Chauffeur & Tour Guide
Today I am taking a couple on what we call a ‘chauffeur-guided tour’. Whilst I do not purport to have anywhere near the level of guiding experience of a blue or green badge guide, I have many years’ experience taking Clients on tours, to key tourist hot spots. I often find that my Clients prefer my relaxed informative oratory to what could sometimes feel like a history lesson.
Before any guided tour, I always discuss client expectations and interests with the office. For example, if the Clients were visiting Professors of British history wishing to explore and receive more in-depth knowledge of their specialised subject, I know I would not be the right chauffeur for them. The office would assign an official blue badge tour guide to accompany me or they would allocate a chauffeur with the relevant credentials and qualifications.
Today, my Clients are an older couple from California who want to see where Meghan Markle (a fellow Californian) stayed prior to her wedding, as well as touring the town of Windsor where the wedding took place.
This is a perfect tour for me, as I grew up nearby, and I have already done over twenty chauffeur-guided tours of Windsor. I am confident I can really entertain and delight my Clients with anecdotes about the area and the wedding – such as the fact that Meghan’s veil was embroidered with flora from every Commonwealth country and that Myrtle, the herb of love, was in her bouquet.
The Clients are staying at the Goring hotel, which is another place that they are interested in. The Goring hotel was the Queen Mother’s favourite hotel and it was also where Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stayed the night before her wedding to Prince William.
My appointed pick up time is 09:00 and I customarily arrive 30 minutes early, having given the car a polish and vacuum and thorough sanitisation, as well as a pit stop at a local eatery to buy coffee and cakes for the hotel staff.
I head into the hotel lobby armed with coffees and boxes of patisseries and catch up with the George, HC, who is delighted with the morning snacks.
George tells me that the couple checked in very late last night and he has not had a chance to meet them. Fortunately, one of the receptionists is on a double shift, and we have a quick chat about the Clients. She tells me that they are a ‘lovely couple’ who wanted a tour of the hotel public areas, along with narrative from her on the Royal connections for the hotel.
I send an SMS to the Clients advising them that I am downstairs; they say they will be ready at 09:00.
At precisely 09:00 my extremely well heeled Clients arrive and I escort them to my car, parked directly outside the hotel.
Exploring the options
Before we head off, we discuss what they want to get out of their day, aside from visiting Windsor and their lunch at Cliveden. Are there any other places they would like to see? I mention Hampton Court as a possible visit later in the day if there is time. I also ascertain whether they would prefer the scenic route out to Berkshire (an extra 40 minutes driving time) which is a beautiful way to see parts of the English countryside.
We sit and discuss options and agree that we will head to Windsor via the M4 motorway, but plan to take country roads back into London, should we have time to spare.
We arrive at Cliveden in time for morning coffee, and my Clients sit outside enjoying the beautifully manicured gardens, whilst sipping on their morning refreshments. Rather than stay in the car, I nip inside and have a chat with the manager on duty and, whilst he cannot divulge any intimate details about Megan’s stay at the hotel, he has offered to give the Clients a guided tour and also show them one of the suites which is unoccupied.
It is not protocol for me to interrupt my Clients, so the Hotel Manager goes to them directly to offer them the short tour, which they delightedly accept. This is really kind gesure as with COVID hotels are only recently open, but I think the manager sees a potential future Client, and what better way to sell the luxury of the Royal Suite than an actual tour – sometimes virtual tours just cannot convey the actual opulence and luxury of the hotel.
This tour means we are running behind schedule, so it maybe unlikely they will have time to visit the Royal Palace at Hampton Court.
The Serious Bit
As I wait in my car, I reflect on my week and this blog. I feel that most important aspects of the world of chauffeuring are that you choose this career because (a) you love meeting new people and (b) you love driving. This may seem quite obvious, but if money is your main motivation your Client will sense this. No matter how hard you try to hide it, your Clients will sense it. I cannot stress enough, this job is about a love of people, delivering an outstanding service, and being fanatical about your car and driving. Those are the personal attributes you need; you are either born with a love of helping and serving people or you are not. Any chauffeur who drives purely for financial reasons will never make it in the industry. Our iChauffeur What’s App group is testament to this – we all help each other out, even if we make no money from helping out. Customer service is paramount.
I remember an occasion at Heathrow and an SMS from a Client saying that the baby seat had somehow got lost in transit. Mother and new born were just lodging their lost item with the airline and would be through into the arrivals hall in the next 15 minutes. I called the office and another chauffeur: Dan, who lives close to Heathrow, jumped in his car and managed to get the baby seat to me just as my Client was exiting arrivals. Dan did not need to do this, but he did, and I can say ‘hand on heart’ that as a group we all help each other out when there are unforeseen challenges.
The reason we do it is we all feel the same way about our Clients and the job, and if we can help avert a crisis, we will do our best to help. We are very proud to be representatives at the top of our profession.
A right royal experience
I open the doors for my Clients and we then cruise down the long gravel drive and journey on to Windsor. Parking in Windsor is not great and so my Client and I agree to meet where I drop them off in two hours’ time. This will save them 20 minutes walk from the nearest car park and allow them to see the Castle with the least amount of unnecessary walking.
Alone again in my car, and parked 10 minutes drive away, I look at how I can try to squeeze in a visit to Hampton Court. We only have 2 hours to get from Windsor to the Goring Hotel, and by my reckoning, this will only give the Clients a few minutes at Hampton Court which is not ideal. However maybe the traffic will be kind and allow us to get there early.
Ten minutes prior to the pick up time I drive to the agreed meeting place and park, this is a single yellow line, and no nearby parking cameras or traffic wardens so I am safe until my Clients arrive.
In less than 2 minutes, I see them walking towards me, I get out of the car and open the doors and they are back in the comfort of my super luxurious Mercedes ready to go back to London. Again it pays to be early, had I arrived at the agreed pick up time, my Clients would have been waiting. Being early ensures that there is no waiting about for them.
As we glide down the motorway and chat about the amazing time they have had at Windsor and Cliveden, I tell my Clients that we have time to visit Hampton Court. Even though I know that this will mean I will probably overrun the allotted time they have paid for, I think it is worth it. I have no other work today, and an extra half an hour will mean so much to this lovely couple.
The Clients wander around the gardens at Hampton Court Palace for 40 minutes before I pick them up and take them back to their hotel.
They had 2 additional mini tours today aside from what was on their original agenda, and my Clients are so grateful. It is often the little things that make a difference and today I know I made a difference to their day and made it even more special.
That is a great reward for me. Even more than the generous tip. I know I have created great memories for the couple and given them lots of anecdotes and stories that they can share with their friends and family back in California.
Day completed, I go home for a well earned night in with my wife and children.
Thanks for joining me on my journey over the last week. What I hoped to show you is that being a chauffeur is not just about driving passengers from A to B – almost anyone with a driving license can do this.
Being a chauffeur, is much more than providing a taxi service, it is about managing the unexpected and going ‘the extra mile’. From arranging a surprise marriage proposal lunch, to double sanitising my vehicle, to ensure all Clients can attend meetings or hospital visits safely, nothing is too much trouble.
One of our longest standing Clients once said to me – “I treat iChauffeur as my 4th emergency service. I know that they will always find a solution and help me out”, and yes I know not every journey is an emergency or has last minute changes, but every journey has the potential to change and we chauffeurs are always prepared ready to adapt our day to take account of ever changing Client needs.
Thanks again for reading my story and I look forward to joining you on your next journey with iChauffeur.