Sunday, 26 June 2016

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 Avoid 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

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.


Monday, 17 December 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Planning & Preparation.

Planning & Preparation

A major part of your service to the customer has been completed before you even meet.
Planning and preparation can make or brake the journey and may be the difference between success or failure.
If done properly your customer will be impressed with the smoothness of  their journey and how professionally you have delivered them to their destination.
Impress them and you may have a repeat customer and, certainly, recommendation by 'word of mouth'.

Some of the obvious considerations include route, time sensitive issues, any additional costs.

Part of your planning has been considered when you have supplied a price. For example, a journey into London may attract the congestion charge that will have to be added to your fee. Adding car parking fees is another obvious charge. Forget to add these extras and you will see your profit diminish and you can hardly alter your quote later.

Southampton Chauffeur Hire provide services that include variable considerations depending upon the type of journey and requirements.
Treat each journey individually and research each aspect.
There are some first time experiences where there will be only a few resources so you can only gain the knowledge by completing the journey. There are places that I will give examples, namely Wimbledon and Twickenham, the 02 Arena and Calais. I will explain later. Using the categories or pages on the website www.southamptonchauffeurhire.co.uk I have given some examples of the variables involved.

Airport Transfer & Airport Car Southampton 

1/ Time critical - Normally the customer will state the time of pick-up but sometimes they will ask for your advice. Time of day and traffic volume, will be the variables. Allow time for unseen circumstances like traffic incidents and bad weather. Always allow more time than needed as it is better for the customer to arrive early than to suffer the stress and worry after suffering a delay that puts the arrival time and flight in jeopardy.
2/ Luggage - Ensure that you vehicle's boot capacity is big enough. Confirm this with the customer at the quote stage. Cruise passengers can carry more luggage than air travellers as they don't have to worry about weight. Also they carry more luggage to cater for evening wear.
3/ Airport destination - Some airports are easily accessible while others, like London City Airport, demand a route through London or via the Dartford Tunnel. This will increase the journey time.
4/ Car parking and 'meet and greet' - Some airports (Bournemouth) charge for entering the airport grounds, even to just drop-off. Others charge to pick-up (Luton). Consider adding to your quote for parking as collecting your passenger will incur extra time as well as the parking fee. 

Executive Travel including Hampshire Executive Travel & Bournemouth Executive Travel

Business/corporate clients use executive standard travel for a variety of purposes that also include entertaining and social engagements. You may take a customer to a business meeting or to the airport but it could be to Twickenham to watch England v Australia. Therefore, depending upon the purpose, it may be time critical.
Conversation will include business matters in addition to general conversation. Be aware that business conversation will be confidential while general conversation may include you. Judge when you should contribute and when you should be inconspicuous.

Wedding Car Hire including Hampshire Wedding Car Hire & Bournemouth Wedding Car Hire

1/ Time critical - 'Get me to the church on time' goes the song. You may only be asked to take the bride and bride's father to the wedding venue but you may have several trips before the final journey. Taking other members of the party may be included like brides maids or family members. Normally several trips are OK if the wedding venue is nearby. Be aware of issues on the day. For example Southampton Registry Office is near the docks and adjacent to the main shopping complex. If the cruise terminal is busy or it is a busy shopping Saturday at Christmas or sale time, traffic volume will lengthen the journey time. If Saints are playing at home this will have the same effect.
Allow more time for these issues. Weddings are happy occasions where some guests have not seen each other for along time and have a lot to talk about. Getting guests there early will not cause any problem. Your main concern is delivering the bride and escort to the venue on time.

2/ Wedding car decorations - The weather can be a consideration for how you dress your car. I have florist prepared door and bonnet decorations and ribbons that will stain in the rain. I have purchased cheap waterproof bows and ribbons to use in bad weather. Please let your customer know that you may use the less attractive decoration if the weather is inclement as you don't want them to be surprised or disappointed.

3/ Wedding car parking at venue - Some venues have restricted parking that may mean you park nearby to the entrance and the wedding couple will not know where their car is located. For their reassurance let them know where you will be located.

4/ Route to reception venue - Your happy couple have emerged from their venue officially married and it will be their first opportunity to discuss the day's previous events and their wedding ceremony. They may not want to take the quickest and shortest route to their reception. Ask if they want to take the scenic route and take time together before entering into the next part of the celebrations.

5/ Music - Consider playing a CD containing wedding type music. This will complement your wedding car image (ribbons and bows) and add to the ambience and atmosphere.

6/ Car and chauffeur presentation - Both you and your car should be immaculate. Car spotless inside and out. Air freshener used. Suit and polished shoes.
Give yourself plenty of time for car preparation and getting yourself ready. You don't want to put yourself under stress. 

Luxury Private Hire

This category includes the other reasons why you will be hired. Any reason why your customer will want a luxury chauffeured car to take them to the special occasion. It could be as a prom car, retirement 'do',  Christmas or New Year party.
Each journey will require individual research.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea.

A) Wimbledon Tennis. An elderly couple who were not disabled but could not walk far. Research, on the official website map, showed the closest car park and access to the grounds was for coaches. Upon arrival I was permitted to drop-off and collect from the location.
B) Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff. Google Street View was good to show me the road layout and access points and possible drop-off and pick-up points but I realized that traffic volume would impact at the time sensitive times. A phone call to the general enquiries office resulted in the staff member imparting her local knowledge and suggesting a nearby service road adjacent to Tesco Express. Having arrived early, at the pick-up point,
I was able to park and collect my customers.
C) The 02 Arena, London. A phone call to the Enquiries Office did not assist and I was merely referred to the website map. Google Maps showed that there was a likelihood of congestion as the car parks and taxi points are adjacent to the arena. The Private Hire area is a 100 metre one way cul-de-sac next to the main entrance/exit.
At the time of collection the area was grid locked. Roundabouts and junctions were blocked causing buses to block access points. Drivers sounding their horns and the public streaming out onto the roads.
My customers were happy to wait and accepted the situation. However I saw that, prior to the car parks, there were pull-ins and areas suitable for waiting. By arranging with the customer they could have evaded the delay and walked a couple of minutes to an amended location. This would have saved about 45 minutes.
Consider printing off the website map and handing it to your customer. If you can not get to the agreed collection point you can call their mobile and request any new instructions.
D) Wembley Stadium, London. The customers wanted to be dropped at a local pub for a meal etc. prior to the game. Drop-off was fine but at final time the roads were coned and parking officers were everywhere. The collection point was not accessible. I was lucky in that I found a parking space just a couple of hundred yards away and phone my customer.
E) Twickenham Rugby Stadium. Prior to final whistle the police restrict access in the whole area (including the A316). There are No Right Turns and blocked roads. There are 'Tow Away' areas and parking officers. It is difficult for taxis to arrange to pick-up as the authorities try to encourage use of official car parks and to keep residential streets for locals. Fortunately my customers were regular visitors and arranged for me to collect them from a street that was about ten minutes walk from the stadium.
F) Calais. Dogs, unless assistance dogs, are not allowed on the ferry with foot passengers and Eurostar does not allow pets. I was hired to drive, via Eurotunnel, to Calais and collect the customer and dog. I then transferred them to Southampton, back though the tunnel. This 'job' required research as to legality for me to collect in France. Comply with French law (Breathalyzer kits, GB sticker etc.). Route from, and to, Calais Frethun Station, Pet Passport and Eurotunnel 'Check-in' procedure.

For every return journey make sure you give your customer your business card. If contact has to be made, for whatever reason, then can remain 'in touch'. Politely enquire if there mobile battery has enough charge.

Be aware, that for most events, the police and authorities will restrict access prior to the finish of the event. Get back to your collection point in plenty of time before the restrictions are put in place.

I hope this has been of some help and I'm sure I will be adding and updating this page with other examples. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Your Professional Image And The Service You Provide.

 Your Professional Image And The Service You Provide.

It may seem obvious that image and service rank high on the order of priorities but, even after six months of trading, I have heard customer's stories that confirm that some private hire drivers think otherwise.

Examples of dirty vehicles and drivers arriving late or even forgetting their booking! One client supplied feedback to a company complaining that the driver had commented upon a confidential business mobile call that was made - he was not impressed!

Whether you are employed or self employed your professional image and the quality of the service you supply is paramount to getting repeat business and for your reputation to be passed to other potential customers.

Get it right and, for the self employed, you will build up a solid and constant customer base which will grow into a self supporting and rewarding business. For those who are employed, you will be valued and considered an asset to the company. You will be trusted with important clients and benefit from the more profitable jobs.

In my opinion the following are essential good business practices for operating Southampton Chauffeur 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 peace of mind, regularly check and maintain your vehicle - tyres, water, oil etc.

2/ Driver 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. 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'.

3/ Punctuality.
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  try and loose 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 loose 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.

Consequences.

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.

You can specialize within general chauffeuring to attract customers who require a specific service. I can give you examples that affect Southampton Chauffeur Hire

Airport Transfer.                          Executive Travel    (Hampshire)        Executive Travel  (Bournemouth)
Wedding Car Hire  (Hampshire)  Wedding Car Hire  (Bournemouth)    Luxury Private Hire