Rob Hansen, owner of Bayview Limousine in Seattle, was finding himself bogged down with chauffeur issues and could never seem to get his 30 drivers together in one room for a monthly meeting.
He decided to separate his chauffeurs into teams and delegate ongoing instruction and basic discipline to three veteran chauffeurs serving as team leaders.
Hansen now meets monthly with team leaders for updates.
“If there are customer complaints or service problems, the team leaders deal with them – unless it is severe, and then I’ll step in,” Hansen says.
During meetings, team leaders offer tips, discuss common issues, field questions and reward chauffeurs that have received positive comments from clients on one of the company’s reply cards. The cards are sent to clients after every trip to help reduce service issues. Chauffeurs that get positive feedback receive a free car wash for their personal car and a gift certificate to Starbucks.
“I was finding it difficult to follow up on service issues before we split everyone up into teams,” Hansen says. “We were aware of them, but could never seem to find the time to sit down with the chauffeurs and develop solutions. Now the team leaders are able to better focus on getting things resolved.”
Before being hired, a chauffeur candidate must pass a driving test in a sedan, which includes finding the best possible routes to three different locations in greater Seattle. They must also pass a timed map test and references are thoroughly checked.
Once hired, a chauffeur agrees to undergo a background check, drug test and DOT physical.
Bayview’s in-house chauffeur training program includes 20 hours of classroom training and 20 hours of on-the-road training. Instructors cover everything from customer service to defensive driving. New chauffeurs are also introduced to important clients and to concierges at local hotels.
For the first 60 days, chauffeurs can only drive sedans. After that, they are trained to drive limousines and learn etiquette specific to limousines. For instance, a chauffeur should not let children stand and look out a moonroof, Hansen says.
Continuing education includes annual driving evaluations, so Hansen hires a mystery rider on a monthly basis to ride along with chauffeurs.
“He’ll do eight short trips and report back what he sees,” Hansen says. “It can be expensive, but it’s necessary.”
The cost for a mystery rider is about $500, after the rider and chauffeur are paid for their time.