Retaining capable bus and coach drivers has always been a major challenge for motorcoach operators. In today’s travel market, however, retaining safe and qualified drivers is no longer enough. The most competent drivers also serve efficiently and effectively as safety experts, schedulers, technicians, ticket-takers, baggage handlers and customer service representatives.
Motorcoach drivers have always been responsible for balancing their duties as a one-person crew, fulfilling by themselves the many tasks for which airline flight crews have separate staff.
But the travel mode shift away from planes, trains and automobiles toward coaches has added to the driver’s lengthy list of duties the role of company ambassador. Passengers may never see a coach company CEO. In many instances, the only personal, face-to-face contact passengers will have with a bus company will be with the driver. In that sense, your driver is the public face of your company.
That means many of the frustrated travelers abandoning other travel modes because of hassles, price, delays, cancellations and baggage fees may be trying the motorcoach option with your company for the first time. So getting safe, conscientious, and customer-centric drivers is more important than ever. Even the most upscale amenities on a motorcoach could potentially be remembered less vividly, and make less of a lasting impression, than its driver’s demeanor.
Business management experts refer to this phenomenon as “primacy and recency.” Customers will always remember their primary personal experience with any business, as well as their most recent experience with it, to form their lasting impression of that business.
In the motorcoach, tourism and group travel industry, any customer’s primary contact is almost universally with the driver. And their most recent contact – the last interaction with a company employee once they reach their destinations – is with that driver.
Eron Shosteck is senior vice president of communications at American Bus Association in Washington, D.C.