Operations

Kids Are Clients, Too: How Properly Trained Chauffeurs Make A Difference

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 9, 2020

(L to R) Mike and Marlo Denning of Elegant Limousines

(L to R) Mike and Marlo Denning of Elegant Limousines

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Mike and Marlo Denning of Elegant Limousines love to stay involved in their community. When they heard a local elementary school was having a free Career Day, the husband-and-wife owners attended along with firefighters, dealerships, and tow truck operators. The school had each class stop at a vehicle, and representatives would talk a bit about what they do.

The children were amazed by the clean, long stretch limousine the Dennings brought…but the vehicle wasn’t the only item that caught the attention of the adults in attendance. Like most schools, this one regularly used a local limo service to treat kids who participated in fundraising events. The couple was approached by the principal as well as a representative from Go Take A Hike, a company that organizes school fundraisers.

“They came over to us and let us know they were having issues with the limo service they were using, and they didn’t know what to do,” Marlo Denning says. “Instead of interacting with the kids, this company’s chauffeurs ignored them and just drove from Point A to Point B, end of story.”

“We provided them with our information and some ideas on prices, got one job from it, and thought that was the end of it,” adds Mike Denning. “Then we got a call after a bad hailstorm. Another company they had been using parked all their vehicles outside and couldn’t take the run. The school was in a panic, but they remembered us and booked three limos that week…after that, they never called the other company again.”

This is the story of how the couple won this kind of business, and how they continue to set the bar for retail work, especially involving children. As Mike puts it, “To get accounts like this, you don’t have to be the least expensive in town; you just have to be the best.”

Be Fun And Informative

Believe it or not, a lot of the time the kids have more respect than some of the adult clients.

Believe it or not, a lot of the time the kids have more respect than some of the adult clients.

In some respects, the way to winning school runs is simple: Don’t treat their students any differently than you would your highest paying corporate client. “The teachers couldn’t believe we were wearing a suit and tie and rolling out the red carpet,” Marlo says.

They also make sure to park the limousine in such a way that will be ideal for photo ops, because (let’s face it) parents love to take hundreds of them. “Don’t rush them. This is not a job for the quiet, shy chauffeur; you must be a go-getter with a mind for organization,” Mike says.

Operators pursuing this kind of work should make sure their chauffeurs understand there is one way this may differ from a traditional run. Kids are often talkative and respond well to interaction with a friendly chauffeur. This is not a job for a stick-in-the-mud.

Back To School Tip No. 1

Schools ALWAYS book a stretch limousine for reward events. If you have a vehicle failure, NEVER send a bus. The whole appeal to a child is it’s iconic and makes them feel special. They ride a school bus everyday…it shouldn’t remind them of what they come to school on.

Mike has developed a routine involving humor that helps him get important safety information across. After the photo op, he gets the kids’ attention by directing them to stand on the red carpet and in a single file line. He tells them his name and asks how many of them know what a chauffeur is. He then explains what he does, and the importance of some safety procedures.

The best way to keep kids seated and calm is to put on a Disney movie.

The best way to keep kids seated and calm is to put on a Disney movie.

Mike or Marlo, depending on who’s driving that day, will state, “I know you are all excited, but I want you to keep in mind we are in a moving vehicle just like riding in mom and dad's car. I do not want anyone standing up or changing seats because I may have to hit the brakes hard, and I don't want you to fall and bump your head. If that happens, then we all have to stay after school and fill out paperwork. No one wants to stay after school!”

As the kids begin to enter the vehicle, they are instructed to go slowly and one at a time. “We state we guarantee there’s not a bad seat in the house,” Mike says. There’s also a plea to not mess with the congratulatory decorations so the next batch of children can enjoy them as well.

“To sum it up in a nutshell, be professional, fun, and courteous. Remember, you were a kid once, too!” Mike and Marlo Denning of Elegant Limousines

“The kids really appreciate when you come down to their level but still show them respect. Call them ladies and gentlemen, not boys and girls.” To make things easier for everybody, they make sure to find and buckle seatbelts before heading to pick up the next batch of children waiting at the school.

Keep Calm And Carry On

Marlo says relating it back to being in “mom and dad’s car” puts matters into perspective. When asked if they’ve ever had trouble with a child acting out, surprisingly, they say it’s never been an issue.

Always treat child clients exactly like you would normal ones. In the end, you may end up providing transportation for one of those students’ Sweet Sixteens, proms, or even weddings.

Always treat child clients exactly like you would normal ones. In the end, you may end up providing transportation for one of those students’ Sweet Sixteens, proms, or even weddings.

“The best way to keep kids seated and calm is to put on a Disney movie,” she says. They keep newer flicks on hand so it’s unlikely the kids have seen them before. “Often, the kids will shush each other if someone is being too loud for them to hear it. Believe it or not, a lot of the time the kids have more respect than some of the adult clients we’ve dealt with!”

The only request the Dennings have to make is to ask the kids to stop touching the mirrored ceiling. However, the children will often oblige if you throw some humor into it and don’t sound angry or irritated.

Stand Out And Be Rewarded

It doesn’t take much to service child clients. Marlo says little gifts you can get at the dollar store, like beaded necklaces, crayons, and coloring books, can make a world of difference. For smaller groups, consider really going above and beyond.

For instance, for a Bookathon reward, Marlo purchased “bookworm” cupcakes from Publix that had little fondant books with gummy worms coming out of them for a group of nine students. “The teachers loved it. Be fun and remember they are kids. Don’t talk to them like they are ignorant but make it easy enough for them to understand you.”

Back To School Tip No. 2

Be sure to ask permission to take photos for social media. When you do and you’re getting ready to post them on Facebook, always “check-in” at the school as it helps the parents figure out who the company was that took care of the trip.

Mike says parents and teachers appreciate that they keep the same high service levels. During one of the trips they did for a school to reward students, the school accidentally forgot to grab one of the kids out of their class in time and missed the opportunity. When the school called to ask what the Dennings could do, they offered to take the child and his family out for a few hours free of charge.

“Even though it wasn’t our fault, no kid should have to miss out on an opportunity they earned. That’s just not right,” Mike says.

This is vital to staying in the minds of school staff and parents alike. In the end, you may end up providing transportation for one of those students’ Sweet Sixteens, proms, or even weddings (it’s happened to the Dennings, so don’t count it out as a possibility).

Related Topics: child safety, customer service, Florida operators, school transportation, student transportation

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories