Saturday, 24 February 2018

How To Choose A Wedding car - Southampton Chauffeur Hire

Executive Private Hire Wedding cars

Opearating Southampton Chauffeur Hire for 6 years has enabled me to offer advise and recommendations in all areas of wedding car transport.

One of the benefits of offering an executive private hire chauffeur service is that executive private hire companies are employed for a variety of reasons which require them to adapt to the purpose of hire. From the 'bread & butter' airport run to providing V.I.P. and wedding transport.


Firstly, your wedding is one of the most important occasions in your life and everything must be perfect for the happy day. The wedding has been subject to planning and decision making over a period of many months or even longer. Wedding transport is merely one element or jigsaw piece that combine to make a successful and wonderful day.

So what makes a good wedding car service?

It is so so much more than driving from A to B.

What Should a Good Wedding Car Service Provide?

Immaculate car both inside and out. Dressing (bows and ribbons) as arranged.
A well presented chauffeur dressed in suit and tie with polished shoes.
Punctual, arriving prior to the leaving time and notifying the wedding party upon arrival.
The chauffeur must be courteous, polite, friendly and professional making the bride and accompanying passenger feel relaxed and reassured.
The transfer should be stress free, comfortable and with adequate time to allow for possible delay.
To deliver the bride to her wedding venue and at the correct entrance location.

After the wedding ceremony the chauffeur should meet and congratulate the newly-weds for their onward transfer to the wedding reception.
This is your first opportunity to spend time together before meeting guests at the reception venue.
Again, the transfer should be relaxed and stress free completing the wedding car hire upon arrival at the reception.

The memory of a good wedding service car should be included as a part of a happy and special day. 

Selecting a Wedding Car Service

Lets start with a few bullet points and elaborate from there.

Budget 
Wedding car choice
Selecting suitable wedding car companies
Telephone and email
Making a decision and planning.
Finalising and confirming.

Budget

A high priority for most as weddings can be very expensive and cost can escalate.

How many cars?
Bridal car, bridesmaids' car and transport for friends and family guests.
A bridal car will be costed the same as a bridesmaids' car and more than wedding guests' cars unless different rated vehicles are chosen. It will become clearer later.
The advantage of having a budget is that you can make choices during the process as a result of information and advise obtained.

The Cheapest.
The most common wedding car hire is a single journey, dressed, bridal car from the collection address to the wedding venue.

Standard Wedding Car Hire.
Collection and transfer to the wedding venue, wait and then transfer of the newlyweds to their reception venue.

Reception Car.
Occasionally a wedding car is hired to collect after the reception (late evening to midnight) to their hotel.

Consider More Than One Company.
A company can supply the bridal car (Rolls or Bentley) while another will supply executive standard vehicles for family and friends.

Wedding Car Choice

A personal choice which can be affected by budget. From Rolls Royce and Bentley to executive standard vehicles to classic cars.
Research is key starting with the internet and personal recommendations.
Most websites will have photographs with a choice of vehicles. To assist try searching the internet for images to help with your choice.
The most expensive are Rolls Royce and Bentleys.
The next will be the classic car.
Executive standard wedding cars offer a good choice and range of prices.
Premium rate: Mercedes S Class, long wheelbase, is an ideal bridal car as it offers ample leg room for any bridal dress.
BMW Series 7 also has a long wheelbase model.
The mid range and cheaper: Mercedes E Class and BMW Series 5 are also good wedding cars and could be considered for bridesmaids and wedding guests.
A Mercedes V Class or Viano can seat up to 7 passengers and are ideally suited for bridesmaids and guests.
Audi and Jaguar also provide good quality vehicles.

Selecting Suitable Wedding Car Companies

Make a list of the companies that you have found that fit the brief. Now comes a very important part of your research.
What should you look for in a wedding car company?

1/ Website providing information and photos. A professional image containing recommendations and/or a recognised review sites such as Trust Pilot and TripAdvisor. The website should be the company's 'shop window' and portray professionalism and experience.
2/ Email and phone enquiry. An email can obtain advise, options and prices. A phone call is a 'must' as you are looking for a friendly, helpful and professional service.
3/ Offer a service that fits with your requirements supplying options and recommendations.  

Don't sacrifice service for cost. It's worth spending a bit more rather than making do.

Telephone & Email

After selecting possible companies you will need to move to the next process.
A phone call to the company can help you judge from their professional attitude and friendly nature. This is where you will obtain a quote.
You want to make sure that you driver is more than someone who takes you from A - B.
Your driver is as important as your wedding car.
A follow-up email is recommended as this is a good way to record and retain quotes for future reference. Keeping notes and trying to remember individual companies may be otherwise challenging.

Making a Decision & Planning

After careful consideration you may be left with two or three companies. Budget may be your highest consideration and may lead to compromise in other areas. I would recommend making an allowance and spending that bit more to get the service you would really like. Making do for a cheaper option may be something you could regret in years to come.

Finalising & Confirming

You have made your choice and you should be happy that you are coming to the end of the process.
Your chosen wedding car company should lead you through this final process and offer advise and recommendations. All details should be finalised or identified for future clarification.
Normally, either a deposit or full payment will be required. It all depends upon when a  booking is made compared to the wedding date.
Having paid either deposit or in full your wedding transport is confirmed.

Consider an executive wedding car for your honeymoon airport transfer.

An executive wedding car will make an ideal honeymoon car. Why not add to your honeymoon experience with a lovely car and driver taking you to and from the airport. 

Advise & Recommendations

As a wedding car transport provider you are more than welcome to contact Southampton Chauffeur Hire for assistance.

How to be a Private Hire Driver - Upgrading to A Mercedes S Class


Upgrading to Mercedes S Class

As a Private Hire operator you will have aspirations and goals which will affect your business decisions.

Business decisions and options will be made after careful consideration and research. The wrong path may lead to a different outcome with the resulting learning experience and financial repercussions.

Arguably the Mercedes S Class is the best and most luxurious Private Hire chauffeur car. Rivals include BMW Series 7, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ.

My personal choice at Southampton Chauffeur Hire is the Mercedes S Class and is the most popular choice for the discerning customer. All the requirements that suit a client who demands and expects the best.
A vehicle built to a high specification and build quality.

Long wheel Base

Legroom and cabin space is a priority for top paying clients.
Move the front passenger seat forward to allow more room and cabin area. Be aware that the rear alloy wheels, especially the nearside, will be susceptible to damage as a driver has to adapt to accommodate a long wheel base car.
Don’t consider a vehicle which is not long wheel base.

Bells & Whistles

Luxury comfort fittings make all the difference between the high and standard cars.

Leather seats are the standard but adjustable electric and heated seats of the S Class are for enhanced passenger comfort. For first time passengers always point out seat adjustment to make their journey the most comfortable.

A panoramic roof and rear blind can be optimised on a lovely sunny day.

Air suspension will provide a smooth and enhanced ride.

Consequently a Mercedes S Class commands a high price and, as a result, a higher rate charged to the customer.

Lower Volume but More Profit Per Transfer

Customers wanting and prepared to pay the higher S Class rate are fewer than that of the standard rate and higher volume E Class and equivalent car.

Generally a new operator will start with a cheaper and standard car progressing to a higher capital outlay if income allows.

An S Class will therefore be an option for an established  operator who has built up a good reliable customer base over time and has the income to specialise in a market that has less volume but more profit per transfer.

If you are thinking of starting as an operator an S Class, or equivalent, is not advisable.

Level of Service

It is not just a bigger and better car but the level of service must be at a higher level. 

All the basic requirements of a standard car apply. Therefore car cleanliness, well-presented suited driver and job preparation go without saying.

Many companies will select their best drivers for S Class work. Driving ability, communication skills and service delivery go hand in hand with the highest and most expensive tier of Private Hire work.

Marketing

Your website, advertising etc. will have to be adjusted to attract the S Class customer. All other aspects of the service expected will also have to be reflected in your marketing ‘shop window’.

Buying

How old and how much? A question that can be subject to so many variables.

How long will you keep it?

How can you finance payment and eventual replacement?

These considerations will dictate what you can afford.

All cars depreciate and the first three years are the worst levelling out to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately you will never have the best and newest model but you will have an acceptable and affordable chauffeur car. Expenditure of £25,000-£30,000 will be required with a replacement after 2-3 years depending upon mileage.

Upgrading the car, ultimately, will not be affected by condition or mileage but with keeping up with the competition that will have a newer model.
After 2-3 years your older model will start to look dated and fall out of favour with CEOs and top executive who want, and will pay for, the best.

The Transition to S Class Rates

Will your E Class customers automatically pay your S Class rates? The easy answer is no.
A proportion of your customers will require an E Class service and not wish to upgrade and pay more. The best way to address this obvious problem is to discuss and negotiate. Be flexible and be prepared to lose your customer if they are not prepared to pay more.
I have found that compromise normally works with customers paying half-way towards the higher rate.
You can always quote S Class rates to new customers. An alternative for new customers is to offer two rates that include both S Class and E Class. Be prepared to take the lower rate to ‘win’ the job.

Learn for your experiences

Making mistakes is ok as long as you learn from them. It’s all part of the process of building your company. Everyone makes mistakes and can be a positive experience that progresses you along the right path. Consider alternatives, be flexible and compromise.
I started with an E Class and upgraded to an S Class. A successful but more business demanding choice. Adding a Viano to my previous E Class did not work but was a valuable lesson which enabled me to learn and adapt.

Southampton Chauffeur Hire website is an example of reflecting a Mercedes S Class service.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

How To Be A Private Hire Driver. Southampton Chauffeur Hire - Four Years On

Introduction

Eureka! Mission accomplished!

I would say that after four years of trading I have achieved a sustainable repeat customer base being independent and self reliant.
Local recognition, within the chauffeur driven car hire section, as a provider here to stay.
Regular income has been used to maintain and invest in keeping the standard expected for chauffeur driven car hire.
Built and developed a strong business presence through website, social media and search engine optimisation. A website strategy to protect and maintain 1st Page search engine results.
Get your company name 'out there' and keep it there.
To have achieved a source of reliable and trustworthy colleagues for subcontracting purposes.
Most importantly, the knowledge and experience obtained has enabled me to move forward knowing the path I need to keep and the detours to avoid.

Knowledge and Experience
One of the most difficult aspects which, unfortunately, can only come in time.
There are no books and you will be lucky to find a generous sole trader or company who can mentor you.
I was very lucky as a colleague, from a previous job, who had set himself up as a sole trader, offered advise and work.
In the beginning work started to trickle in via the website together with customer recommendations to other providers.
Learn, build upon your experiences, be sensible with your finances and develop.

Vehicle choice and equipment.
Chauffeur driven car hire with executive standard cars is the equivalent to the highest standard of private hire. Prestige and status is associated with the vehicles you operate. Your discerning clients will be charged a higher rate and they expect the equivalent service. A Ford or Vauxhall, whatever the model, won't do. Mercedes, BMW and Audi are the expected pedigree.
The little things make a difference. Water is water but remember prestige and status so brand is important. Supply Evian not Tesco Value.
Records reflect your professional competency. Accurate and up to date spreadsheets and invoices are essential and minimises mistakes. Cross reference invoices and spreadsheets. Employ a good accountant and take advise. Submit your invoices for payment the same or next day and pay your colleagues their subcontracted fee quickly. If you pay your colleagues quickly they are more likely to work for you and you will have the reputation of being a good and trustworthy trader.

To subcontract or not to subcontract that is the question.
There is nothing wrong in either but both have positives and negatives. Some sole traders obtain all their work through subcontracting. Some are self sufficient and take work when it suits.
Subcontracted work means that you will get a reduced fee as commission is subtracted from the customer's fee. This can be 10-20%. Taking subcontracted work can mean you have a higher work load but with less profit for each job. You will be representing the company employing you and will not obtain customers for yourself other than repeat customers for your employer. You can not develop your own business identity if the majority of your work is given to you by other companies.
The up side to subcontracted work is that there is no effort or expense in getting work. All the expense and effort in advertising, website design and maintenance etc is from the job owner. The job is all set up and given to you to complete. A straight forward invoice and you get paid.
Unfortunately, through lack of experience, others will try and take advantage of your naivety. Don't accept a job unless you are happy. Phone call job offers are the worst for getting trapped into accepting a job that you are not sure about.
Some pointers to phone call offers -
If the first thing you are asked is 'Are you free on (a certain date). If you answer 'yes' then it will be difficult to turn down and make an excuse.
If they are vague with the pick-up and drop-off addresses. Most cities sprawl over large areas so the transfer distance could be 20 miles more than expected.
If times are not mentioned. A 03.30hrs collection time or getting to Gatwick on a Friday afternoon. Do you want to get up that early unless the pay is good. Travelling on the M25 at the wrong time can add hours to your journey.
The biggest omission I have come across is what the job is paying! This is common, not just in phone calls, but texts and emails. The amount of times I have had to throw in a final question 'How much is it paying?'
How should you react?  Easier said than done but if you act politely and constructively you will be able to make an informed decision.
If you can not make a decision at the time of the call then don't make a decision. Take all the relevant details and call them back as soon as possible. The more experience you gain the quicker you can respond and less call-backs.
Ask for all the details to help you make a decision - Date, time, post codes, fee.
Be aware of the other considerations like expenses - parking, London Congestion Charge, traffic congestion on route, late night passengers affected by alcohol.
Don't be afraid to say 'No thank you'.
If you solely wish to take work from others then subcontracting is for you.

Subcontracted work to kick start you business.
If you wish to be self sufficient and independent then receiving subcontracted work is a great start. In the beginning you will be invisible to the public and other providers. Your website and social media pages will be in their infancy and it will take at least 6 months for your company identity to become established with your website reaching a healthy search engine page listing.
Take subcontracted work and learn the trade. A good sole trader is a valuable asset to other providers and recommendations will be passed resulting in more work.
Initially 80% of my work was given to me. The rest came from my own company name.
As time has gone by this has been reversed to 90% owning my own jobs.

The benefits of building your own corporate identity.  
Having total responsibility of every part of your business is so rewarding with no one to answer to. It is so refreshing to be your own boss. Learn, adapt and develop.
Owning your own jobs means that you have 100% of the fee. You can set your fees based upon the service you supply. Customers can give you repeat business and add to your customer base to assist with a reliable income. You will be free to issue business cards and promote your business name in which ever way necessary.
I have aimed my services at the high end chauffeur driven car hire market. Work load is less but profit is higher per job. However, I need to keep my vehicles current and up to date. Higher fees demand the best service.

What do customers expect.
Good communications from initial enquiry to invoice submission. Quick and efficient response to quote requests whether by phone or email. Be helpful and offer advice, if needed. Cover all aspects of the hire so there is no ambiguity and the customer knows exactly the service that will be supplied.
Punctuality is appreciated by the customer. Don't be early and cause panic when you pull up outside the collection address. Of course, don't be late and cause concern as to whether you will be arriving. If you are late, through unforeseen circumstances, contact the customer to update them.
Your vehicle and your image. An immaculate vehicle inside and out impresses and is expected. The same goes for your appearance.
The transfer will be critical as a smooth, relaxed journey delivering your customer on time will be noted and appreciated. Be mindful of your customer's wish for conversation. Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet.

I.T. and it's importance for your company identity and presence in the market place.
Company identity starts with a name. The name you create will be critical in attracting your targeted customers and being relevant and marketable. I would suggest that your choice of website domain name has your highest priority. I could complete a separate blog upon this one subject and would highly recommend that you research and learn about domain names and search engine optimisation.
Your chosen company name will then be replicated and registered thoughout the required authority and commercial sites.  
Having a successful business name attracting prospective customers and its resulting income can make your own company identity an attractive target for other providers.
Protect your company name and identity. One way is to buy similar domain names to stop others imitating you and drawing customers to another website. I bought 20 similar domain names. For example if you sell fruit and mainly supply apples and oranges and own www.fruit.co.uk then also buy www.apples.co.uk and www.oranges.co.uk. Consider the other .com etc.

I hope that I have assisted with aspects which I consider very important for a starting and developing successful private hire business. These are my experiences and governed by my own personal circumstances and background. I am not motivated to grow and develop a fleet of vehicles and employ drivers so my blogs are purely for the sole trader.
Good luck  

Southampton Chauffeur Hire and Southampton Cruise Tours supply a high quality service using Mercedes S & E Class and Viano vehicles. 


Saturday, 18 June 2016

How To Be A Private Hire Driver - Avoiding Road Rage

Introduction
Road rage is a product of several factors including higher volumes of traffic, road works and more people commuting by car due to an expensive and sometimes unreliable public transport system.
By identifying the signs of potential road rage and adjusting your driving plans you can drastically reduce your chances in becoming involved in a road rage incident.
As a professional driver, carrying a client, you must supply a comfortable, stress free, expeditious journey. Will your client be aware of what has led to an incident or will he/she just see the resulting behaviour.

The recipe for Road Rage
All drivers have experienced road rage to varying degrees from slight annoyance to frustration and anger.
From motorway and city driving to A roads and winding country lanes. They all have potential for road rage.
Frustrated and stressed drivers can make poor driving decisions in an attempt to make progress. Inexperienced drivers exceed their capability. Some drivers drive too slow and queues form behind them. Lane hogging and tail gating. Driving too close in poor driving conditions. Undertaking, cutting in front, moving into the space left as a safe following distance. The list could go on and on.
Muttering and mouthing expletives, horn sounding, accompanied by hand gestures are just some of some driver's reactions.
The vast majority of incidents are not reported and put down to experience as not something the police would, or are able, to investigate.
High profile cases such as the recent case of 79 year old Donald Lock, a cyclist, who was stabbed to death by Matthew Daly, a mentally ill driver. 1996 when Kenneth Noye murdered another driver after a road rage incident on the M25.
These serious incidents are rare and should be considered in context compared to the thousands and thousands of vehicle journeys in the UK.

Driving Plans
Time - Allow plenty of time for your journey and make recommendations for a collection time.
Route - Use Google Maps to plan your route and look at the alternatives. Try and anticipate the variables that will affect journey time.
Research - Date and time of travel. There may be an event that will affect progress or access.

Your Driving Skills
Observation, hazard perception and anticipation are the key words to a good driving standard. Your driving skill is such a large part of the service you provide and avoiding road rage incidents is critical.
I can not identify all potential scenarios as there are too many. A good driver is aware of their surroundings. Driving plans that others make may also affect you. A good example is on the motorway approaching a junction 'on slip' which is used as an acceleration lane/s for traffic joining. Yes, you are entitled to use lane 1 (adjacent to the hard shoulder). However, by not using lane 2 or 3 you may come into conflict with joining traffic.

Your Reaction to Bad Driving
Don't react negatively and draw attention to yourself.
It is always better that the bad driver is ahead rather than behind.

Perception is all
Perception is based upon an individual's experience, attitudes and standards. A perception may not be accurate and correct resulting in conflict with another driver.   
Negative reaction may be taken personally and the other driver may direct their attention at you. This may develop into a Road Rage incident and result in an upsetting and stressful event. You don't know what the other driver is capable and he may be the Kenneth Noye or Matthew Daly type!
Right or wrong - You may be in the right but will the 'bad driver' have that opinion? Or would he/she care?
My aim is always to have a stress free journey and to avoid any potential road rage incident.

Reporting to the Police and What They Require
The Police will consider various crucial aspects of your complaint. Some of which I have included.
All police forces have policies and procedures which are affected by several factors and most importantly budgets.
All investigated complaints are investigated according to the severity of the case and with more than a 50% chance of a successful prosecution. For example, a minor damage hit & run car park accident will not result in paint samples being analysed. For a criminal prosecution it is 'beyond all reasonable doubt'. This compares to a civil case where it is 'a balance of probabilities.'
Generally, the Police will not investigate if there are no other witnesses, or available reasonable lines of enquiry, because it will be your account against the other driver's.
Evidence, evidence, evidence. Without evidence the Police are powerless to investigate or come to any acceptable resolution.
Witnesses - Can corroborate your evidence. A passenger in your car will be taken into account but would not be considered unbiased or independent. An independent witness is the best witness as they have nothing to gain by offering their account of the incident.
If you can't get names and addresses then record registration numbers for police to contact the DVLA keepers.
CCTV - With council budgets being cut and some systems being shut down CCTV evidence may be less available. The Police can obtain available evidence from councils and motorway camera systems.
Dash Cams - Valuable evidence which can corroborate your account. Also good for any insurance claim. Recordings may identify the vehicle subject to the complaint and supply witness car registrations.

Avoid Road Rage for a Stress Free Journey
I believe in Karma (cause and effect) and 'what goes around comes around'. A bad driver who continually draws attention to themselves will eventually get there 'comeuppance' whether by a legal document from the Police or attract the attention of a driver who will react inappropriately.
Deliver your client to their destination having had a relaxed and comfortable journey. You will be relaxed and happy too.

Southampton Chauffeur Hire provides Mercedes S & E Class and Mercedes Viano executive vehicles for chauffeur driven car hire.
Southampton Cruise Tours is operated with Southampton Chauffeur Hire and provides executive standard tours and transfers.


Monday, 7 April 2014

How To Be A Private Hire Driver - Southampton Chauffeur Hire After Two Years

So what have I learnt after two years of trading?
Am I 'on track' to achieving my goals?
More importantly - Mistakes I have made and changes adopted.

Regrets - None at all!
Frustration - A few!
Happy - Yes, very!

My previous blogs amounted to covering the whole subject of Chauffeur Driven Car Hire
so it seems a good idea to revisit the important aspects.

Equipment -From Car To Sat Nav

As I gained experience with a variety of customers and hire scenarios I began to add to my equipment to cater for planned and unexpected situations.

Mercedes S or E Class revisited. After 18 months I seriously considered upgrading the Mercedes E Class from the old shape (58 plate) to remain competitive with the top-end chauffeur service providers and attract the more discerning client.

I was happy to commit to a serious amount of money as I felt that I had reached a sustainable income level. My goal has always been an S Class due to it's status being recognized as at the top of the chauffeur car tree. A long wheel base cancels out any issues with leg room and is ideal for wedding parties and executives alike.
So, why didn't I buy an S Class and merely upgraded the E Class? Cost was the biggest consideration as I just couldn't stretch to an outlay of £35,000 for a three year old, low mileage, lwb model. Secondly, I was worried that I had not developed a customer base who would pay a higher rate to finance an S Class.
I invested in a three year old E350 (V6 3ltr) with 8,000 on the clock. Very happy with every aspect of the new Mercedes except the continuing rear leg room problem.
Maybe the next change of car will be an S Class if a 5 year trading customer base would allow.

Sat Nav has been impressive and invaluable. Tom Tom Go Live was a good choice with Live Services estimating the best route and providing alternative routes according to any traffic information.

Mobile phone and iPad hot spot. Using the iphone hotspot I can connect to the iPad and dispense with a £7.50 a month tablet simcard.

Sick bags were purchased on the internet as there were two occasions which prompted the idea. The first was unfortunate due to illness. The second was a paralytic groom who ruined his wedding night.

A cool bag was a welcome addition to carry bottled water with some snack cereal bars.

I'm considering a dash camera as, with the miles I'm travelling, I am witnessing some questionable driving and want to have some corroborative camera evidence if I am involved in an incident.

Website Development

Any new website will take time to be recognized by search engines. Building a website is more than having professional looking pages. Search Engine Optimization is a critical part of any website. Gradually I have identified valuable and popular keywords and erased general weak ones. I have built on links, blogs and registered with relevant websites. Continuing to gather photos for each webpage from Stonehenge to Twickenham rugby stadium.
I would offer a piece of advice - Don't succumb to the tidal wave of emails that you receive offering to get you on page one of search results. You can do it yourself for nothing. If you are creative and patient, having a professional looking website that has good search engine prominence is easily within your grasp for a fraction of the cost. Plus you have total and immediate control and don't have to pay every time you want to add a photo or change anything.

Licencing And Fees

You can't escape the bureaucracy, annual form filling and rising fees. You just have to take it on the chin and pay-up. Not impressed when Southampton decided to raise the Operators' Licence from £100 to £360. No warning or explanatory letter. Not one visit or personal contact. I suppose I should be glad that I have been left alone. I wish that all councils charged the same and played by the same rules.

Planning And Preparation

It is always important to plan and prepare. There are always variables to consider with several tools to aide you. Google Maps with Street View is a must for new journeys. Don't shy away from phoning your destination address for advise (hotels to stadiums). Their knowledge will help with all sorts of queries from disabled access to local parking.
Keep your car in immaculate condition inside and out and routinely carry out maintenance checks. Importantly give yourself plenty of time prior to any 'job'.
If you are well prepared for your forthcoming job any stress will be reduced to unforeseen situations that are out of your control.
Be 100% accurate with your records. Keep emails until the job has been completed and paid for. My diary is my bible and travels everywhere with me. I was subcontracted to collect a customer from his home to take to Heathrow. After 15 minutes I rang him to discover that he was at the airport waiting to return home! A voicemail and email confirmed that the mistake was not mine.
Always allow plenty of time to arrive early and prepare for your customer. Open the windows, spray air freshener and set the Sat Nav. Pull up at the customer's address at the correct time - not before or after, unless previously arranged.
Golden Rule - Don't leave anything to the last minute!


Image & Service

Chauffeur driven car hire is a highly competitive market and everyone claiming to offer a top quality service.
Websites just give the prospective customer a choice from a search engine result page. Private Hire companies are not graded or awarded stars like hotels etc. However, you could join a recognized reputed trade organisation like Buy With Confidence or local Chamber of Commerce, LinkedIn etc. Put these badges/button on your website to raise your company profile.
Provide the best service you can for your customer whether a single experience or a repeat customer. Reputation and 'word of mouth' is so important for both customers and other chauffeur companies who may subcontract to you. Encourage customer feedback and reviews to promote and raise the company image.   
Be aware and adapt to each individual customer. Give your customer the service he/she requires. Your customer may start a conversation or you can try yourself. However, if you get single word answers, take the hint and let them talk or remain quiet. Provide a relaxed comfortable ride without sudden braking or excessive steering.
Vehicle and driver to be immaculate. Many customers won't remember the make of your car but they will take note of how clean and fresh smelling your car is and how smart you are.


Pricing A Job

Is a job priced on distance alone or time taken for the journey or both? 
I wish it was as simple as this but there are so many considerations to result in a competitive and accurate quote. Too high and it has been a pointless exercise and you probably won't hear from them again. Too low and your profit margin will be affected and the customer will expect the same price again.
This has been the most taxing aspect of being self employed and has only got easier with time and experience.
Variables include distance, journey time, collection address and destination, additional charges like parking and London Congestion Charge. Sporting and other events can result in traffic congestion and delays which have to be considered within the quote.
I would say that this is my biggest struggle and provides constant questions that are slowly being answered.
Payment caution. Taking a bank card payment, over the phone, that was approved would make you think that all was in order. I thought the same until two months later when I was informed that the card holder was disputing payment. After a further two months I was told that the payment was being withdrawn as the card holder's name and address did not match the customer! I had been given genuine card details by someone giving a false name and address. Next time I will see the card and some ID.

Rewards

Self employed. A breath of fresh air compared to being smothered in a public sector organisation as a tiny cog in a big wheel. Red tape, bureaucracy, Health and Safety, political correctness etc. etc.
Being totally responsible is refreshing, inspiring and empowering.
Customers. I enjoy meeting people and have found this part thoroughly enjoyable and I hope reciprocated by those I chauffeur.
Destinations. While airport runs are the bread and butter there have been numerous locations that have been a new experience and add variety and interest.

Onward And Upwards.