You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: Do you designate the same chauffeur to specific clients/accounts? Why or why not? If you do, how is that chauffeur chosen for the client? How do you address any schedule conflicts?
We absolutely match the chauffeur to the client/account—to be honest, it would be crazy not to.
You may have a certain chauffeur who specializes in driving buses, but that driver may not be ideal for a corporate CEO. Or he may be better suited for handling a large group of people than a 55-passenger motorcoach. On the other hand, you may have a sharp-dressed, sophisticated driver who knows how to deal with corporate management but can’t drive a commercial van or bus. You almost have to match similar personalities together. Sometimes we do have to tear the schedule apart for the last-minute VIP reservation who needs that special chauffeur who’s used to handling high-maintenance accounts.
David Brown, President
Premiere Transportation in Albany, N.Y.
If a certain account wants a designated chauffeur, we select from a pool of about three different options. The reason for doing this is so that the client does not become too comfortable with one chauffeur in case he needs a day off or is unavailable for any reason, and so that we does not lose an account due to a great client/chauffeur relationship. We will pick the top chauffeurs who know that client’s common areas of travel extremely well and who have varied availability. We allow the client to “rank” the chauffeurs in 1, 2, and 3 order and will try to accommodate accordingly.
Chelsea Candeub, Accounting
Park Avenue Limousine in Feasterville-Trevose, Pa.
North Point designates certain chauffeurs to perform specific types of work, such as roadshows, which require additional training. Chauffeurs go through a certification process in order to make them eligible to perform these trips. We do try to accommodate clients’ chauffeur requests whenever possible; however, we do not make any guarantees due to potential scheduling conflicts, and by doing so, we mitigate the risk of service failures. Companies should feel comfortable with every chauffeur they put on the road. If there are doubts in assigning chauffeurs to certain clients, they aren’t meeting your standards and should be evaluated.
Tanja Fischer, Vice President
North Point Global Chauffeured Transportation in Atlanta, Ga.
We do have some chauffeurs who we pair together for different clients. If a client is considered a VIP, then our top-rated chauffeurs handle the booking. Special-needs clients are usually given to chauffeurs who have life experience with that. We also have clients who request a certain chauffeur; in that case, our reservationist is instructed to tell them, “we will try our best to have that chauffeur available, and if not then we will have them partner with the chauffeur who is taking care of your trip to be sure you have the best possible experience.” Keeping our clients satisfied is our number-one priority, so sometimes we have to change up the schedule to accomplish this.
Patrick Helvey, Owner
Executive Town Car & Limousine Service in Roanoke, Va.
In my experience, I’ve found that it’s not a particularly good idea to match a single chauffeur with a client. While we certainly want to accommodate the needs of our customers, we don’t want to send a message that no other chauffeur is “good enough” for certain clients. We want our VIPs to see the fantastic team we have in place and be confident with them. As such, we will rotate our best chauffeurs among the top-tier clients, which works to the advantage of both the customer and the driving team.
On occasion, we get requests for drivers of a specific gender, which we always fulfill. Instances of this have included female passengers who prefer a woman driver or a large “bodyguard-type” for a late night trip. When safety is a consideration, we will make every effort to fulfill the request.
Wendy Kleefisch, President
Brevard Executive Limousine in Indialantic, Fla.
We have VIP clients who use our service exclusively because of our chauffeurs. However, we are very confident if the requested chauffeur is not available, the one we send them will be the best of the best in town.
To avoid scheduling conflicts, chauffeurs are expected to have open availability. At the same time, we work with our chauffeurs when they need time off. Our sales and dispatch teams work closely together to provide the chauffeurs with advance notice of large group moves and special events. Adding these to a shared calendar keeps everyone on point.
Deb Kosmicki, Hospitality & Tourism Manager
Gray Line Tennessee in Nashville, Tenn.
We always keep in mind that we are here to serve our clients and make their travel experience pleasant. Every single account is tailored to the client, and that includes providing a favorite chauffeur. But at the same time, we make sure some terms and agreements are in place. Our customers need to understand that their favorite chauffeur cannot always be available for different reasons (e.g., last-minute requests, personal issues, or days off the schedule). This is the main reason why we always have a minimum of 10 top chauffeurs per account, placed in priority order.
This practice ensures that the company is the one building a strong relation with a client—and not a single chauffeur. You are sending the message that you as a company will always deliver consistency, and that you have a team of professionals capable of delivering exceptional service every time.
When a ride is completed, we call the client to ask about their experience with our chauffeur. If the experience was positive and our customer says that he went above and beyond, then we put it in our account notes and most likely he will drive that client again in the future. This practice also help us with our chauffeur KPIs.
Ariadna Noches, Vice President Operations/Global Affiliate Relations
Mundi Limousine in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
It’s a client-centric service, so of course if a client requests a specific chauffeur we do our best to schedule the chauffeur for the trip. When it comes to conflicts in schedule, we politely inform our clients that their requested chauffeur is off on that day and ask them for a secondary preference. This allows us to maintain a service-oriented approach where we cater to our clients’ wants and needs.
Gabe Rozavski, Vice President of Sales
A&G Worldwide Chauffeur Services in Van Nuys, Calif.
While we try to accommodate the requests of all our clients, we avoid assigning the same chauffeur to a specific account. We want our clients to be comfortable with all of our chauffeurs, so we emphasize the importance of providing the same level of service to everyone. For certain clients, we will narrow their pool to a few select chauffeurs so they have a degree of consistency with who’s behind the wheel.
However, in the past, we did allow clients to choose a single chauffeur, but it ended up backfiring. We once had a chauffeur resign, and shortly after we noticed a steady client cancelling their existing bookings. Eventually we found out the customer poached the chauffeur and bought him a sedan.
Bob Schiavo, Manager
Albert’s Transportation in Mt. Laurel Township, N.J.
We always try to match the chauffeur with the client. If a client requests a specific member of our driving team, it is usually based on a positive past experience. Our goal is to keep the client happy, so if he wants a specific chauffeur, he can have his way if it is possible.
If the client is new or does not indicate a preference, we look at what kind of job it is and try to match the chauffeur to that job. If the chauffeur is happy because he feels hand-picked, he will do the job better, which will lead to a happier and more satisfied client. Ultimately, that might lead to repeat business.
Cederic Schonbaum, Owner
Limousineamsterdam.com in Amsterdam, Netherlands
On the sedan side, we work to give our clients a “familiar face” as often as possible, and of course, if they put in the request for a high-touch event that the chauffeur has expertise with. On the motorcoach side, clients’ requests become paramount. Some of our collegiate and professional teams demand certain motorcoach operators, especially if the team is doing well. Overall, we have had clients ask us who we think might be a good fit and allowed us to choose the correct chauffeur for them. In a few cases, others have actually come and interviewed our selection, and after the interview, primary and secondary chauffeurs are selected.
Ultimately, it’s all about customer service: how we can serve our clients with the best possible outcome so we form great partnerships.
Jeffrey Shanker, Chief Strategy Officer
Black Tie Transportation in Winston Salem, N.C.
Specific chauffeurs are assigned only if requested by a client, and then we note it in the client’s profile. We also try to have an additional two chauffeurs assigned—once they are approved by the client—just in case the primary is on vacation, sick, or on a multi-day event.
There are specific chauffeurs who are always requested for certain multi-day events and road shows, and if there is a conflict between those jobs and a VIP client, most clients are satisfied with a backup chauffeur with whom they are familiar.
Ron Stein, Founder & CEO
Exclusive Sedan Service Worldwide in Van Nuys, Calif.
I really like to designate the same chauffeur for specific clients. I’ve found that when chauffeurs are dedicated to a VIP, they’re able to find out the client’s likes and dislikes and become familiar with the regular routes—it’s those little things that set you apart from the competition. For example, I recently had a high-end client flying in, so I had to juggle the driving staff to make sure “his” chauffeur could do the run. When the client gets off the plane, he knows that his Starbucks coffee and snack will be waiting for him.
In some cases, I do keep an alternate chauffeur ready to take care of VIPs. We use a “totem pole” system, which has our lead drivers on top. We keep track of their score on the Samsara app, and those chauffeurs will get first dibs on a VIP run. For newer staff, I have them ride with the top-tier chauffeurs so they can mirror their behavior and gain a mentor to help them out.
Mark Thronson, Owner
Shark Limousines in San Antonio, Texas
We do not like to assign a chauffeur to a specific account because I am of the belief that every chauffeur should be trained equally the same to handle any account or client. We also don’t want a client to grow accustomed just one chauffeur or, conversely, a chauffeur getting used to just one client.
Nancy Vargas, Chief Executive Officer
DH2 Chauffeured Transportation in Whitestone, N.Y.
Unless requested by the client, we do not assign a specific chauffeur to an account or traveler. We feel our service levels are consistent among most chauffeurs. However, we do assign the same chauffeur on multi-day familiarization tours or road shows.
Barbara White, CFO & Co-Owner
VIP Transporation Group in Orlando, Fla.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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