What marketers can learn from taxi customer-centricity
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What marketers can learn from taxi customer-centricity

Urban transport innovations are transforming consumer expectations. Firms such as Uber, LEVC and Gett are competing to provide the ultimate experience, with the aim of building customer loyalty and trust in a rapidly changing market. What can marketers learn from current developments in the taxi industry?

London taxis have been part of the business landscape for many years. For instance, I loved reading in The Guardian recently of a chance black cab conversation with Comcast chief executive, Brian Roberts, in November, that reportedly helped convince him that his company’s £22bn offer for Sky was good value.

Putting customer needs first

It was a recent impromptu black cab customer experience that promoted me to write this article. Having jumped into a black cab at Paddington Station, my driver refused – and not politely – to take me a short trip home because “it was not worth it” for him to move and leave his spot on the stand. He received some blunt advice from me on his ‘customer service’ and counterintuitive focus on his needs rather than mine. The counter argument to this is obvious: Uber, and other firms, are contributing to creating this behaviour, marginalising the traditional London taxi driver and essentially squeezing them out.

However, there has to be a recognition that the market has changed and there is no going back. By becoming more customer centric, getting on board with an app service like Gett’s, and starting to behave in ways that meet – and exceed –customer expectations, it is possible for black cabs to thrive and win back market share.

Today, I received an email from Gett on ‘Why choose Gett?’, featuring rider feedback, including: ‘Polite, timely drivers…brilliant customer service and it feels so good supporting the black cabbies!" Indeed, in my experience, Gett drivers are unfailingly polite, quick to get me home, and a good laugh to boot. The gamification aspect Gett’s app is superb, and increasingly rewards customer loyalty; recently I got to a level where a welcomed discount to the service was unlocked. Where Gett are not consistent though, is in their fleet availability –at peak times, their available driver network is sometimes limited, which is perhaps a recruitment challenge, reflecting that some owner-drivers do not see the future is already here.

Taxi trust issues

It wouldn’t be fair just to look at the positives of the taxi revolution. Many column inches have been devoted to Uber, so I’ll spare you a full recap, but in terms of customer-centricity, Uber is at least attempting to react to growing calls from its customers for greater protection. They have recently set up 24-hour hotline for UK customers, and publicly committed to proactively reporting any serious incidents to police – emphasising its statements on the safety of riders and drivers using Uber as a top priority. As an addition to their improved safety features introduced by new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, this week Uber also announced that it would also be adding a way for rider to call the emergency services within a new “safety centre” menu, accessible from the app’s home screen.

Uber is making clear attempts to rebuild customer trust and win back loyalty lost by negative publicity, however their customer experience is still at the forefront of consumer attention. Riders have noticed that more often than not they no longer ask if you’d like any aspect of your in-transit experience to be different (music, more or less air con, etc.) as they once did – a really nice personalisation feature of early rides with the company that went a long way with customers new to the service.

Global market innovation

Innovation and new services can be found cropping up throughout the world. In China, Didi recently raised $4bn to expand its research into artificial intelligence and autonomous car technologies. They also announced a strategic partnership with Taxify, a fast-growing ridesharing company in Europe and Africa.

Conversely, London-based transit app Citymapper recently launched Smart Ride, a hybrid bus and taxi service, that will take riders around a fixed network in the capital. Uber’s Khosrowshahi also sees a future where they will also run bus systems and hire bike systems. In Japan, Carmaker Nissan is also testing futuristic "robo-taxis" driverless cabs. Nissan's partner Renault also hopes it can bring the taxis to market by 2020, just in time for the Olympics.

Technology and content are the new taxi battleground

An article published this week by Wired confirms that the new battleground might be ‘in-cab’ conditions, featuring details of the new TX London Cab. Manufacturer LEVC believes it will set itself apart from Uber with luxurious upgrades to the passenger compartment, including a large sunroof, Wi-Fi and USB charging plugs similar to those familiar with Addison Lee’s cars, a massive bonus for the modern consumer who is always fighting their battery life or data plan.

Another fascinating move from Uber is their transition into original content, and their funding of the creation of a documentary series following drivers around the UK with Channel 4’s on-demand service, All 4. Launched earlier this week, ‘Where to, Britain?’ will feature six five-minute episodes that follow Uber drivers as they pick up and drop off people across the UK. Passengers featured in the series will include Manchester United players travelling to and from football practice, alongside other genuine Uber users. The content will be promoted and distributed within the Uber app, and geo-targeted to users by city, serving the episode closest to the passenger’s location. The campaign champions both the diversity of Uber users and the fixture of Uber in the life of a modern Briton.

For marketers, it is an interesting response to Uber’s negative press in recent years, including the London license ban, that puts the customer at the heart of their next step forwards. If more brands can put their customers’ needs at the heart of everything they do, just like the modern taxi driver, customer loyalty and repeat business will follow.

To learn how you can make your business truly customer-focused, attend our dedicated training course on customer experience management

Dr Geraint Evans, FCIM Award winning marketing professional, writer and presenter
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