It shouldn’t be ‘game over’ for taxi companies

It shouldn’t be ‘game over’ for traditional taxi companies, if they reinvent themselves and take their customer experience to a new level, that is.

Luckily this week’s taxi strike was announced in time, so I could relocate my morning appointment on 27/03/2018 from Brussels to the virtual world. A meeting with four people, each in a different location. So 2018. What if, from now on, a meeting location would be ‘online’ by default? Oh, not really what you were aiming for, dear taxi drivers? And those short videos explaining ‘What is Uber and how do I use it’ in the primetime newscasts were a bit unfortunate too?

Uber is not perfect. And I do not agree with every decision the company makes. But Uber does, just like many popular start- and scale-ups today, understand perfectly that success lies in applying digital technology to drastically improve the customer experience. And if we’re being frank, a traditional taxi ride rarely results in an ear-to-ear smile.

When I’m traveling from La Défense in Paris to Gare du Nord, the Uber-app tells me exactly when I will be arriving. So, if needed, I can reschedule my Thalys back to Brussels. Upon leaving the Uber, the payment is automatically processed via our company account and the receipt is already back in Gent when I enter the train station. The only thing I should worry about is catching my train. I booked my ride while I was saying goodbye to my client. I only leave the building when my driver has already arrived. I know exactly who my driver is, what his name is, what type of car he’s driving, what his license plate is. And what other customers think about him.

A superior customer experience: easy, transparent, no stress, no worries. And the price? In Paris it’s mostly in line with a traditional taxi. I would even be prepared to pay more for this kind of service, that so perfectly caters to my needs and expectations.

‘Game over’ for the traditional taxi companies? No. On the condition that they reinvent their service and boost their customer experience to a higher level. And not this one time, but continuously. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. You can’t stop the waves of digital transformation, but you can learn how to surf.

Solutions

How? Continuously scan for new innovations that can solve current issues, reverse-engineer and copy the success model of Uber, Lyft and others (there’s more to it than just building an app), look for solutions that go further than ‘driving from A to B’, become a partner with other mobility providers and build your future starting from your own strengths. But go further. Much further.

Connected taxis that map traffic congestion in real-time and provide smarter routes than Waze? A multi-lingual Alexa in every taxi that makes interaction with tourists possible? VR-glasses that recognize the landmarks while you’re driving by them?

Legislation should provide a level playing field. But then it is up to the taxi industry to take their (digital) future into their own hands. A lack of energy or passion will not be the issue. That too, we have been able to witness on March 27th 2018.

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Opinion piece by Geert Martens