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The private plane is circling the airport. Your chauffeur and vehicle are on the tarmac awaiting the arrival of the celebrity guests. It’s your moment to shine — can you do it?
Transportation companies are not all created equal. Serving upper echelon clients who stay at hotels that cost thousands of dollars per night and who travel on private planes requires a special understanding of their expectations for chauffeured service.
Chauffeurs who usually drive airport transfers may not be as suited for this type of work as would road show chauffeurs. Training your chauffeurs in the special protocols for clients in the national or international spotlight may glean you more of this coveted work.
What do high-profile clients expect of their chauffeurs and transportation companies? “The chauffeur needs to know everything,” says Julio Fabre, the director of business development for US Sedans in Miami, who worked as a professional concierge for more than 12 years. “He needs to know how to get around the roads, routes and detours. He needs to know where to find certain things. He needs to be a rolling concierge.”
High-profile clients differ from the everyday business person. Knowing who makes the decisions and when to act is the key, Fabre says. “Celebrities and high profile clients often have handlers. They typically are the people conveying the needs of the client. Sometimes, though, the celebrity will change the course of direction. Chauffeurs need to be flexible and roll with the changes.
“There are often people at the properties waiting to meet the client,” Fabre adds. “If you are required to make 15-minute out calls, you better do it. These are often the people who have hired you in the first place. You want to help make them shine. Make sure you understand who all of the clients are.”
The demons are in the details. “You need to know how the celebrity wants to be addressed or even if you can address them at all. I have heard of chauffeurs ask for autographs or gotten chummy with the crew and the band. Chauffeurs should not get overly friendly. They should have tact like a butler.”
Tom Pepplar, operations manager of Signature Limousine Services of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, says consistency is critical when attracting and keeping the most frequent high-end clients. “A large portion of our business starts with a client getting off a private airplane. Our clients expect our chauffeurs to be impeccably dressed, in a clean, new model vehicle. They expect to get the vehicle they ordered. The chauffeur should be at the FBO [fixed based operation] 30 minutes in advance of the flight landing and they should not leave. They should always check in with the FBO to let them know they are there and the tail number of the plane they are meeting in case the pilot calls to check.”
Chauffeurs should show confidence and think fast, Pepplar says. “For example, we had a client who we picked up off a private plane late at night. They had their pet dog with them. When our chauffeur dropped them at their home, they realized that they failed to get dog food. The chauffeur immediately volunteered to go pick it up for them and bring it back to their home. It’s the extra details and little things that make your clients loyal to your service not only for VIPs and high-profile clients but for everyday clients.”
Pepplar’s chauffeurs are all college educated. Most are chauffeuring as a second career after retiring from middle management jobs. They bring a lot of sophistication to their roles. Such a background is key to understanding the value of silence, in which the chauffeur greets the client, confirms the itinerary, and then shuts up. “Chauffeurs need to speak when spoken to and answer the questions asked,” he says. “Confidentiality is also critical. Our clients know that anything said in our vehicles will never leave those vehicles.
“Your chauffeur and your vehicle is the image the client sees of your company. You always want that image to be the best.”