Why Uber/Lyft Disrupted The Taxi Industry - Guest Blogger Danny Snow

This post comes from guest blogger, Danny Snow.

If you have ever been in a taxicab, you likely know that it’s not a very glamorous mode of transportation.  They’re rarely clean, drivers aren’t typically very friendly and the entire experience can be frustrating.  Which is why rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft were able to come in and disrupt the entire industry.  For the past 10 years or so, I don’t believe I’ve even been in a taxi and I certainly haven’t missed them.  Recently, I was forced into a situation where I needed to take a taxi and it was an unforgettable experience, and not in a good way.

Last week, I flew into Grand Island, Nebraska, for a speaking engagement and learned that there are still some areas that ride share programs like Uber and Lyft really don’t have much of a presence due to a lack of demand for their services. 

After landing in Grand Island, I tried to secure an Uber for the short ride to my hotel and that’s when I learned they weren’t available in this area.  So, I checked out front for a cab stand only to find out there wasn’t one of those either.  I went back inside to talk with the folks at the rental car area to see if there was a taxi service and they gave me a number to call.  I called and was told there were a couple of pickups ahead of me but they would definitely be there to get me at some point.

I didn’t have high hopes.  They didn’t take any of my information nor was the voice on the other end very pleasant.  So, I went back inside to the rental car desk to inquire about the cost and availability of their cars for the day.  The price was a bit higher than I would have liked to pay for only 24-hours of use (although looking back now, I wish I had just rented the car) so I decided to go back outside and wait for the taxi to show up. 

Great Customer Service Example

Before getting to my story about this taxi company, I want to share with you an example of a great customer service experience I had with a gentleman at the Hertz/Thrifty rental desk.  As I was sitting outside waiting for the cab, Jordan from the Hertz/Thrifty rental car desk came outside and offered to drive me to my hotel.  He needed to fill one of the cars up with gas and since my hotel wasn’t that far away, he could drop me off and not be away from work for too long.

It was a completely unexpected surprise and it was one of those moments that restores your faith in humanity.  In our consulting business, we often discuss the importance of building the “little wows” into your everyday interactions with customers to constantly delight them and keep them wanting to come back.  The “big wows” are great when you can do them and to me, this was a “big wow.” 

First off, I wasn’t even a customer and Jordan knew there was a 99.9 percent chance I’d never see him again so there was no real obligation on his part to offer the ride.  He was just a genuinely nice person looking to help someone in need of assistance.  That spoke volumes to me about his character and also makes me want to look for ways to do business with Hertz in the future.  While we have used Hertz over the years, that one act could potentially lock in a loyal customer for them for years to come. 

It would have been great if Jordan could have continued to drive me around for the remainder of my trip but I was now going to need to rely on that taxi company in order to get me from my hotel to the venue for my presentation (and back again) as well as back to the airport. 

Bad Customer Service Examples

Once I got to my hotel, I called the same taxi company (apparently, it’s the only one in town) on Thursday afternoon to schedule a few pickups for the rides that I would need.  The first was a 7:15am pickup for Friday morning.  They told me that 6:45am would be much more convenient for them which told me everything I really needed to know about this company.  He could have easily told me that they were already booked for 7:15am but had an opening at 6:45am if I wanted it.  But to tell the customer that you are much more concerned about your own convenience as opposed to theirs was a big strike against them. 

Since I had to be at the venue by 7:30am for an A/V check, I went ahead and took the 6:45am slot.  To their credit, the taxi was waiting to pick me up at 6:45am which was very unexpected.  However, the driver was sound asleep in his car and I had to knock on the window to wake him up.  He proceeded to fall back asleep at the next two red lights we came to and I had to wake him up when it turned green.  As we were driving down the main road, I could see in the rearview mirror that he was falling asleep again and so I started talking to him just to keep him awake. 

To make matters worse, he didn’t know how to get to the venue nor did he have a GPS in his car so I directed him using my phone.  When we arrived at the venue and he gave me the price of the fare, I handed him my credit card and then he informed me that they only take cash, which no one had bothered to mention at any point.  So, we left to go and find an ATM.

As we left, he asked me what time I called the office to book the ride and after telling him, he went on a long rant about how useless and worthless the guy is that takes the calls at that time of day.  In our customer service world, that’s a big no-no.  We teach our corporate clients that when we throw one part of our company under the bus, we’re throwing the whole company under the bus.  And this driver couldn’t wait to trash his fellow employee.

Getting back to the venue from the ATM worked out okay.  Fortunately, my client offered to drive me back to my hotel after my speaking engagement when I told her about my crazy morning with the taxi driver.  But I still needed one more ride to bring me from my hotel back to the airport after I had a chance to shower and change my clothes to something more comfortable for the flight back home.  I had previously scheduled an afternoon pickup with the taxi company the day before and knew I had no other choice than to use them in order to get back to the airport.   

As luck would have it, I ended up with the same driver from earlier that morning.  Fortunately, he was at least wide awake this time.  He was chatty and I don’t remember how the conversation reached this point, but he started telling me how he was recently in jail and was currently under house arrest.  Which obviously made me wonder, how are you able to be out and driving me around? 

I am always on the lookout for examples of good and bad customer service and this trip certainly provided me with both.  As I reflect back on these experiences, I believe that there are seven customer service takeaways from this story. 

Be On The Lookout For Ways To Wow Your Customers           

First off, if you can ever be like Jordan from Hertz/Thrifty and deliver a “big wow” for your customer, I think that you should.  Obviously, it’s not always possible to do it and in this particular case, I wasn’t even a customer, just a person that needed some help.  But he was a very kind person and went above and beyond for someone he was not likely to ever see again and I think that spoke volumes about him.  And as I mentioned earlier, it’s going to make me continue looking for times to use Hertz. 

See The Experience Through The Lens Of Your Customer

Don’t ever tell your customer that you are more concerned about your own convenience than you are with theirs.  While it may be true that you can’t accommodate their need, your customer should still feel as if they are valued.  By telling me that it would be much more convenient for them to pick me up at 6:45am, they conveyed that my time isn’t nearly as valuable as their own.  Your company processes and actions should be designed to see the experience through the lens of whoever it is that you are serving.  

Don’t Sleep On The Job

Never fall asleep on the job, especially if that job requires you to drive others around.  I wouldn’t even think that’s something that needs to be said, but here we are.  I realize some jobs require working long hours and there are a million other things that could be happening in your life which could cause you to be sleepy, angry, irritable, etc., but letting it impact your job or potentially causing harm to others as a result should never happen.  Have some coffee, tea, 5-hour energy or whatever you need to do in order to stay alert enough to do your job.

Be Prepared For Your Job

Always show up to work prepared for the day.  In this case, he knew prior to picking me up where I needed to go.  If you don’t know something or how to get somewhere, ask someone.  Considering this was a taxi service, I’d at least assume they would be equipped with a GPS.  If you are someone in management, be sure to put the tools in your employee’s hands so they are set up for success.

Manage The Customer’s Expectations

In my first taxi ride, I shouldn’t have found out when it was time to pay that they only accepted cash.  That information should have been provided to me when I scheduled the ride.  I scheduled three rides with them the day of my presentation and this was the same company I originally spoke to about getting a ride from the airport to my hotel.  Throughout those two conversations, that policy should have been discussed with me at some point.  It probably should have been reiterated to me as I got in the cab.  This goes back to seeing the experience through your customers’ lens.  If you know that one of your processes requires something specific from your customer, communicate that need ahead of time in order to make for a smooth transaction.

Take Ownership Of The Situation With Your Customer

When something inevitably goes wrong (in this case, the customer not having cash to pay for the ride), your first instinct shouldn’t be to blame someone else.  While I wasn’t annoyed with the driver for this policy and wouldn’t have blamed him for it, his reaction was to immediately throw his colleague under the bus and it was obvious how little he cared for his co-worker.  A simple apology for the lack of communication would have sufficed in this situation.

Maintain A Professional Relationship With Your Customer

Unless it is absolutely necessary for the transaction, don’t share that you’ve recently been in jail and are currently on house arrest.  Keep the conversation professional.  I’m all for building rapport and having fun with your customers, but there is a line.  I can’t say for certain what that line is, but it’s probably somewhere way before you get to talking about being in jail. 

Conclusion

As I was riding in this taxi, the only thought I had was, “This is why Uber/Lyft completely disrupted the taxicab industry.”  I know those stories have been done to death over the years but this was a good reminder for any business to make sure they don’t go to the brink of extinction like the taxicab. 

By following the principles above and avoiding the mistakes of my taxi driver, you have a real opportunity to separate your business from the competition.  If you’d like more information on how Snow & Associates, Inc. can help your business, give us a call at (407) 294-1855 or email me at danny@snowassociates.com.  You can also visit www.snowassociates.com for additional information.