Master the Art of Being a ‘Good Welcomer’ With Two Inspirational Ride-Hailing Drivers
The tourism industry in Thailand has made its comeback and is now bustling post Covid-19 pandemic, attracting tourists to travel to Thailand again. Not only is Thailand one of the world’s most beautiful destinations, home to an iconic and vibrant cuisine, and possesses the charm of Thai culture and local lifestyle, there is the world-renowned hospitality that resonates warmth and kindness with a smile – making Thais an ideal host to courteously welcome tourists. One of the major frontlines in making this impression would inevitably be taxi drivers. This includes two experienced Grab drivers such as Taworn Tonpradu – an award-winning taxi driver who possesses outstanding English communications skills, and Charturong Butrsiri – a participant in the “Good Host” project by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who shared his life story on his journey behind the wheel which has impressed foreign tourists for decades.
A senior driver, who never stops learning
Taworn Tonpradu or “Uncle Thavorn”, a 72-year-old taxi driver, may have an image similar to that of a regular taxi driver you would find on the road. But if we had the opportunity to talk to him, we would feel the positive energy of a kind uncle who dares to go beyond the comfort zone and never stops developing himself to deliver the best results.
“I am an Ayutthaya resident who grew up in the fields. When stepping into adulthood, I first became a simple farmer just like the rest of my family. However, the income was not sufficient to live on so I decided to move to Bangkok in pursuit of a new career. I finally chose to become a taxi driver, which provides more income to care for my family. In the past, taxi drivers had to patrol and drive around looking for customers or strategically park at a spot where there are bound to be a lot of passengers such as the airport. Fortunately, I was able to partner with Grab and onboard as a driver-partner. This makes my life significantly easier because Grab’s system automatically sends customers to us. I have been driving with GrabTaxi to earn money to support my family for more than 10 years now and succeeded in funding the education for my two children until their graduation which is an accomplishment I take great pride in as the head of the family.”
After entering the arena of warriors behind the wheel for a while, Uncle Thavorn faced a major obstacle which was communicating with foreign customers. As he had no foundational knowledge in English, this was considered a great challenge in his life. However, he did not give up and chose to transform this challenge into an opportunity and driving force to begin learning English in his retirement.
“It is inevitable that taxi drivers will encounter foreign customers. In the past, communication was mainly done via sign language. Some concepts were communicated efficiently, and some had gaps of understanding. This was the case until I tried the English teaching programme that Grab provided for free. In addition to this, there is an online course via the GrabAcademy programme which allows me to educate myself at home. From not being able to speak English at all, my language skills significantly improved. I became capable in reading tourist attractions from English brochures, engaging with and advising foreign customers more confidently. When they see that I can communicate with them, we build a rapport and converse as though we are friends. A lot of them were impressed and encouraged more conversation and I have the opportunity to introduce tourist attractions in both main cities and secondary cities. When tourists know more about the hidden gems to explore, it intrigues them to come back again. I am confident that my profession enhanced the promotion of tourism in itself.”
“Other than creating ease in conversation, I believe that elevating customer experience is also about extending courtesy and good manners to our customers. For example, helping them with their luggage and giving advice and guidance. We must prepare ourselves to provide them with as much support as we can. The key is to be sincere and honest. With just this detail, we will win the hearts of both local and foreign customers,” Uncle Thavorn concluded with a warm smile.
A driver with a heart for service
“Ake” Charturong Butrsiri, a 57-year-old GrabCar driver, has worked many jobs in his life. From being an office worker, opening his own business, organising airport transfers to and from the hotel, to becoming Grab’s driver-partner which best corresponds to his lifestyle in terms of freedom, income, and contentment in providing service excellence.
“I began to drive as a Grab driver-partner for the first time due to a friend recommendation from another friend based in Chonburi. Initially, I would drive from home to Pattaya every day to collect passengers from there. At that time, most of the passengers were foreigners. I’m already accustomed to working with tourists. Plus, I can already speak English so there were no concerns in that area. When I started driving more skillfully, I decided to drive in Bangkok. Up until today, it’s been almost 10 years since I have been a Grab driver-partner to earn money and support my family. It is a career that I am proud of because it allows me to support my 13-year-old son’s education in an international school.”
As a diligent and resilient person who never stops developing himself, Ake most recently participated in training to become a “Good Host”, organised by TAT in preparation to be the frontline in serving tourists and being able to apply knowledge to be on top of his game at work.
“Since the reopening of the country, more and more tourists have been returning to Thailand. I would say that 80% of my passengers are tourists. As a hired driver, I view us as the face of the country. I’m always thinking about what we can do to help create a good impression. For me, the first priority is that the car must be clean, comfortable, and with cool air-conditioning. Next is communication with customers. Sometimes just a simple greeting in English can impress the tourists. For example, in the GrabAcademy training course, there are samples of English phrases that mimic real scenarios. These examples can be adapted to use in practical communications when meeting tourists. If we want to really take this to the next level, we should be able to recommend top attractions or provide additional information for tourists when they have questions.”
“At times, creating a positive impression on foreign visitors can be a simple gesture of kindness and giving them a friendly smile. A recent example is a Korean customer who requested me to teach him some Thai phrases. I was very pleased to teach basic greetings in my local language like how to say hello or thank you, including short sentences that are easy to remember. He also taught me some basic Korean in exchange. This simple interaction helps build friendships and leave a lasting impression,” Ake states with a smile.
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