Some companies put a little self-mailing postcard right in their vehicles. Some mail questionnaires to their most frequent clients. Others make random phone calls every business day asking their customers to rate the performance of the limousine service. The bottom line is that smart operators want to run the best limousine service possible. They care about their clients and take their complaints seriously. Based on our combined 35 years of experience in the limousine business, here are the five most common complaints that we have received, and some tips on dealing with them.
The Chauffeur is Late This is by far the number-one complaint of limousine clients. Corporate travel managers and administrative assistants who deal with limousine services absolutely dread the calls about late pickups. There are a number of steps you can take to help with this problem. Train your reservationists thoroughly and continuously. Let them know the real-time driving distance between points in your city. When you schedule a chauffeur too aggressively, you tend to have problems with late pickups. Make it a habit to say no when a trip cannot be done in a timely manner. Put a system in place for early-morning work. If you are a small operator and use an answering service, direct your chauffeurs to call in to the service at a designated time so that you know they are awake. Schedule according to the chauffeurs’ strengths. If they have a problem getting up for early-morning runs, schedule them for afternoon or evening work. Use your chauffeurs where they will be most effective and will have the best chance at being successful. Never, ever lie to your client. If the chauffeur will be 30 minutes late, tell the client immediately and offer the option of alternate transportation.
Inaccurate Information on the Trip Sheet If you have ever made an airport pickup, you are familiar with this scenario. You arrive at the airport on time to meet your passenger. All the passengers deplane and still you do not have your client. You call the office, the passenger calls his or her office, and you finally discover you were given a wrong passenger name. The trip begins with an annoyed, even exasperated passenger. It happens all the time. Double-check the information from your client. If there is even a slight doubt about which passenger from ABC Co. is arriving, put “ABC Co.” on the sign. Make sure there are checks and balances in place to ensure the accuracy of your trip information. Faxing back a trip order to your client helps. Also, getting the cell phone number of the arriving passenger can help prevent problems. Often, the arriving passenger is not the person booking the trip. Emphasize to the person reserving the vehicle the necessity of making contact with the passenger before the trip. Arriving passengers must be informed about who is picking them up and where the driver will meet them. The key is to communicate with your clients, establish a procedure on each reservation, and consistently follow that procedure. Another problem is when your chauffeur cannot find the client at a hotel or office complex because he is at the wrong entrance or part of the building. Again, this is a matter of clearly training the reservations person to be specific on pickup locations. Know which entrance to a hotel or which landmark is the meeting place, and make sure this information is prominently visible on the trip sheet.
Vehicle Problems Clients notice dirty cars and are upset by maintenance problems, particularly air conditioning failures. We operate in Las Vegas where we often have 100-degree temperatures. We take the extra step of retrofitting our limousine coaches and long stretches with a more powerful air-conditioning system because it is necessary, and we know it will improve client satisfaction. Clearly, the first step here is to make sure you have an aggressive preventive maintenance program. Small operators tend to be less formal and often react to vehicle problems after they happen. It is important to have a detailing schedule with particular emphasis on the vehicle’s interior. Some companies allow chauffeurs to have an assigned vehicle that they take home. Make sure you see all vehicles regularly and that they are clean. Make sure that each vehicle has a hand vacuum, trash bags and clean glasses. Be aware of your chauffeurs’ smoking habits. Chauffeurs who smoke sometimes smoke in the vehicle. Give them a chance to pull over and take an occasional smoke break, but be sure to let them know how customers complain about smoke odors and how damaging smoke is to your vehicles.
Inappropriate Behavior by the Chauffeur Chauffeurs are a very unique type of employee. They often like the freedom of working outside of an office without a boss peering over their shoulder. They may not react well to being supervised. Assuming that you are careful in the hiring process, the best way to get a chauffeur to do the right thing is to commit to regular meetings both as a group and individually. Your employees are entitled to hear the reasoning behind the policies you have established. “My way or the highway” does not work. You need to convince them that your way of serving your clients is the right way. The trick is to give chauffeurs a comfortable system for doing their jobs. Then convince them that by following the system carefully, they will be left alone to do their jobs. Chauffeurs always complain that they do a hundred trips perfectly with no one saying a word to them. Then, when a complaint comes in, they are unfairly confronted. Make sure you regularly praise your drivers and recognize their contributions to your success. When there is a problem, gather all of the necessary information before you react. React calmly and without emotion.
Chauffeur Took The Wrong Route or Got Lost This complaint is often an overlooked part of the total chauffeured transportation experience. Your drivers must know the quickest way to get where the client is going. It is unacceptable to depend on the passenger to direct. Mapquest’s or AOL’s driving directions are helpful, but your chauffeurs must know where they are going before a trip. This is a matter of training and staying on top of every chauffeur. If it means bringing in the chauffeur a few minutes early on every run and reviewing the route, this could be a good use of your time. It is wise to print the directions to a client’s home or office on the run sheet. Loading up a van with a group of your chauffeurs and showing them particular routes is helpful. The key is maintaining a dialogue with your chauffeurs and constantly testing them and educating them on the best way to navigate the streets of your city. How you deal with customer complaints is very important to retaining customers and keeping your staff happy. When customers lodge a complaint, thank them immediately. It would be much easier for them to find a different limousine service than to call you. Tell the customer that you will investigate the problem and call back within a specific time frame. Ask questions, determine what happened, and get back to the customer. If you are going to give them a free trip or money back, do it right away and with the best attitude possible. You gain maximum goodwill by handling a problem in a positive manner.
Rich Cooley is president of Fox Limousine in Las Vegas. He is also the former owner of Executive Chauffeuring School and a former vice president at Carey International. Steve Cunningham is the CEO of Fox Limousine and Carey Phoenix.