The chauffeur is the most visible person in a small limousine company. He visits your clients? homes and businesses. He is out front at the airport and front and center in your city's finest hotels. He has a face-to-face relationship with people you may have never met.
But how much selling do you want your chauffeurs to do? Is it okay for a chauffeur to quote rates and discuss the cost of a future charter?
Some operators believe the chauffeur's total focus must be on providing professional service to the back-seat passenger. Other companies actively encourage the chauffeur to act as an outside salesperson. The goal should be to strike a balance between the two schools of thought.
Jeff Bellagamba, vice president of Concorde Limousine in Freehold, N.J., supervises a staff of more than 60 full-time chauffeurs. He believes that the chauffeur gives his best sales pitch by doing the right thing every day.
"When our chauffeurs are delivering professional service 110 percent of the time, that's the greatest sales tool I could ever dream of," Bellagamba says. "When they show up on time in a clean car with a pressed suit and a smile on their face, they just sold our company, and guaranteed that the customer will use our services again."
Bellagamba, who is also Concorde?s chief salesperson, says customers pay particular notice to the way in which the chauffeur does his or her job.
"I hear comments in the field all the time about our chauffeurs," Bellagamba says. "A little thing like the way our chauffeur looks while he is waiting for his passenger is something clients will notice. If every one of our chauffeurs does everything right during 200 trips, then they just made my job very easy. It's like they went out on 200 individual sales calls that day."
Bellagamba encourages Concorde's chauffeurs to help sell the company in a limited way. Commissions are cheerfully paid on trips generated by a chauffeur's lead. "After 60 days of employment, I sit down with chauffeurs individually, and I present them the sales presentation materials that I use in the field," he says. "I answer questions, and I make sure they understand our company history, who we are and what we are offering the customers. I encourage our chauffeurs to ask me questions."
Bellagamba believes that this background information helps the Concorde chauffeur answer the questions that the client may pose. "This way our driver feels comfortable when the client asks a question during the trip," he says.
But Bellagamba feels it is necessary to make certain the chauffeur knows where to draw the line. "He needs to focus on handling the client and not overstepping his role. If the question from the passenger is complicated, he should get the client's business card and follow up quickly. He is the salesperson in the field."
However, Concorde is a large limousine company with a full staff. What about the role of a chauffeur in a typical small limousine service?