The survey shows an industry that serves a broad range of customers and moves them with great fuel efficiency.
Operator of the Year finalists all have one attribute in common, regardless of how the judges score them: They apply best practices to their businesses.
The March 13 annual awards gala may have brought together the finest industry achievers in one place, but in this business excellent performance happens 24/7/365. Much of it is unseen and part of the daily grind.
In the interests of sharing the wealth, LCT has compiled a round-up of some operational practices and successes mentioned among the 21 finalists selected to compete for the top spots. This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in the March 14 edition of the LCT Show Daily. One of the purposes of the OOY Awards is to share the wealth of knowledge among operators:
• Provide all-inclusive customer kits in every vehicle to preemptively address any customer needs or emergencies. Kits include: Kleenex, Altoids/mints, gum, shout stain removal wipes, liquid stain remover, shoe shine sponge, nail file, sewing kit, shoe pads (blister prevention), clothing tape, complimentary logoed soft microfiber towel, aqua hydrate water, client specific newspaper and magazines, and phone and tablet charging cables (Apple and Android products).
• Continuously monitor social media and immediately address any negative reviews or questions.
• Call or visit a certain number of clients daily to seek their suggestions or see if you can help with anything.
• Establish standard operating procedures for all aspects of client communications and operations.
• Offer Starbucks electronic gift coupons for filling out client survey requests.
• Adopt a ‘never say no’ policy in the company and empower all colleagues to say yes to all requests (unless it’s a safety issue).
• If no bellhops or porters are available when dropping a client off at a hotel, chauffeurs should carry the client’s luggage into the reception area/check-in desk.
• Be client-centric instead of client-focused: Don’t just service the basic needs of clients; get to know them personally and customize your services to make it the safest and best experience possible.
• Respond to incoming emails and quotes within 15 minutes.
• Store repeat clients names and numbers in your company phone system so you can refer to them by name when they call.
• Text or email a photo of the chauffeur and his/her number 30 minutes before every trip.
• Require chauffeurs to take regular online training and certification modules.
• Perform daily vehicle maintenance checks by mechanics.
• Give chauffeurs bonuses for First Aid and CPR training.
• Establish detailed accident handling, documenting, and reporting procedures.
• Create a detailed chauffeur operations manual based on consultation with a motorcoach compliance company that strictly adheres to best practices that follow DOT compliance standards.
• Keep electronic driver/chauffeur logs.
• Maintain driver/chauffeur files that include all licensing records, medical cards, certifications, DMV records, copies of pull notices, road tests, drug and alcohol tests, criminal background checks, and training performance file.
• Require all chauffeurs to use headsets while driving and prohibit answering calls or texts while driving.
• Use webcams to randomly monitor chauffeurs to ensure they obey policies at all times.
• Do FBI fingerprint background checks, criminal background checks, DMV and DOT checks, and full drug and alcohol screening on all chauffeurs and drivers.
• Fit all vehicles with safety kits, including a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, flashlight, reflective triangle, high visibility vest, and portable compressor.
• Employ only chauffeurs with impeccable driving records who are all fully licensed and undergo thorough background checks before being hired.
• Require all chauffeurs to use GPS, attend ongoing driver safety and customer service trainings, submit to random tests for drugs and alcohol, and have their driving records regularly checked.
• Require chauffeurs to graduate from close security training and maintain “Guard Cards” (California); take and pass defensive driving courses; participate in extensive hours of one-on-one safe driving technique training with in-house trainer; encourage chauffeurs to procure further safety certifications; and attend monthly company safety education meetings.
• Use in-vehicle GPS systems to constantly update drivers and chauffeurs of road hazard information.
• Inclement weather: Teach chauffeurs how to drive in snow, sleet, and ice; equip all vehicles with small shovels and skid resistance materials as part of emergency kits if a vehicle gets stuck.
• Create a tour-oriented app that will enable travelers to find private chauffeured tours on or near demand. The user will be able to select their chauffeur by rating, reviews, language, or personal characteristics.
• Invest in technology that allows for clients to use an app giving real-time information about when their shuttle(s) are arriving. This helps in competing for large corporate shuttle contracts.
• Implement DriverSchedule.com that allows chauffeurs to go online to schedule when they will be available to work every two weeks via computer, iPad, or cell phone.
• Upload chauffeur iPads with campus maps of all the corporations/businesses your company serves to identify all buildings and entrances onsite. This prevents errors on pickups and drop offs when handling corporate clients.
• Use full suite of service-centric technology: Online booking, chauffeur/driver app, app booking and chauffeur tracking, state-of-the-art GPS, tablet integration, complimentary passenger WiFi, fully integrated booking system with emergency preparedness plans.
• Communicate with clients via Zipwhip.
• Leverage the most recent technologies to track all fleet vehicles and chauffeurs through every step of the service, quickly adjusting and reallocating resources as needed to prevent any disruptions to clients.
• Use a multi-step audit process to ensure service is carried out flawlessly; use trip notes to confirm key information to your staff about the personalization of each trip.
• WhatsApp: Set up a group on the app for local affiliates. This proves invaluable for any last minute and ASAP requirements. Instead of dispatch having to phone each affiliate individually, one WhatsApp message reaches all affiliates at the same time and leads to a faster response.
• Get regular feedback from chauffeurs who may encounter circumstances or issues management is not aware of.
• Set up a 30-day training program that includes ride-alongs, supervised trips, and classroom education.
• Extensive onboarding program that includes role-playing and mock phone calls on training for accidents, handling media, and emergencies in addition to all aspects of operations.
• Take all customer service representatives into the field to familiarize them with locations, distances, and attractions clients may ask them about. Teach them the nuances of all fleet vehicles, such as dimensions of trunks and luggage compartments.
• Teach chauffeurs how to properly use various fire extinguishers.
• Encourage colleagues at team meetings to share stories of how they have connected with a client by going that extra mile.
• Survey every client to get feedback on their experiences, and then review the results in regular sessions with employee teams; if a client does not rate a ride as good, the owner should follow up with a phone call to see what went wrong.
• Use a voice logger system to monitor client calls for training purposes with reservations agents and dispatchers. Rate calls on a scoring system based on if proper questions were asked, the employee answered questions correctly, length of call, any dead time, holds, etc.
• Use role playing, mentoring, and side-by-side coaching for client experience training for greeters, transportation coordinators, and chauffeurs.
• Participate in local parades and festivals, wedding shows, and Quinceanera shows.
• Pick one social media platform and dominate it. For example, use Facebook for videos, ads, and networking with limo groups.
• Position you and your company as a quotable source in the local media on ground transportation matters; make sure reporters have your cell phone number.
• Boost your presence by leading or participating in local industry trade groups; local chapters of hospitality, meetings and events; and/or business travel organizations; and/or local tourism and business groups.
• Use your website to critically compare and contrast your luxury service with TNCs, black car services, and taxis.
• Sponsor local theater and fine arts groups, venues, performances, or festivals to increase exposure.
• Empower well-trained chauffeurs to act as company ambassadors who are rewarded if they give out a business card to a potential client who ends up booking service.
• Hire a full or part-time social media specialist to monitor and interact on all social media platforms and manage company reputation.
• Hire or contract a SEO consultant, public relations firm, and/or professional copywriter/media rep to promote your brand and company.
• Sponsor local charitable events in return for speaking to the group about your service.
• Use TripAdvisor to boost Google’s search engine rankings to establish the credibility of being a consistently well reviewed business.
• Write a blog piece on the company blog about every major local event coming up that will involve luxury ground transportation.
• Use Twitter to reach out to event organizers and attendees who are using the event’s hashtag to engage with them and offer your services. Direct message potential client to connect.
• Use a marketing automation platform to manage your email databases selectively to advertise and build your brand. Robust marketing automation makes sure emails get to the right people at the right time thereby targeting customers based on behavior, preferences, and previous sales.
• Use Geo targeting for Internet marketing to determine the geolocation of a website visitor and then deliver different content to that visitor based on their location, such as country, region/state, city, metro code/zip code, organization, IP address, ISP, or other criteria.
Related Topics: building your clientele, business growth, chauffeur training, customer service, honors and awards, How To, human resources, ILCT 2018, new ideas, operation growth, operator achievements, Operator of the Year Awards, Safety & Insurance, Sales & Marketing, staff training, tips for success
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