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.


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

Monday, 8 October 2012

How To - Private Hire Licence. Pricing A 'Job'.

Considerations when pricing.

Since starting Southampton Chauffeur Hire in April this year I have found that this is one of the most important parts of the business, and the most frustrating!
I have carried out research on the internet, asked advise, and tried to find out what other companies charge to phoning for a quote. This critical ingredient appears to be akin to a poker player keeping his cards close to his chest.
I'm told 'Don't worry you'll work it out for yourself. It comes with experience.'
I think the bottom line is that every company has it's own formula for charging which creates a sliding scale of prices.
For sub-contracting purposes the company 'owning' the job does not wish to disclose the cost charged to the customer otherwise the sub-contracted company may negotiate for more.
My personal, and some may say naive, opinion is that transparency promotes trust and loyalty between companies who regularly work together. My goal is to work with a reliable group of self employed drivers and companies who can all trust each other to be fair and provide a high quality service when they are representing another company.
I don't have an issue in disclosing my fee compared to what I would pay when sub-contracting.
I realize it is a choice companies make for themselves depending on factors that don't affect my situation.
There are companies who will provide quotes via their websites. Type in the post codes and various prices will be given depending upon the standard of vehicle required. This is a good indication to gauge your own prices.

1/ Mileage from A to B.
For 'over head' purposes total the mileage to include the return trip as fuel costs will come out of your profit.
Consider 'dead mileage' - mileage which is not a part of the customer's journey or return journey and not subject to the fare.
2/ Journey time. Heavily congested areas will affect the time taken. An extra cost would not normally be added to a fee but it should be taken into account.
3/ Discount for return trip. Some companies offer a reduction but that depends upon there initial quote. Some regular corporate customers also expect a discount.
4/ Mileage compared to an hourly or day rate.
This is applicable to clients who wish a return trip or may have a journey that requires more than one stop or requires you to wait. The total mileage may not be much compared to the time involved in completing the whole job from pick up to drop off. It may be more practical, for a simple return trip, to return home compared to waiting. It depends upon the variables concerned. I can give you a couple of examples to help illustrate.

Example - Pick up 11.00hrs Hythe, near Southampton and drop off at Wimbledon Tennis. Allow 2 hours travelling time arriving at 13.00hrs. 90 miles approx. £15 approx fuel.
If you do not wait but return to base without a fare paying passenger then your fuel and travelling will be doubled ie 4hrs and £30.
Consider the alternative. Find something to do nearby and wait. The waiting time, if you remained in the area, compared to returning to base is 4 hours as you would have to leave Southampton at 17.00hrs to get back to Wimbledon for 19.00hrs. You have saved your travelling time and £30 in fuel!

Example - Southampton to Ascot Racecourse I applied the same rules. I found something to do nearby and did not return, empty, to Southampton.

Example - Southampton to Bournemouth (graduation ball) £120 return fare.
Staying in Bournemouth for return trip: 60 miles taking 1.5 hours with fuel about £10.
Waiting equated to 6 hours and £10 fuel total. Profit £110
Returning to base equated to £20 fuel. Due to time of day I decided to return to base which meant an extra£10 from my profit (£100).

Example - Southampton to Goodwood Festival of Speed. Both passengers were doctors that may have been required to return at short notice. Therefore waiting time was charged as I was required to remain with the car. You will have to adjust the hourly rate depending upon the circumstances and your customer.

Some companies charge an hourly rate if an airport passenger is delayed by more than an hour when passing through customs. That is a matter for you but, I would suggest, it would not be a charge that some customers would be happy to pay.

The ideal journey, and most profitable, is having a fare paying customer going up and back. For example, Southampton to Heathrow £80 fare minus £20 fuel (up and back) resulting in £60 profit. A fare paying passenger, on the return trip, will give you a total of £140.

5/ London pricing. Going into London can be time consuming and, in Central London, make you liable to the Congestion Charge. For London trips make sure you add to the charge if you enter the charging area. Also register your bank card with the Transport For London as the fee will be automatically deducted from your account.

6/ Consider the variables. Referring to my website I can list some issues that may affect the quote that you supply. For airport transfer you may add a small additional charge if required to 'meet and greet' to cover parking. Executive travel clients may end up being good repeat customers so be prepared for offering discount. Wedding car hire customers may have bespoke arrangements that means that you will have to adapt your fee according to a variety of variables. It may not be a straightforward journey from home to church and then to reception. Luxury private hire customers may pay a small premium on top of the normal quote for a special event like a prom or graduation.

I hope this has helped into giving an insight to pricing.

My next post will be - Your professional image and the service you provide