In my opinion the following are essential good business practices that reflect and enhance a professional image by the service that you provide. These headings apply to all categories of chauffeur driven car hire including luxury private hire, airport transfer, executive travel and wedding car hire.
1. Vehicle presentation.
The vehicle must always be clean, inside and out. Carry some cleaning materials to keep windows clean. Use carpet or car air freshener. I find that if you keep the vehicle ‘up together’ it is easy and quick to get it back to an acceptable standard. For safety and peace of mind, regularly check and maintain your vehicle – tyres, water, oil etc.
2. Chauffeur presentation.
Chauffeur work requires a suit complimented with a collar and tie. Be aware of the unwanted creases in the jacket and trousers that are a result of sitting behind the wheel. Consider investing in a trouser press. Sorry to be obvious, but clean and polished shoes are something that customers notice. Be conscious of your personal hygiene. It may be, for men, that you will have to shave twice in the day to get rid of that ‘5 O’clock shadow’.
Always, without fail, plan to arrive early at the collection address. This will minimize your stress and allow time for any unforeseen delays. You may have to allow for more time due to the time of day and heavy volume of traffic on route. Initially park near to the address and not outside the customer’s location. He, or she, may feel pressurized if they see your vehicle fifteen minutes before the agreed pick-up time. Five minutes before the agreed time is about right and it’s reassuring to the customer. They can spend the last few minutes collecting their belongings and saying their goodbyes. If, for any reason, you are going to be late, contact the customer and explain the delay. Keeping them informed will minimize their frustration and may deflect any bad feeling. They will probably be sympathetic compared to annoyed if you turned up late claiming ‘well, it’s not my fault, there was an accident.’
4. Customer care.
Make you customer feel welcome and that you want them to be comfortable. A happy and positive demeanor will immediately start breaking down any apprehension the customer may have about meeting someone new and put them at ease. When your customer approaches the car greet them with a hand shake and an introduction. Be aware as to how they wanted to be addressed. Some are formal but some prefer to be called by their first name. Take any luggage to put in the boot. Enquiry as to whether they would prefer to sit in the front or back and, once seated, make sure that they are comfortable i.e. leg room and seat adjustment. Confirm their destination and consider to ask if they have a route preference. Update them as to any delays due to traffic incidents. Always carry water and place in a convenient place. Draw their attention to the water container, should they need it. Offer to adjust the car temperature should they be too hot or cold. Do they wish to have the radio switched on and, if so, do they have a station preference. Assess and be guided by your customer’s behaviour. Take their lead as to how they want to be transported. ‘People skills’ are so important when adapting to your individual customer’s needs. He or she may want to sit in the front and enter into conversation throughout the whole journey while others may sit in the back in silence. Provide the environment that the customer wants. If someone wants to talk then, I’m sure, you will soon find a common interest. Don’t be drawn into an argument but rather offer a different point of you. The last thing you want is to alienate your passenger companion and experience bad feeling. One handy tip, to assess if they want to talk, is to assess their responses during the topic of conversation. Short and abrupt responses and ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers may mean that they want to stop talking. It is a good idea to then let them start a new topic. Let them take the lead. Be prepared to listen and show interest in what they have to say.
5. Driving experience.
Take care to provide a good, safe and comfortable journey. Be progressive in your driving without exceeding the road conditions at the time. Your customer must feel safe, secure and that they are making good progress on their journey.
Drive within or at the speed limit and give plenty of room between your vehicle and the car in front. You don’t want to be following too close as that can result in being off and on the brakes and your customer being constantly jolted. When braking anticipate and lose speed progressively, leaving distance to lift off the brake pedal and settle the car prior to stopping or matching traffic speed. When cornering at bends or roundabouts lose speed and adjust steering gradually to provide stability and comfort. Look for progress, when it can be made. It could be by using a shorter line of traffic upon the approach to a traffic light controlled junction or using a faster lane on the motorway. Don’t sit in the first lane of the motorway doing 50-60 miles per hour with the ‘world and his wife’, including heavy goods vehicles, speeding by. Your customer wants to get to their destination as efficiently as possible. Conversely, don’t be tempted to use speeds that will attract criticism from your customer or a fine from the police! Keep within the generally traffic speed and limit. On the motorway I do not advocate exceeding 70 mph but I would suggest that you use your discretion. Show courtesy to other road users and don’t get involved in any ‘road rage’ incidents. You may be the victim but your customer does not wish to become involved in an exchange or two fingered hand gestures or aggressive horn sounding.
A customer that has had a positive and enjoyable experience that he, or she, may want to repeat. A driver that has been smartly dressed, courteous and friendly, attentive and discrete. A vehicle that has been presented immaculately, both inside and out. A journey that was relaxed, smooth, and safe with progressive and good driving skills. Put yourself in their shoes – would you want to be chauffeured by you. Get it right and you may have earned a repeat customer. Your good reputation will be relayed to other potential customers for a reliable business foundation.