Many companies across a spectrum of industries strive for and often rave about their extraordinary customer service and driver safety, but far too often, that type of training is woefully neglected, rushed through, or becomes an oft-canceled budget line item.
PAX Training Founder Bruce Heinrich and President James Blain are on a mission to elevate the standard of customer service and safety across the industry, starting with chauffeurs. Heinrich draws on his time working for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel—known for its world-renowned customer service—but also as a former chauffeur and the current owner of LEADER Worldwide in Kansas City, where he puts the PAX principles of customer service and safety to the test. Combined with Blain’s longtime background in technology and running a family business, the duo is helping operators grow and scale their businesses through better training throughout the country and around the world.
Bruce Heinrich: After [industry consultant] Tom Mazza died, there was a void in the industry. People knew that I had a passion for customer service and encouraged me to step up. I created content on our online platform that applied to any company around the world because the fundamentals of great service and safety are universal. When I partnered with James, we were able to expand to multiple courses and make the platform customizable based upon your location and standards of operation, so we were able to make a complete package for any operator of any size, whether they’re a startup or among the largest in the industry.
James Blain: Using the PAX online training platform and library of courses we help operators of all sizes establish and build out their training. We start at the company’s interview process using the PAX Pre-Hire Assessment to ensure potential hires understand the role and to give operators insight into who they are hiring. During new hire training, operators are able to use the PAX library of courses to build a solid foundation of customer service, safety, and industry standards. The platform keeps track of how long it takes to complete a course and tests at the end of each one affirms comprehension. Operators can also put in their own company-specific training to use right alongside our existing library of ready-to-use courses. To ensure training sticks, we have ongoing service and safety training refreshers each week. For larger operators, we also offer Pro Services to help with on-site training, training program development, and video production.
CD: Why is training so important?
BH: All operators claim to give exceptional, 5-star service, but then train their chauffeurs for a few hours or days, hand them the keys, and say, “Go represent my company.” There’s a reason why companies fail, and it starts on the front line. The chauffeur is the most vital part of our industry. You can talk all day about how great your company is, but every chauffeur has to deliver consistently every time because they are the ones who ultimately determine whether those customers book again and again. PAX is a simple, effective, and efficient way to get your team on the same page so that a client gets the same experience every time regardless of who in your company is driving. That’s what makes customers comfortable, puts them at ease, and keeps them coming back. In short: It’s an investment in your people. When you combine it with new vehicles and chauffeurs who look and feel good doing their job, you can’t be stopped.
JB: What your employees learn and experience during training will set the tone for their entire time with your company. When you train them using old DVDs, or worse yet, VHS tapes with cars that aren’t even on the road anymore, they are only equipped to meet that outdated standard of both safety and service. By providing training online with PAX, our members ensure their team is always up to date with what they need to be successful TODAY.
It’s also important to remember we live in a global world of affiliates. Companies that use PAX know that whether it’s a PAX member in N.Y., California, or Florida, the chauffeur taking care of their hard-earned client is going to have the training to provide the same level and expectations as their own chauffeur.
CD: How is training key to hiring and retaining quality chauffeurs?
JB: When you don’t set someone up for success in a new role with the right training, they’re starting from a place of stress. You put them in a position where they must figure out on their own what is right or wrong, and it’s always ten times harder to unlearn those bad habits. Part of attracting new employees is being able to offer them the tools they need to be 100 percent equipped to meet their new challenges head-on while being part of a supportive team where everyone has the same training and goals.
BH: We’re not here to change anyone’s style or make them robots. It’s taking what you have and applying the principles of great service and safety. It’s simple to do, but your team must practice it. Of course, it starts by hiring those who have a heart for service and a willingness to learn, then you have to give them a solid foundation. No one wants a job where they don’t have any idea if they are performing well, so training is the playbook for measuring that standard industrywide. That’s what creates a brand; if all your chauffeurs are doing their own thing, you’re not going to be able to scale and grow your business.
CD: What is the connection between training and company leadership?
JB: The companies that have worked with us for years are usually long-term, successful operations with incredible reputations. We serve those that want to be leaders in the industry, but you can only be a great leader if you have a great team. Employees know when they are working for a company that values and is investing in them versus when they are working for a company that sees them as replaceable. Making sure your training prepares chauffeurs for the road ahead, both figuratively and literally, can make the difference between a team that goes the extra mile and a one just punching the clock. You can’t look at training as a checkbox—you must be proactive, not rushing through the process just so you can get someone in a car as fast as you can. More importantly, you have to invest in your team and both their personal and professional successes.
BH: I once met a company owner who said, “I have 72 chauffeurs and they’re all idiots. What can you do for me?” He didn’t much like my answer, but I told him that everything starts at the top. The number one thing I’ve been focused on for the past three years is company culture, and that starts with me, the owner. People are going to model what you do, how you speak, how you carry yourself, and what your expectations are. What you allow, you condone. Low turnover and the people you attract and keep are not accidents. I started as a chauffeur, and I want chauffeurs to find meaning in their work. They’re the ones moving these CEOs, athletes, celebrities, business leaders, and VIPs, and your drivers should be the reason they return again and again. The relationships you have with your team should be as important as the ones you have with your clients.
CD: How does your training apply to other areas of the business?
BH: One thing I learned from my Ritz-Carlton training is that there are internal and external customers. Internal customers are your employees, and how we talk to each other really matters. It’s a culture where everyone feels respected and part of the team. I’ve seen good companies, bad companies, and everything in between, and what the bad companies generally have in common is an antagonistic relationship between management and chauffeurs. It doesn’t have to be that way. When you’re able to change that, that’s when you can make a real difference within the company.
JB: Training is like rowing a boat: If you’ve neglected it, then all sides are rowing in different directions and the boat is going in circles. The companies that are thriving and growing year after year are proactive in developing their people and making sure that they are all rowing in the same direction.
CD: How do you tackle refresher training?
JB: We all know that something you learn begins to fade with time. For chauffeurs, this can be especially dangerous since they spend most of their time on the road, so you won’t find out about bad habits they have developed until you have a service failure. So, to prevent this we’ve built refresher training right into the PAX online training platform, which we balance between safety and service. This helps in two ways: We’re developing an ongoing record of training that can protect the company in case there’s an accident, but we’re also keeping those skills sharp.
CD: What about Entry-Level Driver Training?
JB: On February 7, the ELDT regulations went into effect, and there are a lot of misconceptions about it industrywide. Since it requires anyone obtaining a Class B or a Passenger Endorsement for the first time to complete both theory and Behind-The-Wheel training from an FMCSA-approved training provider, many think that expensive CDL schools are the only way to get a Class B or Passenger Endorsement now.
However, that isn’t the case. PAX is helping companies become FMCSA-approved training providers and meet the curriculum requirements so they can do ELDT training in-house.
CD: Final thoughts?
JB: One thing that surprises me is how easy it can be for experienced drivers or even owners to take for granted some of the basic things that chauffeurs do—chauffeurs don’t get people from point A to B, they create lasting experiences for their passengers. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” We make sure that it’s a prominent part of our training.
BH: Pax in Latin means “peace.” We all know that this can be a chaotic business. The entire premise of PAX is to provide peace of mind first for the chauffeur, so they know what is expected of them and how to perform their job well; second for the passenger, so that they feel safe and have a great experience; and third for the owner, so they have complete confidence in their team to deliver an exceptional service experience each and every trip.
Ultimately, I want everyone to understand that your chauffeurs are the key to your success. Everything begins and ends with your chauffeurs. A nice client may spend $100,000 a year with your company. One chauffeur can generate $150,000 to $250,000 a year driving hundreds of clients! That should tell you that you need to take care of and invest in that chauffeur as if they were an external client. You need everyone in the company to perform and to take care of each other. It’s vitally important to the success of your business, and doing it well is what makes it so fun. We have to remember that it’s gratifying for chauffeurs to know that they are an integral part of that as well. [CD0522]