Southern Ute Community Action Programs (SUCAP)
Section 5 – Passenger Interaction Program
Good passenger relations are essential to Road Runner Stage Lines success. Passengers who are satisfied with their Road Runner Stage Lines experience are more likely to become consistent riders. We all benefit when that happens. Likewise, poor passenger relations cause problems for all of us. Dissatisfied passengers often become “problem” passengers not only for the company, but for the drivers who deal with them again and again.
More than anyone else at SUCAP, drivers are the key to maintaining good passenger relations. You are the SUCAP representative they see and talk to day in and day out.
Sometimes all it takes to keep passengers feeling good about riding with us is to provide them with safe and comfortable transportation and to be polite in dealing with them. Other times it takes much more.
From time to time you are faced with complaints and other sensitive interactions that require you to work at maintaining good passenger relations. For example, the elderly woman who argues over the price of her fare, the rowdy teenagers in the back of the vehicle, the man who misses his stop, the disabled passenger having a hard time boarding or the rider who doesn’t know where he’s going.
You’ve seen these and a thousand other situations that require you to act quickly and effectively to handle problems and maintain good passenger relations. As you know, handling these situations can be difficult. Very often you’re dealing with people who are angry, frustrated or downright hostile. You may not be able to resolve every complaint or problem on the spot, but you can defuse potentially explosive situations just by saying and doing the right things at the right time.
Techniques for handling difficult situations:
There are a number of things you can do to effectively handle difficult situations with passengers.
- Acknowledge the passenger’s situation and feelings. A good way to get results in an emotional situation is to show passengers you understand and care about their situation and feelings. Passengers find it harder to argue or be angry when you send them the message, “What you have to say and how you feel are important!”
- Maintain or enhance the passenger’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as “having a positive view of oneself.’ Treating passengers in a friendly and respectful way (especially people with complaints and problems) can do much to reduce harsh feelings and gain cooperation.
- Present the rules or position of the company and offer suggestions for solving the problem. It is important for you to listen to passengers who present problems or complain, but it’s just as important that they hear and understand what you are saying (especially if safety is the issue).
Benefits of maintaining or enhancing passenger self-esteem
- Reduces defensiveness and hostility
- Helps gain cooperation
- Creates a positive impression of you and Road Runner Stage Lines.
Maintain these practices at all times, but especially when passengers:
- Express strong feelings such as anger and resentment
- Become agitated or hostile
- Are having problems
You should always:
- Treat the passenger with respect and in a friendly manner
- Focus on the problem, not the passenger
- Acknowledge the passenger’s situation and feelings
Ask for, rather than demand the passenger’s cooperation
Listen and respond with empathy. Empathy…
- Maintains/enhances self-esteem
- Encourages open communication
- Helps passenger vent emotions
- Listen attentively, ask for clarification and paraphrase back to the passenger
- Recognize the passenger’s situation and feelings
- Encourage cooperation, look for win/win solutions
- Phrase suggestion so that you’re asking, not telling.
CRITICAL STEPS RATIONALE
Address the passenger in a friendly manner.
The way you address the passenger can greatly affect your success in dealing with difficult situations. A friendly manner can win cooperation, or at least keep emotional situations from really getting out of hand. When you address passengers in a friendly and courteous way, you are indicating they are important as people and you are interested in what they have to say. It’s hard not to respond positively to someone sending this message.
The manner in which you address passengers initially is particularly important. By being friendly and courteous from the start, you set a positive tone for the rest of the interaction. By doing that, you’ve just put the odds of resolving the situation in your favor.
Acknowledge the situation.
One of the most basic and effective ways of resolving a difficult situation with a passenger is to show the passenger you are aware of, understand and want to deal with his/her situation You can do this by:
- Focusing on the problem, not on the passenger
- Listening attentively
- Making statements that show you understand (even if you may not agree with) the passenger’s situation and feelings.
Openly present your position and check for understanding.
As important as it is for you to acknowledge the passenger’s situation, it’s just as important that he/she understands your position. Passengers who are aware of the importance of a given policy or guideline are much more likely to cooperate with you in enforcing it.
Present your position, then check that the passenger understands what you’ve said. You can check the passenger’s understanding by asking questions such as, “Do you see what I mean?” or “Do you see my point of view’?’
Ask for the passenger’s
Demanding a passenger’s cooperation in a difficult, emotional situation usually doesn’t work. In fact, that approach usually just makes them angrier and more defensive. Asking for a passenger’s cooperation is usually much more effective. One of the best approaches is to offer suggestions in question form that are acceptable both to you and the passenger.
Thank the passenger.
A final sincere ‘thank you’ shows the passenger you appreciate his/her cooperation. It also ends the interaction on a positive note.