Taxi hire space across the globe is going through a metamorphosis of sorts. The new kid on the block is the hailing taxi applications that have taken root in many cities and a major factor that makes them tick is customer satisfaction. There is no denying the fact that some of these services did experience sporadic instances of bad behaviour by their drivers and in many nations, the companies running these app-based taxi hailing services have been hauled up by the law enforcement agencies.
Traditionally, taxi operations are pretty much a business focusing on local customers such as travellers arriving at airports, train stations or other means of intercity and intracity transport. In bigger cities, people also hire taxis for getting around on various errands and no one ever thought of taxi hire as an organized business with an international flavour. Uber was among the first to dig into this massive space and quickly spread its wings far and wide. The success of Uber saw competition hotting up pretty fast and soon they had some competition to reckon with in many parts of the world. But, that notwithstanding, Uber has continued its journey on a healthy growth trajectory.
For the traditional taxi business in Victoria and elsewhere, the app-based taxi hailing services came as a bolt from the blue and many of them were unprepared for the sea change that these taxi aggregators or app-based taxi hailing services made to the market. In most markets where these services were introduced, customers started pouring in and suddenly these services came to be defined as a standard for taxi services.
Ashish Rekhi, owner of Melbourne’s biggest and top-rated maxi cab company, Taxi Maxi says “In some markets, for long, customers were literally taken for a ride and now with customers beginning to experience what a taxi service should be, it is pretty much difficult to ask customers to forego the desirable experience that they have started enjoying. The reason customers love our service than competitors is that we take serious introspection to enhance customer satisfaction levels.”
Customer experience with traditional taxis in Australia and elsewhere has also been impacted by systemic issues. In Australia, for instance, taxi licensing comes at a hefty price and obviously, this gets factored into what the customer pays for the service. The App based taxi hailing services appear to have succeeded in short-circuiting this regulatory requirement significantly influencing their pricing. Thankfully, the Victorian government appears to have acknowledged the anomaly and measures are underway to mitigate the pain.
Historically, taxi licenses in Australia had all the trappings of an investment such as in the stock markets or bullion markets. But, with the arrival of the App based taxi hailing services, the price of these licenses have been falling like the proverbial nine pins dealing a body blow to the license holders. The sooner the Government addresses this issue, the better it would be for the Australian taxi industry in general.
Suddenly, we have jumped into an era where the customer is flooded with options. And, when many of these options are offering not just improved services, but also cheaper prices and more comfortable vehicles, taxis that struggle to keep fit and drivers who tend to forget that they are not the masters only add to the overflowing cup of woes that the taxi industry is experiencing.
Customer focused orientation
The taxi industry is at the crossroads, not only in Australia but also in many cities around the world. They need to reinvent the wheel to stay in the race. For long, customers have suffered from late reporting, missed flights, unclean vehicles, improper behaviour from drivers, no-shows after accepting a booking, and the list of woes customers faced can perhaps go on endlessly. Time has arrived now for the taxi industry to take stock, get into the shoes of the customer and understand how they can gain lost ground.
The last two decades have brought a sea of changes in the way we live. The internet, in particular, has impacted millions of lives through some have suffered negative impact too. For instance, two decades you could never imagine a successful business without a handful of secretaries and typewriters. While computers have taken over the role of typewriters, secretaries are fast disappearing because most jobs handled by them are handled by the bosses, perhaps, more efficiently too! We simply cannot wish away these changes, particularly when the changes themselves are for the better. Therefore, traditional taxis around the world, including Australia need to learn the art of converting threats into opportunities. No government can ever force a customer to hire a particular service. Governments create environments in which citizens get the facilities they need to make life more convenient and easy. But, when technology brings more relief to people, government initiatives take to the back seat. If taxis are not hired by passengers, there is little that the government can do to force them. In other parts of the world, people are already finding ways to compete with the App based taxi hailing services and some of them are already tasting success. The need of the hour is to realign the thinking and focus on a paradigm shift in attitudes. Services for which a customer is paying cannot be pushed down his throat. Service providers must endear themselves to the customer.
The Australian taxi industry in general and maxi taxis like Taxi Maxi should receive considerable attention from the regulators. One factor that will work in favour of the taxi industry is the softening of fuel prices in the past couple of years. If we go by the current global predictions the trend is likely to remain stable or even move further down. An upward move in fuel prices in the international market appears to be a distant cry, at least for now. The government, on its part also appears to be seriously concerned about the plight of the taxi industry and one would expect favourable decisions emerging sooner than later.