I’ve been a huge fan of the company/service Uber since it came out. The taxi industry is a miserable industry and has been for a long time. It’s completely demand based and there is no recourse for bad service. If they don’t want to pick you up they don’t have to and if they give you crappy service there’s really nothing you can do about it but call a number and leave a message no one will ever listen to. When Uber came out it was a breath of fresh air. Finally someone figured out a better way. This new model is based on supply and demand. If there’s a bad experience on either side you have an easy way of filing and tracking a complaint that actually means something.
The taxi industry is fighting Uber in every city you go to and taxi drivers get completely pissed off every time they see an Uber driver or if you bring up Uber in discussion. To a certain degree I understand their aggravation. They probably spent a lot of time and money on one of those medallions and they have to follow far more regulations than Uber drivers do. I would have some sympathy for them if the majority of them didn’t completely suck. I’ve taken hundreds of cab rides in my life and I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve had a pleasant experience. I’ve had plenty of ok experiences and more than a handful of terrible ones. With Uber I haven’t had one bad experience (yet).
The Uber phenomenon got me thinking about how we live in a world now where competition can come from anywhere at any time and if we get lazy we can get blindsided by it. Early in my career I fought competition hard. I ended up focusing more of my time on beating the competition than I did on my customer. I’ve shifted my mentality on competition and now welcome it and for multiple reasons. Competition validates the industry. Healthy competition keeps you sharp and forces you to pay attention. You can also learn from your competition in more ways than one.
The taxi industry is trying to fight Uber instead of focusing on how to improve themselves which is why I believe that industry will continue to die a painful death. However, there are a few drivers that get it and may survive. They are the ones who realize customer service matters. They realize Uber is here to stay and there really isn’t much they can do about it other than accept it and figure out a way to co-exist. For example, I recently took a taxi in Chicago for the first time in a long time. It was short trip but they weather was bad and I had some luggage with me. Since I know how much they hate short trips (because they usually complain to me about them) I apologized upfront and said I would give him a good tip. He surprised me by saying that he didn’t mind and accepted it as part of the job. He then talked about how he didn’t understand how other drivers complained about that kind of thing and we went on to have a really good conversation about the importance of work ethic and customer service. When he dropped me off I thanked him, told him that was one of the best taxi experiences I’ve ever had, gave him a good tip and wished him luck. He got it. I’m sure he was this way before Uber came around but I’m guessing he’s acutely aware of the impact they are having and he’s trying to do something about it.
Welcome competition, get to know them, pay attention and never ever get lazy. Good luck and happy selling.