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My business is to treat someone like you would want to be treated, says Los Angeles chauffeur Chris O’Brocto. When I go to a hotel, I pay a concierge a $5 bill up front. Guess where they put my car? Where my client is.
When singer Simon Le Bon of the band Duran Duran was performing a standing gig in New York City a few years ago, he would encounter a group of fans every time he walked from the theater to his waiting luxury vehicle.
Chauffeur Chris O’Brocto, now a Los Angeles operator who specializes in A-list musicians and performer clients, recalls seeing the same autograph seeker wearing the same jacket waiting for Le Bon — for three days in a row.
On that third day, the man got into a car and started following the SUV O’Brocto was using to drive Le Bon. Shortly after leaving the theater, O’Brocto immediately pulled over to the side of the road, letting the car pass. Le Bon appeared startled at first, O’Brocto recalls, until he explained to the singer the suspicious behavior he had been noticing, and how he did not want the fan to know where Le Bon was staying.
O’Brocto, who owns All-Access Limousine Inc. based in Beverly Hills, sees his job as far beyond that of a chauffeur. His roles include part-driver, part-concierge, and part-security guard. Connecting these tasks is the overarching ability to know your clients and develop an attitude of service that motivates one to note and devote to the details.
Limo operators and chauffeurs who cultivate such keen awareness of clients on multiple levels always will have an advantage in landing and retaining clients of all types.
Attention To Details
The rock musicians O’Broco drives would never call up a listed, advertised company or make a reservation on a website. They want to know who is showing up to drive them and expect a trusted service where the chauffeur is a confidante.
O’Brocto started chauffeuring in New York and moved out to Los Angeles six years ago when his wife landed a job there. He restarted his chauffeured service with a Cadillac Escalade ESV, and plans to grow by adding a Cadillac XTS sedan and hire a part-time chauffeur who can follow his standards.
He cleans his vehicle all the time, and calls his clients on their personal cell phones to let them know when he is coming to pick them up and exactly where he will be.
O’Brocto also deviates from the stand-out conventions of typical chauffeured service, most noticeably in the way he dresses for clients: Jeans, white button down shirt, vest, casual dress shoes and a sport coat. “I don’t like black-and-white suit guys,” he says. “Suits are getting attention from other people in the airport who want to know who is being picked up.”
One tip O’Brocto has learned that applies to all clients, regardless of how famous or successful: “Always search the vehicle before driving away. So many people leave a cell phone, purse, wallet or scarf behind.”
Knowing your client is the core of customer service, whether it is a prom goer or the President or anyone in between, says Robin Wells, a veteran marketer who is the owner and founder of Etiquette Manor (www.etiquettemanor.com). Wells has 20 years of experience running and working in small, entrepreneurial organizations and global corporations. A member of the International Association of Protocol Consultants and Officers, she formed Etiquette Manor in 2008 and runs Robin Ford Marketing and Corporate Image Consulting in Miami.
“You are no longer just driving the vehicle,” she says. “There is so much more mandatory immediate gratification that requires excellent customer service. Presentation is No. 1. If you have some social skills, your job is to drive the car with all the social grace in the world, be flexible and know who the client is.”
O’Brocto can relate to his clients beyond being a concierge and a confidante: He’s worked as an actor, including theater and commercials, so he understands the entertainment world his clients circulate in. “Because of my background in entertainment, I think what makes an excellent chauffeur is someone who doesn’t ask for autographs, tickets, or favors,” he says. “You have to know when to talk and when not to. I have one client who writes songs and sings out loud. It’s important not to talk. . . But another client brought a CD of his own music, had me listen to it, and then asked me for advice.”
Having been both a performer on stage and chauffeur who literally walks with a famous performer from the stage, O’Brocto understands the mentality of his clients, which informs his protocols. “I know what the other side is like,” he says.