Professionals in the service industry must often walk the fine line between being the expert and letting the customer always be right. It’s difficult when you’ve been hired to provide a service, presumably because of your expertise, only to have the client challenge your decision.
So the question becomes, how do you help the client understand your perspective without damaging the relationship? It isn’t always easy and sometimes it can be risky, but knowing when to draw the line and when to compromise should be your first step.
When it comes to safety, this is where you must draw the line.
When you’re dealing with thousands of attendees and several 25-ton buses, safety is the number one priority. One of the ways we work to ensure attendee safety is to put uniformed staff on the curb. These experienced transportation professionals assist both the driver and the customer by keeping people from walking between buses, helping attendees access and load luggage into the undercarriage and preventing 75 people from trying to all board at once. This provides for an efficient and safe transportation program.
Sometimes we’ll have a client ask, “Can’t the bus driver do that?” Most people would agree that you wouldn’t ask the pilot to help load your bags, make sure the safety video plays or hand out refreshments. The pilot has one job – safely fly passengers from point A to point B. Airlines hire flight attendants to ensure that everything that happens outside of the cockpit runs smoothly. We believe that for most transportation programs, bus drivers need the same support.
Most of the time it is logistically, and often physically, impossible for the bus driver to provide the same level of service and assistance that a staff person can offer. The reality is that we rarely get to handpick which bus drivers we work with. That being said, many of the best bus drivers are in their later years. They have been doing this for years, they love their job and they do it well. What they can’t always do, by no fault of their own, is help attendees lift and load heavy suitcases onto the bus.
This is where hiring young staff to help the driver can go a long way. We want the bus driver to have one priority and that is to drive and navigate the bus safely.
We believe in partnering with our clients to ensure seamless transportation for their event or program. We listen and validate client concerns and engage in meaningful dialogue about those concerns, but we also make sure they understand that safety is a top priority for us and them. It Is how we both arrive at the same conclusion that makes all the difference.
A successful client-vendor relationship is often determined by your ability to change the conversation and effectively illustrate that ultimately the client’s priorities are aligned with your own. If you can establish where you are willing to compromise, but more importantly, where you are unwilling to compromise, you will be better equipped to ensure both you and the client arrive safely at the final destination – together.
Eddie Stewart is president of Stewart Transportation Solutions Inc., a ground transportation coordination firm based in Nashville, Tenn. Stewart has been in the transportation and hospitality business for more than 30 years. His company manages numerous corporate and association accounts and spends more than $5 million annually on motor coaches, mini-buses and sedans.