Saturday, 20 February 2010

Drivers' image makeover

Come October, state bus transport service in Delhi would have undergone a sea change. Smartly dressed up bus drivers would be sitting behind the wheel in neat and crisp uniform, polished shoes with seat belts buckled up.

And don’t be surprised if you hear them saying “ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard…” while traveling by DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus in Delhi.

Well, from now on this is how drivers/conductors will greet their passengers or with Namaste/ hello/ good morning. And also thank them for choosing DTC bus service for travelling.

Thanks to the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Delhi drivers/conductors are going through an image makeover, especially to welcome foreign players and tourists.

Their curt, sometimes rude behaviour, and shrill dialect are being swapped with sophisticated and suave mannerisms with the icing of English language skills. ‘Please’, ‘thank you’, ‘May I help you’ are expected to get in their daily conversational habits.

About 2,500 bus drivers/conductors are set to be trained in the Queen’s language by September end. The first two batches of 88 and 80 drivers have already completed their three-day training on February 17 and 20 respectively at Haryana Institute of Public Administration (HIPA) in Gurgaon, a satellite town of Delhi.

Is the three-day workshop benefiting them in any way? “Yes, of course” says Dharam Singh, a bus conductor. “This is the first time I’m attending such a crash course. It’s helping us to brush up what we already know and build on it by learning new words and how to pronounce them,” adds he.

As part of the course, the drivers are also being trained in good customer service.
The course, designed by HIPA, is interactive and involves trainees in role playing games.
For instance, the trainees are asked to enact poised or short-tempered conductors dealing with passengers and then decide for themselves the best behavioural practices. They are also asked to assess and award themselves marks on various points such as whether they are punctual, polite, if they are able to keep their passengers happy and have adequate information about routes, bus numbers and their office bearers.

“These courses have been designed after doing a TNA (Trainee Needs Analysis). We developed the module after identifying the needs of the drivers,” said Dr Manveen Kaur who supervises and coordinates the course at HIPA under the guidance of its Director Rajni Shekhri Sibbal.

Apart from this, the drivers are being given personality development lessons that include yoga and stress management with emphasis on personal appearance.

“Physical appearance is very important. This is the basic requirement when you are talking of service quality. Appearance is very tangible. And good appearance gives confidence,” says Madhu Sharma, a personality development trainer.

Sharma tries to drill the importance of personal hygiene in drivers to look neat and clean by “trimming beard and mustache, shaving, clipping nails etc.” She suggests them to “pop in a clove or cardamom, if not chewing gum, after eating food loaded with onion and garlic.”

This generates laughter but the message seems to sink in. “I agree that clean looks and prim manners make one look attractive and professional,” says Naresh Kumar, a driver, with a smile.

Joining DTC drivers are cabbies and auto-rickshaw drivers. Their course is for four days with additional emphasis on how to manage their personal finances, health insurances and children’s education.

“So far more than 1,500 out of 3,500 cabbies and 1,000 out of 8,000 auto drivers have been trained,” informs Manveen Kaur.

“It is good we are learning English speaking, yoga and how to talk to customers. It will definitely help us to understand and serve our customers better,” says Rajesh Kumar, a taxi driver at the Indira Gandhi international Airport.

Vinod Kumar, another driver, says, “It’s great that we are getting a chance to learn all this for free and on top of it we are getting stipend to attend the course.”

The taxi and auto drivers have been nominated by the Ministry of Tourism and Indian Tourist and Tour Association. HIPA is running the training course for them in collaboration with other associates.

By the end of the course the drivers are expected to learn health and safety rules, basic etiquettes, gender sensitivity, how to talk to ladies and dealing with people with special needs.

Whether the commuters will get a taste of drivers’ courteous sensibilities is yet to be seen. However, Delhi is trying its best to be a perfect host to about 100,000 tourists who will make their way to the capital city for the 2010 Games.

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