TOPIC: How far do you go to meet the special needs of a VIP client? In what parameters do you empower your staff (specifically, chauffeurs and CSRs) to meet those needs without managerial approval?We try to live our motto “Driven to Serve” every day, with every client. If it is not illegal, meets approval by the booker, and does not make the employee uncomfortable, then we will try to fulfill the customer’s request or needs. While most requests include routine items like make/model of vehicle, car seats, specific brand of beverages, special newspapers/magazines, WiFi in vehicle, male-only driver (some foreign travelers require this), or female-only driver, others are not as common, like special diet needs or accommodations for certain religious beliefs or practices.
The hardest part of dealing with some VIP clients is defining the acceptable line of how rude or abusive they can be to chauffeurs. If the passenger’s behavior jeopardizes the safe operation of the vehicle, then the chauffeur can end the trip immediately.
Randy Allen, Co-Owner/VP of Sales and Marketing
James Limousine Service in Richmond, Va.
As a former roadshow coordinator for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, I rarely said no to my executives; now, I train my team at Tristar to have that same customer service philosophy. We say yes to all requests—and then we find a way to make them happen. For example, we once had a client who couldn’t find any available hotels in Boston for her executives. We reached out to our friends in the hotel world, and found them six rooms in a top hotel—during the always-busy graduation season in Boston.
Another time, one of our chauffeurs was driving a client home in New York City near the holidays. During the course of the conversation, the client mentioned how she was upset that she never found the time to buy a Christmas tree. After dropping off the client, the chauffeur went out and bought her a tree, and delivered it to her home.
Above all, each and every day, our service is consistently professional, efficient, and personal.
Andrea Bennett, General Manager, Roadshows
Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services in Beverly, Mass.
We have always made it our policy to go above and beyond for our clients; every client is treated like a VIP on every trip. But we sometimes do get unusual requests from clients that are outside the usual parameters for a transportation company.
Every employee of Premier is empowered and encouraged to go the extra mile to meet these special requests. While they may need to seek out management approval if there is an extra cost involved or to make sure we have the resources to meet the needs of the client, it is our standard procedure to say “Yes!” to any special request.
For example, during a Super Bowl that took place in Dallas, we had a series of terrible ice storms. Our vehicles were all running as scheduled, but many other transportation providers were experiencing issues. One VIP client flew in from California with his personal four-man security team, and he wanted all of them to get haircuts before the big event. He called Premier, so we arranged for a barber to visit his hotel room and perform the service—thus, avoiding any weather-related issues.
Another VIP client was married to a woman who can best be described as a “cat lady.” She lived in a house separate from her husband with her 40 cats. When he retired, they both moved to a city out west, and hired Premier to transport their cat “family.” We contracted to build a shelving unit in a cooled box truck to safely deliver 40 cats in cages to their new home in a destination more than 17 hours west of Dallas.
Eric Devlin, President
Premier Transportation in Dallas, Texas
We have a wide variety of clientele but specialize in high-net-worth individuals and corporate accounts. Most of these accounts do not care about the cost of the service, they just want everything handled 100 percent. As a result, in our business, we do not have the luxury of getting it right most of the time; we have to get it right all of the time—especially with our larger accounts.
Our chauffeurs and office staff are empowered to do whatever it takes to make things happen for our clients within legal boundaries. They know they can always reach management 24/7 for authorization, if needed. We do all of the normal private aviation, hotel, and restaurant requests, but also have lined up police escorts, odd vehicles, and even bail money for a client. We preach that we cannot make money on every run but if we do everything right, the money will come.
Chris Hundley, President
Limousine Connection in Los Angeles, Calif.
If you say “No” in today’s marketplace, you risk the chance of losing a customer. We service many entertainers, and our policy is that whatever they want, they get.
Since we pride ourselves on offering concierge-level service, chauffeurs are given the power to make decisions and help clients in any way. Whether it’s stopping for M&Ms for a legendary comedienne or providing orange soda for a business professional, these kinds of things are simple and make the client happy.
The majority of the time, the cost for customer perks is absorbed; you’ll want to consider these things when taking the reservation and coming up with a quote. While gum and Fiji water are easily written off, cleaning a limo after allowing a VIP to smoke may take your vehicle out of commission for upward of two whole days. Consider this when you take the reservation and price the trip. While we make it a point to accommodate our VIP and celebrity clients, we have a no-tolerance policy for illegal behavior. The use of drugs is one thing that will terminate a run.
Wendy Kleefisch, Owner
Brevard Executive Transportation in Indialantic, Fla.
We focus on creating a “customer first” mentality in various ways. Constant communication with our chauffeurs and CSRs allows us to create a culture that develops a thought process consistent with our brand. We use case studies to break down every aspect of a call or service, and discuss the various options available. Open discussion, emails, or meetings allow us to zero in on best practices.
By sharing what other chauffeurs and CSRs have done, we empower our team to make their decisions by using these examples. We only hire people with the passion and ability to embrace our end goals, and together we help each other decide the best route in getting there.
Sal Milazzo, CEO
Signature Transportation Group in Arlington Hts., Ill.
When we do special charters, we do get a list from the clients on what they need, whether it’s Fiji water, special gum, nuts, etc.; however, we do charge the client the cost of the request. The only thing we do not provide is alcohol, which the client has to bring on their own, according to Washington State law.
One time, we booked an executive group from Germany who requested that they had hot fresh popcorn for the ride. The problem was that it was a four-hour drive to their destination. Luckily, I remembered seeing a 12-volt microwave at a truck stop an hour away. I quickly called the truck stop to make sure they still had it, and then sent a driver to go pick it up. Another driver was sent to buy microwave popcorn. All this was at an expense of $600, which the booker had no problem paying.
Jess Sandhu, Vice President
A&A Limousine Services in Seattle, Wash.
What does that even mean anymore? Everyone is a VIP. If you are not handling every client like they are your top priority, someone else will. Nobody can afford to suffer a service incident today, either with your own client or an affiliate. Now is the time to shine or you may find yourself on the outside looking in.
Jason Sharenow, COO
Broadway Elite Chauffeured Services Worldwide in East Hanover, N.J.
Windy City Limousines encourages our CSR staff to get details and take special requests from clients on a daily basis. Special purchases of coolers, beverages, sandwiches, snacks, breakfast sandwiches, fresh bakery goods, lunch boxes, and more are routinely made. Clients agree to have the expense added to the bill and Windy City makes all of the arrangements
. On a routine basis, chauffeurs purchase beverages and snacks for everyday occasions. We also go out of the way to provide flowers, balloons, and movies in our vehicles, plus juice boxes, chocolate milk, and cookies and other treats for kids.
Experienced chauffeurs always do what they feel the customer needs or expects. Usually management’s approval never enters the thought process. Management trusts and expects the chauffeurs to service customers to the best of their ability. Most times, decisions are made on the fly, and the management team will let staff know if their judgment slips.
Jamie Smith, Chauffeur Manager
Windy City Limousine in Broadview, Ill.
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