If you live in a city, you probably know about the current battle between Uber car services (and others) vs. taxi companies. Maybe you’ve seen stories in the news or actually found yourself in the middle of a taxi driver protest yourself—like the one that happened just outside our offices in Boston, where cab drivers protested by honking their horns for a solid two hours. The gist of the story is this: taxis are highly regulated forms of public transportation. Depending on local laws, they may have permits to pay for, extra insurance to carry, etc. Then along comes a private, unregulated, service like Uber that is (mostly) offering cheaper fares and taking business away from the taxi drivers. The taxi drivers are understandably frustrated that companies like Uber don’t (for now) have to follow the same guidelines, pay the same fees, etc. I can certainly empathize with the taxis on that front, and I don’t want to under-emphasize the importance of their perspective here. That said, for the purposes of this blog I will focus only on the customer’s perspective…and the potential differences in the customer experience.
I have taken taxis for years and also recently tried a ride with Uber. Thinking about the taxi vs. Uber experience, excluding the fares, here’s my take:
Uber: The company makes it easy to request pickup, regardless of where you are
Traditional Taxi: I either need to see a taxi and flag it down, or have a taxi company phone number on hand and be able to identify my exact location—not always easy in an unfamiliar city
Uber: The app tells me the driver’s name and what he/she looks like, so I know who is picking me up (I can also share that information with my family/friends for safety reasons)
Traditional Taxi: I wouldn’t be able to identify the taxi driver until I’m already in the car
Uber: Payment is charged to the credit card on file—it doesn’t get more convenient
Traditional Taxi: Taxis require that I either have cash on hand, or pull out my credit card and wait for it to be processed
As a customer, I can easily understand the appeal of a service like Uber. Even if the fares were the same, or I had to pay a little extra, I might still choose Uber just for the convenience. As a researcher, I see an opportunity for taxi companies to evaluate the customer experience to find out what they can do better. It’s time for taxi companies to start asking customers…why do you Uber?
Dana is a Research Director at CMB. She loves traveling and exploring new areas, but is admittedly bad with directions. She is uber-excited about the availability of car services like Uber, where she no longer needs to be responsible for providing directions.
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