Redefining “executive”… why it’s all about the service, not the car

A conversation with a client in the car last week got me thinking and prompted me to write this post. He was a company owner, ironically running his own successful holiday villa and travel business and I was taking him to the airport for a holiday… a rare event I was informed!

He (and his wife) were keen to impress to me was how comfortable and spacious the car was and how smooth a ride it provided. I extolled the virtues of why we use the Ford Galaxy – it’s flexibility, it’s practicality, it’s very generous leg-room and load space – and great fuel economy to boot! However, one comment that he did make is that he far preferred to travel in the Galaxy, than he ever would (or indeed, has done) in a typical Mercedes, BMW or Audi saloon.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against those vehicles in the sense that they’re stylish, sleek and impressive looking. But one thing they can be devoid of is practicality! Once you’ve got 2, perhaps 3, passengers in one of them and 2 or 3 reasonably-sized suitcases – that’s it, the vehicle is full. It would horrify me if I had to ask any of my clients to have their hand luggage in the cabin with them. Thankfully, there’s no chance of that with the Galaxy – it swallows up luggage in it’s spacious boot with ease and 4 passengers still fit comfortably in the cabin. Indeed, given the flexibility of having 6 seats, when we do have that number of passengers, we use brand new and smart luggage trailers – giving us even greater load carrying capability!

Why should a marque make any difference?

So given that we can provide all the comfort of an “executive” (I’ll come back to that word shortly) saloon, but with enhanced luggage space, leg-room, practicality etc. it only leaves a sense of marque snobbery as the reason why some may not see our service as “executive”.

I’m pleased to say that I think the days of being seen picked up by any of the aforementioned vehicle marques are in decline. I’m sure we’ve all seen the MPVs that Lord Sugar uses to convey his Apprentice candidates around on their various tasks in London. Without exception, I’ve never picked up a company director, businessperson or local dignitary that’s found fault with travelling in a Ford as opposed to a Mercedes for example. And more often than not, although they may be surprised, they do all tend to use the same adjectives… spacious, comfortable, roomy, relaxing, big.

What is an executive service then…?

There’s the crux of my ramblings today. If you look at it in it’s truest (or rather, stereotyped) form, we don’t operate your typical executive cars. We operate MPVs precisely for all the reasons laid out above. We’ve struggled to find any other vehicles that do what the Galaxy does. Yes, there are some specifications that we insist on – climate control, tinted rear windows, alloy wheels and chrome trim – mostly for passenger comfort and convenience. But, with the insurance that all our cars are immaculately presented at all times, some of these items also make them look the part.

That aside though, I have a belief. A firm belief. One that I absolutely refuse to deviate from, for anybody. And that’s a belief in exceptional customer service and standards. That’s where “executive” really comes into play… and this is how we do it:

1. Immaculate Vehicles – our cars are maintained to the highest standards and presented to the highest standards. They’re constantly cleaned, polished and vacuumed. Our local mechanic sees every car every 2-3 months without fail

2. Presentable Drivers – our drivers are well groomed and of a tidy appearance. I insist on a uniform so that you, our clients, can not only recognise us, but so that you get a consistent message and you know what to expect

3. Timing Is Everything – one minute late may as well be an hour late. I strive to ensure that our vehicles are with you 5 minutes before the time that’s been booked – we treat that as your departure time, not our arrival time

4. The Extras are as Standard – fresh water is provided on every trip. There’s nothing worse than coming off a tiring flight and spending your journey home parched. If you want a newspaper provided, it’ll be in the vehicle for you. We’re even developing a “welcome home pack” – a small package that can be ordered with us for when you’re coming back home after a holiday. Fresh bread and milk, and a few other essentials that mean you don’t need to panic about getting to a shop as soon as you arrive home

5. Communication and Efficiency – the key thing is, we talk to you. We don’t want you having to guess at any stage whether we’re going to turn up or where we’ll be meeting you. We go through your requirements, confirm them and then re-confirm them the day before your trip.

In my view, none of that is anything that shouldn’t be already being done by our contemporaries. But in reality, it’s not, which is a shame. These are the key things that really make for an executive travel service.

Hopefully our presence will shake up the industry a bit… if we can bring service and standards back to clients, then everyone can!