Chauffeurs are a sorry lot. I should know, I used to be one. On any given day, a sea of pathetic, sloppy, and burnt-out chauffeurs wait at airports across America.
It wasn’t always this way. The profession was once well respected and stocked with career drivers. Unfortunately, it’s been degraded to transients who are nothing but glorified taxi drivers. How did it get so bad? Most point to a lack of training, but the problems run much deeper. The state of chauffeurs is a systemic issue that stems from three main areas.
It’s an old saying, but you get what you pay for. Good chauffeurs cost money. In large urban markets, experienced chauffeurs make at least 50k a year and the real talent pushes six figures. Chauffeur oriented companies like Commonwealth and EmpireCLS provide health insurance, 401ks, and dental benefits. The people who run these companies aren’t saints, but good businessmen who understand the value of talent. Unlike their peers, they recognize the pool of experienced chauffeurs who can handle national accounts is finite.
On the other end of the spectrum is the detritus of horrible companies. As operating costs have risen, these services have cut chauffeur salaries. As a result, a wave of incompetent and inexperienced drivers has flooded the market. These companies want good chauffeurs, but the absence of a sustainable rate structure negates this. Considering fixed costs will continue to go up, this situation will only get worse.
Poor Hiring Practices
Driving people around isn’t a complicated job, but it does require a particular set of personality traits and skills. Any person who is service oriented, pleasant, hardworking, and forthright will be a pretty good chauffeur. Unfortunately, these folks aren’t getting hired. To find good people and screen out the scrubs, a number of steps should be taken.
- Use a chauffeur referral system – Chauffeurs tend to bring in good people when their reputation and money is on the line.
- Use your chauffeurs as screeners. Senior chauffeurs are tremendous judges of character. These guys make thousands of personality judgments every year and can quickly size people up.
- Recruit out of the service industry – Service is 90% of the job, so why not get someone that has 90% of the prerequisite experience. Restaurants and hotels are great places to find your next chauffeur.
- Use a personality test – Exceptional chauffeurs usually possess the same personality traits. Give your best chauffeurs the test and you’ll have a baseline for success.
Finding talent isn’t difficult – you just have to go out and get it. To screen out the bad apples, simply use the talent at your disposal.
If you want better drivers, start by fixing the broken windows in the office. By broken windows I mean expired registrations, overdue vehicle maintenance, illegal IO programs, inconsistent payroll, and dishonest dispatchers. Even good drivers stop putting out fires when the house never stops burning. When management is apathetic and incompetent, so are the drivers. Once the management is fixed, a comprehensive training program can be started.
Lousy pay, bad hiring practices, and inept management are the reasons chauffeurs stink. It isn’t a lack of training.
Bad companies breed bad chauffeurs. In most service industries, the market punishes poor companies, but in the limousine business, this model doesn’t work. With a focus on single event services like weddings and proms, many substandard companies survive indefinitely on marketing and ignore repeat business.
This trend is likely to continue, but there is hope. With the downturn in the economy, bad companies operating on thin margins will fail. In addition, the growing prominace of online reviews will weigh heavily on companies that provide consitently bad service. Ultimately, the fewer poor companies that populate the industry, the better chauffeurs will be.