The other day, I realized that someone forgot to put our phone system in “night mode.” This could have been a problem, save for the redundant systems in place for just about everything in our company.
Our chauffeurs call a specific phone number at night and hear a recording of the schedule for the next five days. This is kind of like calling the movie theater back in the day to find out what time the movie starts. We update this phone recording every day at 5 p.m. It is mandatory for all chauffeurs to call in and check the schedule for the next day.
This isn't the only method for scheduling that we use. Each day we also print the schedule for the next day at about 3 p.m. and post it in the locker room for all chauffeurs to see who is working what the next day. We also e-mail them their ticket 48 hours in advance, or as they are assigned, whichever comes first. We also call them by phone six hours before run time to confirm.
Our computerized reservations system highlights a run in yellow to show that a ticket has been printed and e-mailed. It turns blue when a chauffeur has verbally confirmed to the dispatcher on duty that he is aware of the run coming up in six hours. Thus, it would be virtually impossible for a no-show to occur on our part. A single component removed would just remove one layer of protection as opposed to ruining the day.
Now, what about that phone system not being placed in night mode? The night mode system is another redundant backup in itself. Our main dispatch line is forwarded to a dispatcher working from home at night. However, working from home only provides two lines of service as opposed to the eight we have in the office. So, if the dispatcher is already taking two calls, the third call goes to the automated system in night mode and pages the dispatcher and a supervisor to indicate a message has been left in a voicemail box so we can quickly call back. This redundant system makes sure a client is never kept waiting long for assistance.
In the vehicles, we have a two-way radio system with handheld radios that can be carried in addition to the cell phone carried by the chauffeur so that in theory we are always in communication. If neither of those work, we can see where the vehicle is using a GPS tracking system, and if needed, we can send another vehicle or supervisor to find out why the chauffeur is not answering either the phone or the radio.
As far as money tracking, when cash or checks come in we post it to the reservation in our software system and then record it in a log book of cash received. Next it is recorded on a duplicate deposit slip before going to the bank with the client’s name. If someone says they paid for a reservation and it is not posted to the account, it is almost impossible to not know what happened to the money. The person who takes the money gives it to another person to log in the cash book and then places the money in the bank bag. The deposit is prepared by another person and then taken to the bank.
As far as vehicle maintenance, all starting and ending mileages are entered into our software system from the trip ticket. The system prompts us for required maintenance such as oil changes or tire rotations. However, we keep a binder for every vehicle as well, writing down the mileage of the vehicle when an oil change is performed and when the next oil change is due. We then place a sticker in the windshield showing the next time that vehicle needs an oil change. Between these three systems, an oil change can never be missed.
Redundant systems may seem like a waste of time and energy, but when one system fails and the other one catches it, all that redundancy is worthwhile.
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor