Redesign the taxi journey — reflections on a Meetup

“or you don’t get if you don’t ask”

We had our first Meetup, where Business Love Design team has introduced itself in real life, as well. The goal of the Meetup was to perform an exemplary service design session where the gathered crowd analyzes problems around a specific topic, through a customer centered point of view, using service design methods and a facilitated process, to formulate possible solutions, intervention suggestions. (more info about the whys and hows)

The topic was “redesign the taxi journey”, and we asked the participants to really rethink how we think about the taxi experience. Drivers and executives from taxi companies and Uber drivers were participating and working together, which gave us unexpected and eye-opening insights. It turned out to be a surprising lesson!

What did we expect?

We ourselves at Business Love Design team are frequent taxi users, also we did our research on the topic; made some guerrilla interviews during taxi rides, and altogether were prepared to manage an interactive, co-designing workshop with some brainstorming and creation session. Comparative business examples, such as Uber were used to illustrate the yet untapped possible directions or adaptable solutions.

Our general preconception about the possible outcome was that after the Meetup we would have an advanced, tech-infused, revised taxi customer journey with identified problems to solve as a take-away. But we got much more than that, and for reasons we did not expect.

What happened, (and how did we work)?

The task was to examine the taxi customer journey, take it apart along the main stages and work in small groups around them. The groups rephrased the specific customer objectives of each stage in order to compare them to the desired or achieved customer experience, then created ideas on how to better them.

The taxi journey was divided into different phases; research (how to get to know about the service / providers / specific services and offers), join (when someone decides to call a taxi / downloads the app / orders a taxi), use (rides from A to B with the help of a taxi, or uses the taxi for a specific reason), feedback, and leave stages (when someone shares positive or negative feedback, opinion, starts advocacy or boycott).

After a short introduction and explanation of the journey model, small groups of 6–7 people were composed, with 1 or 2 facilitator from the Business Love Design team, and with possibly at least 1 taxi or Uber driver as a participant, too. Once the groups were formed, the brainstorming has started!

Handling the unexpected

Discussions were started, stories were shared, resistance got decreased, and ideas were born. Still, inside the groups, there was a noticeably different attitude from the taxi drivers / taxi company leaders than from their users. The former part claimed that every possible customer need is already answered (“It’s only the customers don’t know about it!”) and the latter part insisted that they don’t see that.

Maybe this was also the reason why the customer parts of the groups ended up with very synergetic observations about the needed changes (even if everything is already solved — according to the taxi companies).

These observations were converging around five main topics:

  • Full personalization of the trip and the circumstances
  • Transparent, traceable, consistent, and predictable fare
  • Free wifi in the taxi
  • Free choice of music (from the passenger’s part and not from the driver’s!)
  • Easy and non punishing way of giving feedback, comments

These observations may seem trivial, but when working on such a common and univocal service as the taxi, it is easy to undervalue the small — but from a customer-point-of-view important — differences that would make the difference. Even though the representatives from the taxi companies argued that all of the above mentioned customer needs and wishes were already answered, or they have been offering solutions for them, the general public (illustrated by the majority of the Meetup attendees) did not know about these possibilities, and were rather surprised how different a taxi ride could be! The other way around, the taxi company leaders did not understand, how is it possible that the general public seem to know so little about their offerings.

Apparently, our local taxi companies have communication issues rather than an unwillingness to hear the voice of their current or future customers, and probably they would need more effort on communicating back their openness and innovations to them. (read more on how to close communication gaps)

Surprisingly fun

And there is even more! Through the taxi drivers’ stories we dived into a whole new understanding of the possibilities a taxi could offer. Each attending driver had a good 20-something years of experience behind the chauffeur’s seat, and they turned out to be excellent storytellers, as well.

We learned, that taxi (drivers) can help you with:

  • Walking the dog
  • Assisting to delivering birth (in the taxi)
  • Carrying children to school and back
  • Delivering various objects (the limit is only your fantasy)

Also, they operate not only as chauffeurs, but as the main supporters of house parties (delivery of everything needed), or as prominent partners in executing customers’ romantic plans. Moreover, for some reason, many drivers have ambulance work experience, they are well prepared for emergencies. We also learned that currently there is a bill under preparation that would allow taxis to get equipped with a defibrillator, so that the certified ones can be called for life-saving interventions.

Conclusions

After the initial resistance (and serial denial), the common work together with the taxi representatives was especially fun, interesting even uplifting — both for us, the organizers, and for the participants, either as “customers” or taxi drivers.

The goal of our Meetup was not the promotion of taxi services, but it became very clear to us that taxi companies are indeed progressing and they have distinctive features (compared to other mobile ride hail companies). But until they communicate them crystal clear, and not by waiting for their customers to understand this by themselves, their perception will be hard to change.

Now what would be fun is to go back to guerrilla mode again, ask the taxi drivers the same questions and see if all our needs would really be answered and completed. So if you are riding a taxi next time (in Budapest) ask for free wifi and for your favorite band to stream, and let’s see what happens! (We would be curious, too!)

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