Operations

Are Quality Chauffeurs Born Or Made?

Lexi Tucker
Posted on June 5, 2019
(R to L) Mark and Zach Forester of 7x7 Executive Transportation and sister company 7x7 Experience Inc.

(R to L) Mark and Zach Forester of 7x7 Executive Transportation and sister company 7x7 Experience Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Finding qualified chauffeurs gets tougher every day in this economy — especially if you operate in the birthplace of Uber. However, knowing what you want in one and being able to teach a person who’s willing to learn can make a huge difference.

Mark Forester and Zach Forester of 7x7 Executive Transportation and sister company 7x7 Experience Inc. have been doing this for eight years. The uncle-and-nephew team have found out despite what you may think, it is possible to turn a disillusioned rideshare driver into a customer service wonder.

The Making Of A Chauffuer

In the beginning, the pair was looking for a way to expand their employee ranks and improve their training methods. There’s a sea of difference between a typical ridehail driver and a true chauffeur, without question. But along with their business partner and former chauffeur Paul Vigil, they developed a training course that enabled those who were willing to become the later.

“We took time to onboard them properly, and implemented Paul’s expertise to help us develop a formula that eventually became quality improvement courses,” Zach says.

They discovered the process was wildly successful beyond what they first imagined.

The course focuses on three main tenants: Customer service, safety, and technology. In the customer service section, they teach potential chauffeurs practices such as how to properly apologize for mistakes and avoid the desire to try and cover them up. “If you acknowledge it without drawing too much attention to it, it helps build trust between them and the client.”

The safety portion touches on preventing distracted driving, which often ties into the section on technology. “We cover different aspects of how to use a smartphone, as well as apps to maximize efficiency and safety on road. This includes using a cell phone holder in vehicle, and always keeping two hands on the wheel.”

During the tech walkthrough, they use actual screenshots of the various apps to make it as easy as possible for them to follow. “We want to make it as comfortable as possible of a learning experience and empower our chauffeurs,” Zach says.

Driver Versus Chauffeur

When asked what differentiates a driver from a chauffeur, Mark says a chauffeur is totally focused on great customer service and filling the needs of the client at all times. A driver is just someone who operates a vehicle.

Attention to detail, including keeping the car clean inside and out, is vital, Zach adds. “When the passenger gets in the vehicle, we always say it should be ‘showroom fresh.’ This helps chauffeurs make sure the passenger is comfortable and gives them a sense of pride and ownership. There should be no noise, scents, or anything to distract the driver or client. Knowing where they are going and understanding the route, as well as maintaining familiarity with them and their preferences, goes a long way.”

Starting With A Firm Vision

Mark, Zach, and Paul started their company in 2011 in San Francisco…six months after Uber started in the same area. “We wanted to create a combination of the old world limo business and the new world of tech. Zach and I come from a background very driven in data, and we wanted to take that into this new world operators now face,” Mark says.

Paul and Mark knew each other for years, and Zach had just recently moved to the area. He was looking for a change, and when Mark introduced him to Paul, they knew they had the perfect trifecta of talents.

Paul had been driving as a chauffeur for decades, and had the initial idea of creating a specific new type of company completely focused on customer service. He wanted to train chauffeurs in all the steps he went through in preparing for trips, and had accumulated clients over the years. He drew a great following, but didn’t have a background in business. With Zach’s operations background and Mark’s background in management, they combined their powers to make Paul’s vision reality.

What They’ve Learned

It’s obvious the industry is in a period of great change. Operators must be ready at all times to respond to evolving conditions, being flexible and prepared to change your whole business model to adapt, Mark says. “Having that flexibility is the best, and perhaps only, way to prepare for the future.”

Zach says it’s been inspiring to see so many people who start as one car independent operators and grow. “Success comes out of having a vision, sticking to principles, and being able to adapt to change. If you can grow as a single operator, you know what your clients need; as long as you continue doing that as you grow, you’ll be successful.”

The pair is proud of their ability to grow in scale and meet the demand of a competitive industry. “We have always been focused on our own brand and what we stand for. Our guiding principles help us navigate the change without losing our core values,” Mark says.

What They Expect

In the future, they would like to share their training methods and technology with small-fleet operators in the industry, and are looking at ways to make the platform available within the industry. To get a better idea of what they offer, click here.

“Throughout the years, we’ve had small classes and other luxury transportation companies have sought us out to do classes for their chauffeurs,” Zach says. “There’s definitely a demand and interest. As an owner, you’ve got so much going on at all times. Having your staff and chauffeurs on the same page of who you are what you do is what makes you great. If we could provide what has made our company grow and be successful for other operators and take it off their hands, we think it’d only help the industry grow.”

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily demands of our business and stay focused on just getting through the tactics,” Mark says. “It’s hard to focus on keeping the prospective of how do we grow, change, and keep up? We need to balance a forward looking perspective with daily concerns.”

Related Topics: California operators, chauffeur behavior, chauffeur training, hiring chauffeurs, Lyft, managing chauffeurs, recruiting chauffeurs, San Francisco operators, staff management, staff training, TNCs, Uber

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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