January 2011

Royal Coach Tours-San Jose, Calif.

by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

A new 24/7 live chat feature has helped Royal increase business. Meanwhile, its driver bonus program helps boost customer service and safety.

Delivering excellent customer service often begins with hiring the right employees and that is one of the things Royal Coach Tours prides itself on after 50 years in the business.

"We have a very exhaustive hiring process, extensive background checks and a comprehensive interview process to make sure that we get the best employees from management to drivers to mechanics," says Michael Jackson, who's in charge of business development at Royal. "We really feel the entire process is integral to our success."

To keep customer service at a high level, as well as keep drivers on point and its coaches looking sharp, Royal also implemented a successful driver incentive program.

"We tried to figure out a way to give money to the drivers, rather than the body shop, so, basically, we pay the driver 7 percent of his wages to do his job," explains Royal's Vice President Dan Smith. "We've found that uniform violations, smoking on the bus and poor driving habits have all changed since we adopted this program."

Jackson explains that the unique incentive program pays the 7 percent bonus to the driver each month, automatically; however, if the driver has certain specified driver violations within the incentive program, a certain amount is deducted each month.

To make things fair for the drivers, the incentive is taken away in percentages, for instance, if a driver is not wearing the proper uniform, 6 percent of the incentive is taken away. Also, there is a five-person committee at Royal that reviews each violation at the end of the month and decides if the driver should or should not be fined.

Like a growing amount of motorcoach operators in the industry, Royal is taking advantage of social networking sites — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — as an excellent way to grow business through free advertising.

The operation also contracted with a local company to increase its Web presence via search engine optimization, which led to implementing a new third-party "Live Chat" feature on its website that enables Royal to gather information from potential customers visiting the site 24 hours a day and follow up with them during business hours.

"Most of the business from live chat is after business hours or during weekends and, because of that, we normally would not have had contact with these customers," says Jackson. "It has also expanded our reach nationally and internationally, so we're getting inquiries from, say, European groups that are flying into the San Francisco area and want to do some touring, for example."

Currently, one of the operations' most successful programs provides employees for two large companies in the Northern California region transportation to and from work, which they call its Employee Commuter Shuttle service.

"Initially, the thing was that MCI went to bat for us and gave us a really good recommendation," says Smith on how Royal was able to lock down the first employee commuter contract. "Because we were doing such a good job at the initial company, we were referred to another company, and we were able to grow the business based on our reputation."

The coaches for the service, which feature leather-equipped seating and internet availability to every passenger via Hobnob, — a Palo Alto, Calif.-based mobile wide area network service — picks up employees in a 45 mile to 50 mile radius from the two companies' main campuses, including locations in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

The service also supplies the companies and their employees with second-by-second GPS-enabled tracking of Royal's coaches.

One byproduct of the service, explains Royal's GM Earl Reed was the need for extended hours in the shop, because to be able to do the commuter runs most of the maintenance has to be performed at night. Another change was the need for an additional dispatcher.

"The Hobnob system we use is a tracking system, so we have to have a dispatcher on duty, so, if the customers call in, our guys are able to track the coaches and make any adjustments that need to be made quicker," he says.

 

 


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