What do we as a trade do well? we know that we are the best and the most rigorously tested drivers in the World in fact no other Taxi driver in no other City in no other Country in the World has to know a fraction of what a London Cabbie has to know, we know that our vehicles are the most stringently tested in the World, we know we drive the most ionic and recognisable vehicle in the World so we could all agree that we offer the best Taxi service in the World, in fact we have been voted the best Taxi service in the World year on year by various organisations.
So why are we not every passengers first choice of personal transport?
We know that there are those hotel staff who blatantly lie to the guests exaggerating the prices charged by a London Taxi to an airport or any other journey of substantial distance, we are also well aware of why these unscrupulous staff mislead their paying guests as they are looking for a “bung” from the private hire driver or company who ultimately ends up taking the guest to the airport, of course the guest ultimately pays for the hotel staff “bung” by paying an overinflated fare for their journey.
So what can we do about all of this? The key is promotion, we as a trade do not promote ourselves very well, in fact we do not really promote ourselves at all, we need to rectify this situation if we are to survive in todays climate, the private hire fraternity are extremely good at this otherwise they would not have any work as the customer would not know how to contact them. We are instantly available and recognisable and yet we are losing ground to the private hire trade so we need to learn how to use every kind of media to promote the trade from which we all earn our living.
We need to inform the travelling public that it is mostly a myth that private hire are cheaper than us and that in fact in a lot of instances they are far more expensive, we need to offer comparisons to every other form of ground transportation prices and our own, how many travellers are under the impression that it is cheaper to get to Heathrow using the Heathrow Express than going by Taxi? Firstly they have to get to Paddington to catch the train and then if there are 2 or more people travelling the combined Taxi fare to Paddington and the Train fare could well exceed that of travelling directly to Heathrow by London Taxi.
Whilst standing in Heathrow terminal 3 last month I was wandering around looking at prices charged by other companies, one that caught my eye was that of a bus company called Hotel Link. This company use minibuses to transport passengers from Heathrow direct to their hotel, well I say direct but the reality is that the bus may well visit many other hotels dropping off passengers before actually getting to your hotel of choice, and how much do they charge for what they describe as a premium service? They charge £22.00 one way into Central London or £38.00 return, now it doesn’t take a mathematician t work out they we can offer a service at a much lower price based on 3 or 4 people travelling, so why are we not promoting this?
So how are we going to combat the competition that we are getting from all forms of transport? Well where tourists are concerned we need to get to them before they even enter the Country, we need to promote ourselves and that fact that we are the best Taxi Service in the World, most travellers these days research their travel via the internet before they even leave home, so basically that is how we need to “get at them”, we need to use our websites to tell travellers that we can in most cases be cheaper than the competition.
One good scheme that has been started in the last few days is in operation at the Cumberland Hotel where a capped fare scheme is being offered to hotel guests travelling to any airport, (a scheme that a prominent figure within our own trade said would not work) this is not a fixed price offering and not really a discount scheme but it just advises the passenger of what they maximum they should expect to pay in a London Taxi would be. This project has come to fruition through the hard work of the volunteer guys at the United Cabbies Group for which they are to be applauded, they hope to extend this project and scheme to other hotels around the London area, but in reality why cant this scheme be extended further than that. In New York all Yellow Cabs offer a Capped Fare scheme to JFK Airport of $45.00 and they advertise that fact on the most of their cabs, so why can we not do the same in London, this could be an opt in scheme fro drivers so that if they do not want to do capped price fares then the choice is theirs but if enough drivers opted into the scheme it could be a real success if it were promoted correctly.
We already know that most people would much rather use a London Taxi than a private hire vehicle and yet we do not take advantage of this fact, we have already covered the tourists but how can we convert the indigenous Londoners, well we need to converse with our customers, we need to hand out leaflets to potential passengers, we need to use every possible way available to us to. We could convince those who sell advertising on our cabs that when they do not have an advert for a cab in contract that rather than just put plain black supersides on a cab that they should use this valuable advertising space to promote our trade with some carefully worded campaigns.
There are so many options open to us to promote our trade and also to expose those establishments who rip off naive and unsuspecting travellers, we need to put our heads together and unite to work as a team to combat the threats to our trade, lets all put our differences aside and work together for the betterment of our trade and ultimately the betterment of ourselves.