You might have heard a thing or two about New York cabbies–rude, uncommunicative, can´t understand what you´re saying, that kind of thing. It doesn´t make for very good customer service or a pleasant cab ride. What´s a cab company owner to do?
Simon Garber, president and CEO of a global taxi company (New York Yellow Cab SLS Jet, Chicago Carriage Cab Company, and Moscow Taxis-in Moscow, of course), wanted to set the bar-about ten feet higher than the current benchmark-for customer service. So he founded a "cabbie charm school" in Manhattan and Chicago. He gives his drivers an intensive course on keeping cool even when the customer is losing his (or hers). He wanted his customers to experience a better ride but knew that to accomplish his goal he´d have to give his drivers some specific strategies.
Personally, I´ve never encountered a rude cabbie in Manhattan. My stomach has turned about three dozen times during various rides, but I´ve never felt the need to complain to management about rude behavior. Maybe I´ve been lucky. Still, it happens and that´s how you lose customers. All it takes is for one bad ride, one smart remark, and one disparaging look from the person behind the wheel to lose a customer . . . or maybe five customers. It´s still true: we like to brag about our bad experiences. It makes for colorful conversations and chances are when you open up the discussion to bad customer service someone usually has a story to add.
But I think more and more of us are beginning to add some positive experiences to those conversations and I think that´s something Mr. Garber is counting on. You´ve probably heard that saying about things getting really bad before they can get better. Well, Garber has really found something bad to piggyback upon. His isn´t the only cab company to experience customer service issues, but why not take a universal problem, see how it applies to your own company and then do something about it?
Cabbie Charm School? It got my attention and it´s probably making the rounds to current and prospective customers (though I imagine there are a few cynics out there who might consider it an oxymoron, but remember, it´s often the counter-intuitive ideas that really stick). In addition to providing training for his people Garber is trying to make life a little more pleasant when his drivers aren´t even on the road. He offers his drivers a lounge equipped with a TV, sofas, and showers, which are going to include a gym and a massage room (do I see a "Cabbie Spa" in the future?).
"Customer etiquette, improving personal appearance, offering amenities to customers, enhancing knowledge of critical routes-are all key components of the charm school education I offer my drivers," says Garber. "I created this training to ensure that my drivers distinguish themselves in perhaps the most competitive marketplace in the world. By offering Big Apple passengers a safer and improved quality of ride-on par with the service provided by a limo company- everyone benefits"?¦. The customer has a wonderful experience and my drivers make better tips and earn a better living."
I wonder what Miss Manners would say about a ride in one of Garber´s cabs . . .
Next time: Breaking the Rules