David Richey is a stickler for quality. As the head of D. Richey Management Corp., he evaluates the quality of service at hotels, resorts, and restaurants. He also evaluates service provided by airlines, movie theaters, and limousine services. His company provides detailed reports for clients which enable managers to increase customer satisfaction and, in turn, business.
In 1987, Richey was contacted by Carey Limousine and asked how his program might provide an operational advantage for Carey affiliates. In discussions with Carey, Richey identified the critical service factors in a successful limousine experience. According to Richey, many of these factors are present during every business transaction. They are what Karl Albrecht calls “moments of truth” in a business relationship in his book At America’s Service. Richey was then asked by Carey to implement an ongoing evaluation program.
The program began with a review of telephone handling procedures. How many times should the phone ring? What information could the operator be expected to provide? What information must the operator obtain? Each of these details were spelled out in objective, measureable language. The performance criteria continues through the customer experience from pick-up to drop-off and the subsequent billing process.
One area of concern in the evaluation program has been to ensure that chauffeurs consistently used Carey business cards and placards with the company name during airport pick-ups. This not only enhances customer service but also serves a marketing function.
Another brief example is that, in 1987, Carey decided that a simple but appreciated limousine amenity would be a box of tissues. Some drivers carried one... most did not. By making this a standard of service for all Carey drivers and providing nationwide testing of this simple service, it has become an expectation within the Carey system.
Richey explains that the evaluative program is only valuable if it is used as a tool to improve customer service and company profits. Carey uses the reports to counsel individual telephone operators and drivers. Their actual performance is reviewed and compared with the service goals set by Carey. The reports are typically not used to deliver punishment or reprisals, but are used to recognize superior performance.
Carey president Don Dailey believes that having a quality assurance program in place is an important selling tool. The Carey sales staff has found that potential clients are impressed and reassured by the presence of a continuing nationwide system of service evaluation.
Limousine & Chauffeur recently posed the following questions to David Richey on the subject of customer service...
L&C: From an operational point of view, what distinguishes an exceptional company from an ordinary company?
Richey: The reservation process and the amount of confidence you feel from the people on the phone. You can make a reservation with some people and feel confident that the car will be there at 7 a.m. and then speak to someone else and feel that you’re not really communicating. I think the reservation process is the key.
L&C: What distinguishes an exceptional chauffeur?
Richey: The first thing is that they must drive the car properly. Secondly, he should look decent. Third... When he has interactions with the client, they should be clear and understandable as opposed to mumbled and unclear.
There are a number of things you can set up as a standard such as making sure a chauffeur uses a customers name says certain things and offers a business card and so on. He should possess enough basic information to be able to answer questions about the company.
L&C: How can you oversee chauffeur performance?
Richey: You first have to identify what your standards are. You must have a well defined job description. Then you might have some kind of mystery rider program just like if you were in the ball bearing manufacturing business… With every 100 that come off the line, you take one off and look at it.
L&C: How about a comment card?
Richey: People generally only respond if they are mad or if something pleased them greatly. We find that in most cases, cards are highly skewed toward the negative because most people who take the time to write, do it because they are mad at you. But that can still be a valuable thing. I think anyone in any business should have some kind of customer response.
L&C: What distinguishes an exceptional vehicle?
Richey: The image of a well- maintained vehicle. A car should either be new or seem new. There shouldn’t be scratches and that kind of thing. We have found that the length of a limo or the number of accessories does not really matter.
I think limousine amenities can develop brand loyalty. For example, if Carey Limousine were always to provide ice, that would become an identifier and perhaps build brand loyalty.
L&C: Do you see an increase in quality assurance programs?
Richey: I think in the service industry in general, there’s a great trend toward them. Most of our business is hotel-related and there’s a terrific trend in that regard. I’m not sure that it’s going to be so easy with limousines. For one thing, there are not that many groups like Carey that will make a formal commitment to a program.