Regular readers of our blog will know that Plan are very proud supporters of the newly formed Guild of Professional Chauffeurs. The GOPC is the work of a group of industry stalwarts with a wealth of experience, who volunteered and put themselves forward to establish the not-for-profit organisation’s executive committee.
They have been incredibly busy, creating amongst other things a logo, website and establishing a member’s assessment process.
We recently caught up with one of the committee’s founding members, Andy Dubberley to gain some further insight into the thinking behind the guild and to receive a progress update on the latest developments.
Q: So what is the thinking behind the GoPC?
A: Over recent years, we have seen a steady decline in the calibre of driver that claims to be a chauffeur. We want to turn the reputation of our profession around and provide drivers, who take a pride in delivering excellence for their clients, a means by which they can distinguish themselves from the also-rans.
Chauffeurs will continue to do everything they can to attract new customers as they’ve always done, but the major difference with GoPC membership is that they will be able to show that they belong to a reputable organisation because they’ve been through a strict assessment process. It will be a major selling point and a major comfort to potential customers, including the likes of exec PA’s.
Other industries place great importance on member’s assessment. It plays a vital part when trying to stand out in order to attract potential customers. So why should it be any different for chauffeur companies? Why shouldn’t we have something in place that sets us apart from the mainstream?
In a nutshell, this is the reason we’ve formed the Guild of Professional Chauffeurs, it really will be our industry’s benchmark of excellence. It’s going to make a difference to our industry.
Q: What’s been the reaction from the industry?
A: The amount of interest in the Guild is pretty astounding and this month we host the first of a number of corporate guests who are keen to find out for themselves what we’re all about. Overall, the response to the idea and concept of the GoPC and especially its values has been overwhelming, and companies big and small as well as chauffeurs are over the moon that we have brought this to life. Nothing like this has ever been created before, and it’s obviously long overdue. This is happening now because we have gathered together like-minded people who are willing to donate and volunteer their precious time, and to work hard behind the scenes to make the GoPC concept a reality.
Q: Has there been any scepticism?
A: There may be some doubting Thomas’s out there, but we just remind them that this is all being done for the right reasons – for a love and passion for our industry. We’re a not-for-profit organisation., so it’s not simply another money spinning idea. We hope that, in time, everyone will come to understand and appreciate what the Guild stands for, appreciate its integrity, and dare I even say it, purity.
Q: What’s the membership assessment process?
A: From the outset, it’s been important to the GoPC committee that all applicants, irrespective of experience or existing certificates, start out with equal opportunity to gain membership. For that reason we opted to create our own assessment criteria.
The membership process aims to test a chauffeur’s knowledge and suitability across a variety of areas: including dress and deportment, communication, car preparation, driving style and how the individual deals with various circumstances. A large part of the assessment is practical but there is also a written examination as well as a requirement to have attended a suitable first aid course beforehand. This stringent membership assessment process is at the heart of our credibility.
The assessments are undertaken by properly trained assessors with considerable chauffeur experience. Any prospective member failing to reach the required standard in any part of the process will be advised accordingly, given the opportunity to retake the assessment at a later date, and if necessary to seek the adequate training (with a provider of their choice) before returning if they wish.
Q: How will the drivers be able to promote their membership?
A: Firstly, they will be able to use the logo on their advertising materials – be that their website, social media, written quotations etc. They’ll also be able to invite potential clients or employers to visit the GoPC website where there will be a dedicated page explaining the criteria members have to meet. This provides peace of mind way above a chauffeur being able to say, ‘I have a shiny car and I’m very good so use my services.’ GoPC membership is the evidence potential customers want to see before they book for the first time. That’s worth its weight in gold.
Q: Are there any other benefits to membership?
A: Well, we’re really grateful that a number of leading industry suppliers have backed us. As well as your good selves at Plan, we have finance, vehicle hire and tax specialists such as Driver Tax offering exclusive member offers.
Q: Is there any way to get membership of the Guild as a non-driver (company director, office manager, etc)?
A: A few people have asked and the short answer is no, not at the moment! We’ve discussed this within the Guild a few times and we can’t work out a suitable way as yet. The problem is that the Guild logo has to be synonymous with a certain standard reached by a chauffeur actually doing the job and we don’t want to introduce anything that dilutes that in any way by allowing non-driving staff to come on board. That’s not to say it won’t happen, we just need to find a way of keeping the two separate.
One of the restrictions for use of the GoPC logo will be that ‘multi-driver’ operators must state exactly which members of their staff membership relates to, they won’t be able to give the impression that all their drivers have been through the assessment and membership process, unless that is actually the case. So for this reason, we’ve also decided to steer clear of any form of corporate membership for the foreseeable future because it will be very difficult to ensure that all drivers are genuinely members, if we permit companies to be covered by a generic logo. In the case of large operators, high staff turnover will make it really difficult for us to keep tabs on whether corporate membership is being used appropriately. We continue to discuss these things in detail.
Q: Do you need more support from the industry?
A: What we need from everyone right now is to help in any way you can to spread the word. We need to raise awareness generally of the Guilds existence and the reasons for it’s existence. We need to let people know about our website, which explains everything. Our small group of devoted committee members and associate members have worked tirelessly for the last year, and although we have achieved a lot, we need all of you to join in and help in any way you can. In short, spread the word!
Q: What’s happening next?
A: Well, we’re looking forward to the first-ever members assessment day on the 24th February 2018. The Guild website will be updated soon to incorporate an online calendar and assessment booking platform, which will make the whole application process a doddle (apart from the assessment itself!).