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Bus and Motor Coach Library

You Don't Get a Second Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Author – Brian Niddery (2002)

It is one thing to attract a new customer, but it is quite another story to keep that new customer’s business. 

As the old expression says, you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression!  And what is the very first thing that a new customer or any customer will likely see of your company.  It is in fact your BUS!  The next thing this new customer sees as he or she steps aboard your bus is your DRIVER!  The essence of your company can be summed up in those two words - your BUS and your DRIVER!  That's where it's won or lost in the minds of your customers!

If your bus is clean and smart-looking and carries attractive exterior graphics; and if this new customer boards this attractive bus, and he or she ascends clean steps and walks down a clean aisle to a clean seat, and if this new customer is met with the smiling welcome of a driver who is friendly, courteous, and nicely dressed - do you know that a million-dollar ad campaign cannot buy you this same kind of image! And when this customer mentions your company to friends and acquaintances over and over again about how nice your drivers and buses are, that this word-of-mouth advertising cannot be bought for any price!

On the other hand if the exterior is grimy, poorly maintained, or if the driver has somewhat of a scruffy appearance, maybe an open-neck shirt, a not particularly warm or inviting welcome, and this customer then might have to search out a seat without an empty cup scrunched into the side panel, or tries to avoid having to walk on a sticky floor - this does not make for a good first impression!

Some companies spend a great deal of money on advertising, and in promoting their services.  However, the very best kind of advertising is the "word-of-mouth" kind.  Repeat and referred customers ensure continued and long-term business.  And this kind of advertising costs very little money - by just implementing procedures that ensure that your vehicles are spotlessly clean, both interior and exterior.  Spend a little extra on the interior, including keeping those seats in perfect order, (if they are stained or torn have them repaired immediately) and your interior windows clean (including the perimeter seals and frames).

And of course the most important thing of all - a professional driver.  Your entire company image rests on the shoulders of your driver.  He is your very best sales representative, your ambassador-at-large, and your image-maker. 

If your driver warmly welcomes every customer with a smile, is in proper uniform - clean and pressed shirt, tie for the guys, pressed trousers, clean shiny shoes, properly attired in a vest or coat, hair neatly brushed, you already have made the right impression.

It is an extremely worthwhile exercise to work with your drivers to develop a certain camaraderie - an "esprit de corps" attitude.  It will give them more confidence and esteem value, and result in less driver turnover.  Employees want to be valued and they like to be acknowledged for their good work.  By investing more time in your drivers the company is cultivating a better and longer lasting relationship with them, and they in turn will cultivate better and more long-lasting relationships with your customers.

And of course, another important piece of "customer relations" is the ability to ensure "on-time, every time" performance -This function involves your dispatch and scheduling staff, and their relationship with your drivers, and it concerns your mechanics and technicians - in their ability to maintain reliable equipment for your drivers.

Now maybe you are saying to yourself that this is all a "non-issue", that "everybody knows that"! Perhaps it is true that everybody already knows this stuff, but how many companies legitimately practice these things - by taking to heart by making it the very essence and meaning of their bus company?