Practical driving skills are without doubt a fundamental ability of a professional driver.
However, even personal behavior and how the driver relates with passengers are essential components when providing an excellent transport service.
During any service, the driver is essentially the representative of the transport company since they are physically present with those on-board. The way in which the driver comes across to the travellers, from the presence to the communication and all personal initiatives, can positively or negatively affect the experience of the passengers.
It is therefore especially important to train a qualified driver also on a behavioral level, for the driver assumes the responsibility for the entrepreneurial success by representing the company in the eyes of the clients.
In this article, we take a look at the various elements of the professional attitude of the driver towards each aspect the transport services. In addition, we address the necessary precautions that need to be considered to ensure that the simplest of transport services are transformed into unforgettable travel experiences.
The cliché that the driver knows all the roads
As the most demanding expectation to satisfy for the clients, this cliché creates a certain degree of psychological pressure on the majority of professional drivers. In some cases can even cause a sort of performance anxiety. While it may be more or less legitimate to know all the roads, it’s completely natural to miss the odd turn off, junction, or even get lost in a city center.
Most likely these types of situations can cause a slightly embarrassing situation. However, in the worst case scenario, this type of mistake can cause delays that consequently confuse the pre-programmed travel times. Moreover, for the services that include scheduled appointments or meetings, it can cause great inconvenience for the passengers.
Any uncertainties in deciphering the directions stated on the itinerary can cause a driver to lose the awareness of what’s going on at that moment in time. This can compromise not only the comfort of those on-board but more importantly their safety (read our article on the driving style of a professional driver).
Study and prepare each service methodically
For a road professional who works in practically every area of tourism, a good geographical knowledge of the territory in which he is traveling is essential.
For each service, prior to departing a professional driver examines and studies the itinerary and verifies that the times of the route are consistent with the geographic routes that are stated.
Furthermore, a highly qualified driver assesses the accessibility of each point of interest indicated on the travel itinerary, taking into consideration all the possible alternatives with the vehicle assigned to the service and considers the space at each destination to correctly anticipate the maneuvers such as loading, unloading and parking.
Confidence with technology
Thanks to the progressing technological advancements in recent years, we now have many helpful digital tools at our disposal to study itineraries. Therefore, professional drivers are able to prepare even more efficiently for their services, paying particular attention to how they can minimize the probability of any complications.
Today, the most complete navigation system is undoubtedly the publicly available solution from Google, which has developed several very useful functions that a highly qualified driver must be familiar with.
The desktop version of Google Maps allows an easy construction of an itinerary by taking into account the geographical elements. The system automatically proposes the best solutions for the requested route, including accurate travel times.
Thanks to satellite technology and Street View functions, it is possible for users to virtually travel the majority of road networks in order to understand the practicability and maneuverability of the roads that are to be traveled. This is to prevent any nasty surprises during the service when the passengers are on board.
The mobile version of Google Maps is more suitable for use during the trip thanks to the satellite location that is now widespread on every smartphone.
The direct integration with the search engine allows users to start navigating to any point in only a couple of clicks, a very useful feature in case of unexpected last minute route changes.
The real-time road traffic monitoring function automatically calculates the shortest route to the desired destination. This comes in very handy where there is a highway traffic jam or congestion. Every passenger will be grateful for having avoided one of the most hated situations in everyday life: queuing in traffic.
Keep in mind that when Google selects the shortest distance you run the risk of ending up in streets that are in bad condition, too narrow, or are generally uncomfortable to travel on. Google is an informatic system and does not have the complex processing capacity like the human mind.
One piece of advice would be to use the main roads as much as possible to reach the destination. Even if it takes a couple of minutes more than originally planned, Google updates the instructions in real time so there’s no danger of falling into such a situation.
With regards to larger vehicles, Google does not support all the necessary requirements for these types of vehicles. Therefore, when it comes to studying the itinerary before and during the service, professional drivers of tour buses must express more caution. Although there are several specific devices designed for larger vehicles that allow you to set the overall dimensions of the vehicle, however the navigational system may not be as accurate as Google Maps.
The client’s identity
Once the route has been completely studied, it is important to carefully consider who the passengers are and the reasoning behind their journey.
The moment a driver is assigned a service, they must be able to analyze and understand who they will have to transport and the type of journey they will have to face in order to adapt their professional conduct in the best way possible.
Business-related services for individual passengers will require an approach that’s different from a private transfer for a family of tourists, or for an international tour group for several days for that matter.
The more personalized the transport service is, the greater the expectations of passengers regarding the driver’s attention and care. For this, the personalized nature of individual services require a more demanding sales price than group transport services, as individual services are expected to provide exclusivity and personalized treatment.
On the other hand, any attempts of personalizing a service for every single passenger may not be as appreciated in a group service, as group services tend to have a common line of treatment that is equal for everyone on board.
A careful driver must be able to adapt their professional behavior according to the characteristics and context of the service in order to complete the service in the best possible manner.
The identity of the company
Without doubt, a suitable and adequate person that’s appropriate to the context of the journey provides the perfect business card and also makes the best first impression.
In addition to providing a touch of professionalism to a transport service, the company uniform is certainly the best method when it comes to regulating how the suitability of the driver is perceived. Keeping in mind, of course, that the driver expresses this anyway in their own personal manner.
Standardizing the corporate image through the drivers not only prevents the likelihood of any unprofessional nuances, but it constitutes a great impression that ultimately reflects efficiency and professionalism that will assure the passengers for all subsequent stages of the journey.
In any case, to portray the ideal presence for the passengers means doing everything possible to meet their expectations, while keeping in mind the context of the service.
A driver wearing a Hawaiian shirt on an individual business travel service can be just as out of context as one wearing a suit with a group on a trip to the sea.
For this reason it’s important to check all the information before each trip that’s relevant to the travellers and their reasons for travelling.
The more organized transport companies are able to efficiently manage company clothing with specific uniform levels in relation to the markets in which they operate, gathering all the necessary information during the booking phase and then determine which uniform is most suitable for the service.
At the same time, a vehicle with perfectly clean and intact exteriors and interiors will reflect positively on the mood of the passengers. In addition to appreciating the organization and cleanliness of the vehicle, the passengers will consequently have more faith in the driver who not only looks after themselves but also the vehicle.
Here are some rules that a professional driver should put into practice in order to carefully manage the maintenance of the vehicle and help provide a successful travel experience for the passengers:
1) Ensure that at the start of each service the internal and external aspects of the vehicle are perfectly in order.
2) In addition to cleaning the vehicle, pay particular attention to the:
Floor: the first glance of the passengers will always be the vehicle hinges or steps and then, once boarded, the vehicle’s floor. It is a good practice to show up at the start of every service with the vehicle’s access areas undamaged and clean them at any possible time using a damp cloth.
Windows: The view of the passengers will be directed for most of the services at the glass to see what’s going on outside. Finding piles of dust or, even worse, stains from the previous passengers indicates little care and attention.
Ashtrays: Remember to always check the pockets and ashtrays, removing any trash that may bring about any unpleasant situations for the passengers.
3) Make the most of the breaks during a trip to maintain the cleanliness of the vehicle and leave a remarkable impression even to the most picky client. A couple of tricks of the trade:
For transportation services with cars it is a good habit during breaks to remove excess dust from the external body of the vehicle. This can be done using a simple duster (using a damp cloth can leave marks on the bodywork).
During tours or excursions, put a dark dampened cloth on each step of the vehicle so that the passengers don’t carry dust from outside when they get back on the vehicle. This way, the internal part of the vehicle stays cleaner for longer.
4) Ensure that the vehicle is well maintained at the end of every shift so the departure of the next service is much smoother, especially in the case of an unscheduled last minute trip.
5) At the end of each service, remember to thoroughly check the interior of the vehicle for any personal items that may have been forgotten by passengers and reporting them to the head office so they can contact the customer. This gesture will be greatly appreciated.
The identity of the driver
When it comes to any professional context, human factors are what really make the difference. The ability to understand people, to be able to adapt to the professional context, and show initiative in one’s professional role, are all personal characteristics that make a huge difference in every job that involves contact with the public.
Who chooses to become a professional driver must acknowledge that these characteristics are carefully developed through experience and cannot be acquired merely by completing an academic course.
The key to impressing passengers and ultimately facilitating the personal and professional relationship is to get as close as possible to the passengers’ perspectives of what their idea of the perfect transport service looks like. A professional driver always tries to live up to the passengers’ expectations, even if this involves extra effort and possible limitations. It is always more convenient to establish yourself as a person who passengers can trust and that is competent in every situation, rather than a servant who merely takes orders and is difficult to approach in times of need.
We could talk for hours about the behavior of the perfect driver. However, given that the key to being a great driver lies in the ability to cater for the passengers’ expectations, one important thing to bear in mind is that an infinite number of passenger typologies exist, each with their own priorities and ideology of the perfect service.
For instance customers coming from a hotel on vacation may prefer a brisk and communicative driver, whereas a business manager may prefer a discreet driver simply provides the transportation aspect of the job and nothing more. Maybe at the end of an excursion, if the driver has been telling good jokes throughout the trip, the group may even help out with by giving the vehicle a quick clean-up! This list could go on infinitely.
Satisfying every client is never an easy undertaking. Generally, a service is much harder to market than a product because a product is something that has materialistic value whereas a service is the result of many elements. Sometimes it may seem impossible for services of experiential nature, such as transport services, to satisfy every customer who is actively involved throughout the course of the service.
A highly qualified driver must be aware that every component of the service has a knock-on effect to the passengers on board, influencing their reactions that will ultimately determine not only the driver’s professionality but also that of the transport company.
In conclusion, the winning mentality of a driver ultimately creates the best conditions to stimulate the most positive reactions from travellers.
ABOUT JURY BALLABENE
Jury Ballabene is a Marketing Manager and fan of Sengerio. A traveler at heart, expert driver, and experienced within several transport companies, Jury currently directs the sales and marketing department of a historic car and coach rental company in Emilia Romagna.