January 2012

Great Canadian bolsters customer service via training, incentives

by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

Founded as a tour company in 1984 by Larry and Lorna Hundt, Great Canadian Holidays & Coaches has not only built up its motorcoach operation, but it continues to diversify its brand.

"We consider ourselves to have the best, or one of the best, brands in our industry," says President Larry Hundt. "We have done a pretty good job of making ourselves different."

One thing making Great Canadian different are the vehicles themselves, which feature hand-painted murals celebrating a range of topics including the country's rich history, hockey and immigration. It also has coaches branded prominently with the Canadian flag.

"When they travel to the U.S., many of our customers like to come in flying the flag to let everybody know the Canadians have arrived," explains Hundt.

Also setting it apart is Great Canadian's driver training program, which focuses on providing excellent customer service.

"We don't only have driver trainers, but also, driver mentors, who are out in the field with junior drivers to refine and develop their driving and customer service skills," Hundt says.

Hundt adds that the mentors serve as supervisors out on the road, providing new and sometimes seasoned drivers with much-needed supervision when away from their home base.

"It's all about going the extra mile. We don't just want a driver, we want them to be focused on making sure each group that travels with us has a great time," he explains, adding that he feels higher driver retention has been an interesting benefit of the mentorship program.

To reward drivers for their performance, Great Canadian began giving drivers a 4% monthly bonus.

"Every trip is monitored carefully to make sure the customer is well serviced," Hundt says. "If we detect any concerns or have any complaints, the drivers are brought in for a discussion, where we take a look at their bonus and adjust it if necessary."

Since the implementation of the 4% bonus four years ago, Great Canadian has seen an improvement in both safety and customer service.

"It is something the drivers really guard, and they take a lot of pride in getting their full bonus each month," Hundt says.

Great Canadian is also taking strides to become more green through various programs, including recently cutting the top speed of its buses and reducing idling time to help decrease fuel consumption. The operation has also installed more energy-efficient lighting and solar panels on the roof of its facility.

"The Ontario government has really been on a green campaign the last few years," says Hundt. "Through the solar panel installation, we are able to generate electricity that goes back into the province's grid and get paid for it. It is a great program that we are proud to be part of."

As a way to help continue to grow its business and take advantage of its mechanics' ability to work on both buses and trucks, Great Canadian recently purchased an 81,000-square -foot factory to provide full-service garage services for trucks. The facility provides parking for approximately 130 trucks, with the ability to keep them clean using a bus/truck wash system. Great Canadian also installed a spray booth, so it can now provide collision and paint services.

"We're not really in the bus business anymore," Hundt says. "It's an idea that is very much out of the box, and we are really excited that it's starting to really come together and grow." 


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