go into a drawing and we draw 10 winners.” Doria says this type of contest accomplishes two things at once. “Number one, we’re putting more safety information in front of the drivers, and secondly, we’re getting them to read it and answer questions, so we know they have read the material. Granted, the questions aren’t very difficult, but it does verify that they’ve read the material.”
Make your training available on a regularly-scheduled basis. Doria will often set up rotational programs with the companies that he deals with. Chauffeurs report for “refresher training” which covers recent happenings and topics are of a timely nature. Doria stresses the importance of making certain that employees know they are not being retrained because of something they may have done, but rather to enhance them as a whole.
Scott Mezger is a 14-year owner/operator of M&M Limousine and owner of Executive Chauffeur Training School, both based in Cincinnati.
Mezger puts all of his new chauffeurs through a comprehensive 20 to 25 hour training program that covers, among other things, the “nuts and bolts” of driving, the different types of vehicles, and what is expected from a chauffeur. “You never get a second chance to make your first quality impression,” he says. “So everything about you – not just how to do the job professionally, but how you look, how you carry yourself, proper attitude – there are so many things that affect a quality chauffeur.
Be reactive. When there has been an accident, a complaint, a mistake or a chauffeur has not been cordial to a customer, immediate reactive training helps to educate all the staff and bring awareness to the problem. Doria gives an example with Easy Pass, a method of passing through the toll gates in New Jersey and New York. “One of the problems we were having was that there were a lot of lane changings going on, and because of that, a lot of sideswiping accidents, where either people drive into them or they drive into other people. We were reactive and proactive at the same time and addressed this problem immediately. All of the chauffeurs were then alerted that when they are approaching toll gates, they need to be aware in order to alleviate these kinds of sideswipe accidents.”
Mezger says that when problem areas develop, it’s important to review expectations with your entire staff. “If clients are calling you with complaints, or you are calling clients to verify how the runs went, most of the time you will see when there are problem areas developing.”
Mezger believes in the importance of proper training to begin with, and letting your people know exactly what is expected of them from the start. “As an operator, you have to strive to set yourself apart from all others,” he says. “If we don’t consistently treat customers the way they want to be treated, we will go out of business.”
Conduct regularly-scheduled driver roundtables. “The best information comes from people who are out in the field, day in and day out,” Doria says. “Those are the people that are going to tell you what might work better than something else.” Many times problems can be solved by simply asking those in the field, “how can we do this better?” Have a set agenda or topic that you want to discuss. Make your chauffeurs feel that they are part of the process, and give them a personal, vested interest in suggesting improvements. Roundtable participants should include all of your chauffeurs — from the chauffeur that has 20 years of experience, to the novice chauffeur who has just started. “Make all of them feel a part of the process,” Doria says. “Everybody’s got a different view of something – what I think may be right, somebody else might say, ‘I have a better idea.’”
Always pre-screen applicants before hiring. “Before you hire them, they’re not employees and you want to best screen those individuals,” Doria says. “It’s not a cost benefit if you’re going to spend $500 training a chauffeur that’s only going to last three months, or create a problem for you that drives away a great amount of business.”
Doria advises using a pre-hire screening procedure that ...
for more on this topic, check out the November issue of LCT magazine.