Operations

How To Hire And Train The Right Chauffeur For Corporate Business

Jim Luff
Posted on January 26, 2012

As operators, we have the privilege of serving many types of passengers. Brides are commonly associated with limousines and minibuses. There are also the drunken bachelor and bachelorette parties, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, airport and cruise ship passengers, as well as retirements, promotions and a host of other reasons to engage chauffeured transportation.  
But there are probably no clients more demanding than corporate travelers with a list of expectations. Retail clients probably have no idea what is right or wrong as they have little experience with chauffeured transportation. For the corporate user, transportation is a part of normal life. One misstep easily could cost the company the account. This is why hiring and training the right person is so important to the success of a company engaged in providing corporate service.

Corporate passengers vs. retail passengers
The average retail passenger will express gratitude many times during an engagement. They feel almost honored to be riding in a chauffeur driven vehicle. They will ASK the chauffeur if it is okay to stop at a store on the way to church to pick up some bottled water. The corporate traveler might demand a stop at the store and send the chauffeur in to fetch the bottle while chastising the chauffeur for not having it in the car to begin with.

Beverly Dong, executive secretary to the board of directors of Chevron USA, says that anticipating the needs of the corporate traveler is one of the biggest challenges of delivering service. If they are arriving by air around a meal period, they may wish to stop to grab a bite to eat. Chauffeurs should be expecting this and be ready with a recommendation.

Client Kristi Beyer is a software installer and trainer for a national company who travels six days a week and uses car services from coast to coast. Beyer says in some cities she visits she has asked to be taken to a particular restaurant only to have the chauffeur counter with another restaurant recommendation that will be “easier for him.” She finds that to be annoying. While a retail client might keep checking his watch to see how much time remains in a charter period, the corporate passenger doesn’t care about the time. “The vehicle is a tool of our job, much like an ink pen to the rest of the world,” Beyer says. “We will not release it until we are done using it.”

Recruiting the corporate chauffeur
Everyone has to start somewhere. Having a person with a solid platform to grow upon is essential to success. People with a background in direct customer service, such as hotel desk clerks, banquet room managers, meeting coordinators/planners or a concierge, make great candidates. Off-duty firefighters or police officers also bring good qualifications, as their jobs place them in positions of making quick decisions after assessing the situation. Their decisions often are a matter of life and death.

All of the above go through rigorous training and are taught “chain of command” management. This is important in delivering excellent service since corporate travelers have many expectations. A chief expectation is that no matter which chauffeur is assigned to them for the day, the service will be delivered the same way each time. It is inconceivable that a candidate who lacks business experience could provide outstanding service for a corporate business person. These are not shoes that anyone can fill simply because they have a driver’s license. Manners must be impeccable. Vocabulary, grammar and speech must be clear, concise and accurate.

Where to recruit
Traditional methods such as classified ads may not produce the desired results. Consider advertising and recruiting the corporate chauffeur from personal contacts. Most fire and police stations have an employee bulletin board, and with permission, you might place a flyer on the boards. You also might consider contacting your local chapter of SCORE, a SBA partner providing resources for small businesses and made up of retired executive volunteers. The local Chamber of Commerce may have a classified section in a publication distributed to local business members.

With the high level of national unemployment, your local Employment Development Department could assist you and a displaced executive worker. Most EDD offices accept “Job Order Requests” in which you can specify exactly what you are looking for in an employee.

Training the corporate chauffeur
Both Beyer and Dong project “attitudes” when first meeting their chauffeurs, and with good reason, they say. It sets the stage for clearly determining who is in charge of the trip. Corporate chauffeurs must be taught to deliver service the same way every time. Dr. Jamie Jolly, a marketing rep for Daiichi-Sanko Pharmaceuticals, says her biggest pet peeve is not being able to immediately find a chauffeur in the arrival airport.

Both Beyer and Jolly say that they want to be clearly told where to meet the chauffeur and expect the chauffeur will be present with a legible sign.

For Dong, she demands vehicles pick up her board members at the side of the plane when they exit the aircraft, and drops offs at the airport must be the same. All three agree that being on time with a clean car (interior and exterior) is the most important aspect of beginning a trip, and none of them want to hear any excuses on why a chauffeur was late.

“It is simply unacceptable for any reason,” Jolly says. Most travel planners and assistants constantly worry about their traveling passengers and appreciate periodic updates to let them know the car and driver are on location and waiting, and when the passenger has been dropped off at a location.

Airport operations and training
Most airports offer an FAA class known as AOA (Aircraft Operations Area) training. This training can include issuing an identification card that can be used to open gates to access private planes. It is important for chauffeurs to know the terminology, such as what a tail number is and which FBO (Field Based Operations) terminal will be used. Upon checking in with the FBO, the attendant on duty will request the tail number the chauffeur is waiting on and begin tracking its progress. The AOA training includes learning how to read signs on the airport roads and identify paint markings on the ground to keep ground vehicles and aircraft from colliding. Contact your local airport management office to obtain a class schedule.

Corporate traveler pet peeves
Our corporate travelers all agree that a clean and professional appearance is a must. Beyer doesn’t mind a polo shirt with a logo but most prefer a long-sleeved, white shirt with a tie for easy identification. No one wants to chit-chat with a chauffeur outside of a brief introduction. All three also agree that having a black car is a myth perpetrated by limo companies and not corporate travelers, as none of them care about the color of the vehicle as long as it is clean and on time. One major peeve: the smell of smoke, says Jolly, who adds that air fresheners and colognes used to hide the stench of smoke are nauseating.

And a final gender issue: Jolly and Beyer prefer male chauffeurs, since they feel awkward handing their bags to a female chauffeur.

Related: Interview Skills -- The Art Of Listening

Related Topics: business travel, chauffeur training, corporate business, corporate travel, hiring, hiring chauffeurs, How To, managing chauffeurs, recruiting chauffeurs

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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