Let us assume, for the lack of argument, that the statement is true that people will form their first impression of both you and your company within seconds of meeting you for the first time. Acknowledging that this is a fact of life, you must also understand that measures need to be taken to ensure that the initial face-to-face contact between a chauffeur and their client is a positive interaction.
Proper appearance is a crucial element. You must take proper steps to see that everyone in your organization dresses in appropriate attire that best reflects your company’s overall corporate image. Chances are likely that, as a true professional, you may already be doing this. There is, however, another equally important part of presenting the proper look: a vehicle’s appearance.
At our company, we live with the credo that customers deserve vehicles that are clean and safe. This puts the burden of providing a comfortable, spotless environment for clients squarely on the shoulders of our professional chauffeurs. Many organizations, like us, take the initiative to properly clean their fleet of company owned vehicles, before a scheduled run. However, there is still the task of maintaining the cleanliness of the passenger compartment throughout the course of the assignment. For independent contractors, the complete responsibility rests solely with the owner/operator to properly clean his or her vehicle.
First of all, find out if cleaning products are being supplied by the company. If not, you should take it upon yourself to invest in necessary supplies. Even when a clean vehicle is provided to use at the outset of a run, understand that it may quickly become dirty during the course of the run. I always advise chauffeurs in training to take every opportunity to re-check the condition of the rear passenger area whenever possible.
Personal Advice on Vehicle Cleanliness
There have been many articles written on ways to properly detail a vehicle, but I would like to share some personal advice. We have used a water-based wash and wax product that is safe to use on all surfaces, including widow tinting film, for many years. We stock a bottle in the trunk of each of our vehicles, and use the same product when re-cleaning the vehicle at the garage.
Recently, I have found that the newly developed microfiber cleaning cloths have worked very well. A helpful hint that I like to share is to use little, if any, fabric softener while drying, as that may lead to the streaking of windows because of the residual film that is left in the cloth material by fabric softeners. We always keep a couple of cleaning cloths in the trunk for chauffeurs to use. They also come in handy to help soak up unexpected spills.
To combat any offensive odors that may develop during a run, we find it quite helpful to use an air freshener. We have had very positive responses from customers about the scent found in our interiors. We have tried many over the years, but have settled on one that is a pleasant, fresh smelling citrus/vanilla mix. Should you find that no fresheners are provided by your company, you might strongly consider carrying a personal sized bottle of aerosol spray. Be careful to not overdo it by spraying too much air freshener as you are in a rather small, contained space.
Another helpful hint is to completely remove carpet overlay mats, and to roll down windows after each run is completed. This allows the interior to breathe and dry out. If left unchecked, moisture left under a mat can lead to mold and mildew. Either of these could produce a dank, musty smell, not to mention unsanitary conditions, which could be detected by clients.
Look for things such as dirty drinking glasses, used beverage containers, paper products, litter strewn about, liquid spills on the seats, soiled carpets, and my personal pet peeve — fingerprints smeared on the windows — to name a few. It is important to not just “look the other way.” That attitude doesn’t cut it! It is your job to refresh the interior, keeping it a pleasant surrounding for everyone.
Remember to think like a customer. Look at your vehicle through their eyes. You should see a vehicle that you would be proud to put your family or friends in.
– SCOTT MEZGER is president of Executive Chauffeuring School Inc. in Cincinnati, the oldest such school in the country. He wrote and produced the Chauffeur Training video program, now updated, for LCT and may be reached at (800) 380-8335.