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Disrupted? Being Down Doesn’t Mean You Are Out

Taxi companies have been knocked down by ride sharing companies wielding technology and ease that customers adore. To paraphrase Mark Twain, however, the death of taxi cabs and taxi companies has been greatly exaggerated.

Across the United States, taxi companies are doing their best Rocky Balboa impersonations and getting up off the mat to compete with their nemesis. In the process, they are proving that the adage “never waste a good crisis” works as well in business as it does in politics.

Taxi Companies Rediscover the Truth

People in my profession ride in lots of chauffeured-driven vehicles. You love it when you get an executive car service, but the truth is that there are a many taxi cabs involved. My 25 years of experience has convinced me that the average taxi company and driver views the passenger as a fare not a person.

There are exceptions of course. Taxi Terry in Jacksonville, Florida is legendary for exceptional service, but a significant percentage – if not a clear majority – of taxi drivers make you feel that taking your business is a chore done on their terms rather than yours.

When the bar for expected performance is low, you are ripe for disruption. Ride sharing companies didn’t grow simply because of the technology. They flourished because they gave customers exactly what they want – ease of use and an overall better experience.

Customers, in fact, were willing to overlook factors such as surge pricing and the potential for unlicensed drivers to partake in a better experience. There was no more standing in the rain trying to hail a taxi. The driver didn’t give you grief when you asked to pay by credit card rather than cash. Every driver actually helped you retrieve your luggage from the trunk, and you were given an opportunity to provide immediate feedback that had an impact on a driver’s continued employment.

Taxi companies initially responded to the new threat in anger. Then some of them rediscovered the customer and, most important, her/his right to choose the company with which they do business.

Perhaps the most visible example of this change is the launch of taxi-hailing apps that provide a competitive experience to ride sharing companies. Curb, for example, provides access to 35,000 cars in 90 cities.

Jason Gross, global head of product and marketing at VeriFone Taxi Systems, said, “What the ridesharing services have taught everybody is that people like the convenience of pushing a button and watching their car arrive.”

Some companies and communities are going even further to focus traditional taxi cabs on the customer. DC Taxi is touting the extensive experience and local knowledge of its licensed and insured drivers as a point of distinction. It openly communicates that its drivers have undergone FBI background checks so that passengers are confident in their safety. Additionally, DC Taxi offers specially trained drivers with wheel-chair accessible taxis and multiple payment options to increase convenience.

Lessons for You

The best option for every business is to be continually focused on improving performance and enhancing the customer experience. Today, that means a constant investment in technology.

Even then, there times when you are knocked down by disruption that you did not anticipate. When that happens, there are three lessons you can take from the taxi industry’s response to ride-sharing companies.

  1. It’s normal to be angry. Just don’t allow your anger to paralyze you with inaction. Remember, the change doesn’t really care if you are angry or not.
  2. Be prepared to invest in radical change to catch up to the competition. It will be expensive and difficult, but you are playing catch up. There is nothing that your competition can do that cannot be replicated and improved.
  3. Don’t forget to recognize, communicate, and execute your advantage. For instance, would you rather have a part-time driver who may or may not know the local community, or would you rather have a full-time professional who knows the streets like the back of his/her hand?

Disruption will knock you down. It is up to you if that means knocking you out. Rocky Balboa (paraphrasing Yogi Berra) said it well, “Ain’t nothing over ‘til it’s over.”

Author information

Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.