With a few minutes to spare before meeting a client at Heathrow the other morning, I got to thinking about the PA’s role in choosing a safe, reliable driver to transfer executives or company visitors around the UK. That got me counting the main reasons why a PA should book a professional chauffeur service – aside from the fact that making good decisions will make your boss, your company and you look good.
Professional chauffeurs carry out their duties in a highly-skilled manner from the first time you’re in contact. It’s not just about being a good driver or opening the door, it’s about the way they conduct themselves on the phone, by email or face to face. You’ll know one when you meet one. A pro-chauffeur immediately understands everything that’s involved with transferring a senior member of your organisation or a special visitor to their chosen destination. And you will feel comfortable when meeting or talking with them.
As an experienced PA, you’ll immediately ‘get’ whether a chauffeur has what it takes. If they treat you respectfully, they’re likely to do the same for your colleagues. A suit and tie is the rule, to give you the best first impression as well as when collecting one of your directors or a company guest. This is particularly relevant when meeting someone at an airport. There’s nothing more unprofessional than a driver waiting in Arrivals in scruffy jeans and a t-shirt – but I see it regularly. And then there are name boards: professionals always have a proper name board, never a scrappy piece of paper with a name scrawled on it, barely legibly, in ballpoint.
Reliability is everything
At risk of stating the obvious, reliability is everything when booking travel services. This also starts when you invite the chauffeur to your offices to meet them. When it’s time for the journey, a professional will always arrive in plenty of time before the pick-up. He or she will have planned the route for the journey ahead – and have a backup in mind. They’ll have a SATNAV system that gives accurate real-time travel information and the capability of finding an alternative route if required. This is essential to ensure that passengers don’t miss flights or arrive late for meetings. Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective chauffeur to visit you, show you around their car and demonstrate its equipment.
Professionals drive suitable executive cars
Your executive wants to travel in comfort and style; that’s why the majority of professional chauffeurs drive the Mercedes E or S-Class. The larger Mercedes have an enviable reputation for comfort, luxury and reliability. Ask the chauffeur to bring their car over, have a good look around and sit in it. Any professional worth his salt will welcome this opportunity to show off their pride and joy. Their car will always be immaculately clean on both the outside and inside. Ask them where they would get it cleaned at Birmingham airport or in central London. A good chauffeur always knows where he can get his car cleaned close to a pick-up point. That way, if it gets dirty on the way, it will be pristine again for the return journey.
Discretion at all times
It only takes one lapse in discretion to ruin a chauffeur’s career and blacken their reputation forever. Professional chauffeurs know that they may overhear sensitive information when their passengers are conversing with each other or on the phone. He or she is trained to understand the need for discretion and that anything they overhear doesn’t leave the confines of the car. A chauffeur will also know when to and when not to speak.
Flexibility goes with being a pro-chauffeur
From time to time, travel plans change at the last minute. Meeting times get altered or another is scheduled unexpectedly. Perhaps an executive decides to catch a later flight, or an inbound flight is diverted to another airport. None of these will faze a truly professional chauffeur. Indeed, accommodating such requirements is part of our role. We’re fully aware that changes happen and we plan our days accordingly. Unlike a local taxi driver, we won’t have to get back for our next ‘fare’.
Always a stress-free experience
Using professional chauffeur services takes away the hassle and stress of driving to important meetings, events or airports. One of the main reasons for hiring a chauffeur is so you don’t have to worry about directions, traffic during the journey, car parking and finding an address that you’ve never visited before. These are your chauffeur’s responsibility. Meanwhile, you enjoy extra time to prepare for your meeting, catch up on calls or email, read the papers or just relax and think creatively without having to concentrate on negotiating the M42, do battle with Bristol’s rush hour or tackle stop-start traffic through Heathrow’s tunnel.
For airport transfers, a professional chauffeur will take you to outside the departure terminal. However, one of the biggest benefits of using a chauffeur is on your return. Imagine that you’ve just travelled halfway around the world, landed at Heathrow after an overnight flight and find yourself back in the UK after crossing several time zones. Will your MD, or company visitor, really want to face the drive home, or to your offices – would you? With a professional chauffeur at the wheel, they can sit back, relax or catch up on lost sleep. And of course, for company visitors, being met by a chauffeur-driven Mercedes when they arrive in the UK makes a highly-visible statement about their importance.
Professional chauffeurs drive you door to door
Another beauty of a professional chauffeur service is that you are conveyed door to door no matter how far away the destination is. There’s no need to worry about making bus or train connections, finding parking, dragging heavy luggage around, or getting soaked between the car park and the terminal in wet weather. What’s more, if you’re on public transport and there’s a delay ahead, you can’t change route in the same way that a chauffeur can.
I got to seven benefits before it was time to meet my client, but maybe you can think of some more. If you are a PA, pick your professional driver carefully. A good one is worth their weight in gold and will look after you, your colleagues and your guests like his or her own. If your boss hasn’t experienced the joys and benefits of being chauffeur-driven you really ought to give it a try – but make sure you pick a reliable, trustworthy professional.