10/14 update: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls for more scrutiny of stretches nationwide.
While almost anyone can drive a car, it doesn’t define the role of a professional chauffeur. The chauffeur is only one part of delivering excellent service. The detailers, reservationists, and dispatchers all contribute to personal service.
Because I started my career in this industry as a private chauffeur, I learned from my original employers what they wanted and assumed everyone else chartering a luxury vehicle would expect the same type of service, if only for the day.
A Servant’s Heart
What is a “servant’s heart?” To answer, we must first ask, what is a servant? A servant is defined as a person who performs personal duties for others. It is commonly associated with those employed to perform domestic duties in a house such as housekeepers, drivers, personal chefs, attendants, valets, and butlers.
Elected government officials are often referred to as public servants because it is their job to work for the people who elected them. Servants are helpers who take care of their employer or guests of the employer. While the days of slavery and indentured servanthood are long gone, the paid, voluntary jobs of providing services to the wealthy is considered an art today. It is not demeaning to be known as a servant.
Rather, it is a compliment someone would think highly enough of you to pay you to do something they don’t want to do or don’t have time to do and trust you to do it right. Chauffeuring is one of those personal services people are willing to pay for. Thus, having a servant’s heart means you don’t mind serving others and will go out of your way to exceed the expectations of the person hiring your service. People with a servant’s heart are a unique breed. You either have it or you don’t.
To truly have a servant’s heart, you are all about service. You are about anticipating needs and delivering more than what was asked for. You are all about leaving people with a “wow” moment. You would never get upset about a menial request but rather recognize the request as being a part of your job function. It is fairly common for clients to ask chauffeurs to pick up some beer (or other alcohol) while they are inside a venue.
Instead of simply putting a 12-pack of beer on the back seat of a limo, a professional chauffeur would carefully open the carton, place each can or bottle on ice with the labels all facing out, and sufficiently cover them with ice to make sure the bottles are cold when opened. The empty beer carton would be placed in the trunk and ready to be used at the end of the night should the client decide to take unconsumed product with him. If the client gave you cash for the purchase, the change should be placed in a little envelope and left in a prominent spot for the client to find it. Believe me, this extra little step will usually come back to you in the form of a tip at the end of the ride.
Industry professionals have excellent manners and remember to say “please” and “thank you” in almost every sentence. They address their clients as sir or ma’am and acknowledge all requests with a, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am.” They never, ever show their displeasure for anything asked of them that might be considered out of the ordinary or annoying. You simply do it. It’s our job to open doors and extend a hand to a lady exiting a vehicle. It is our job to carry packages and luggage for our clients. It is our job to knock on doors and escort other passengers to the vehicle (unless otherwise instructed). We don’t chew gum while standing near our clients. We certainly don’t smoke cigarettes where a client can see you or smell the smoke. The person with a servant’s heart always displays good manners.
Where Do I Find These People?
Hiring employees who can deliver this type of service can be challenging, especially in an era where our biggest challenge is finding anyone to hire. There is probably no better example of high-end service delivery than The Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain where every employee is authorized to spend up to $2,000 per day per guest to “make things right.” The Ritz-Carlton defines luxury in the hotel industry, and hotel employees from large chains such as Marriott, Four Seasons and Hyatt are generally trained to cater to hotel guests.
Personal assistants make great chauffeurs since they are used to demands and getting the job done no matter what it takes. I have even advertised for personal assistants and then told them the job was really a chauffeur job that is much like being a personal assistant with a driving component. Caretakers such as hospice workers, long-term care nurses, and live-in assistants are all excellent considerations. Tony Mehdiof, owner of Northpoint Transportation in Atlanta, says the best source for finding new employees is asking your existing employees to recruit for you. “They know what the job is and what the expectations are,” he says.
Bringing Them Aboard
How you introduce someone to your company and a new job can make a huge difference in how they deliver their service and how long they stay with you. At The Ritz-Carlton, all employees are required to attend a two-day orientation starting on their first day of job, says Joseph Quitoni, corporate director of culture transformation for the Ritz-Carlton Company.
“Employees cannot truly be a part of an organization unless they know the expectations and values of that organization,” he says. “We want all employees to feel they are a part of The Ritz-Carlton Company — and not just work for it.” This will create purpose for every new employee, Quitoni says. “Purpose creates passion. When employees are passionate about their work and organization, they will stay longer and maximize their talent to the benefit of the individual as well as the company.”
All About The Team
It isn’t just the chauffeurs who need to have a servant’s heart in the delivery of service. The passion for service begins with the first call to your company. The person answering your phone must sound happy even if she may be having the worst day of her life. She must sound like this trip is the most important trip she has booked this month. She must pay close attention to details from addresses to special requests. An error in the pickup address can spell disaster for the service delivery. Failing to notate the request for a non-smoking chauffeur or no cologne can ruin the ride for someone allergic to such smells. Dispatchers must sound confident and caring when a client can’t locate his chauffeur at a busy airport.
The client is likely to be angry and it takes a special person to take being yelled at while working to bring the two parties together as quickly as possible. Detailers must have an eye for detail and never miss a wad of gum stuck somewhere in the passenger area. They must take the time to ensure there are no smears on the interior or exterior glass. Every crystal champagne flute must be clean and have the same exact napkin set-up as the glass next to it. Your detailer must have pride in every vehicle he preps. I always asked our detailers to make each vehicle ready for their mothers to ride in. Who doesn’t want to please their mother?
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