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The old cliché ‘first impressions last’ is a scary thought when applied to some big city taxi drivers.

For many visitors to this country, after they have gone through the long process of customs and waiting to pick up their luggage at Sydney airport, a taxi ride into the city is often the next step.

While there really are some polite and courteous taxi drivers out there, I really hope the disgruntled drivers don’t treat tourists the same way an acquaintance of mine, let’s call him John, was treated recently on a trip to Melbourne. Taxi drivers aren’t always revered for their politeness, but this driver went over the top.

Take the long way home

John was returning to Sydney after a business conference and instead of flying back, he thought he’d enjoy the scenery and travel by train. A long trip, yes, but it was the weekend.

He was staying at an expensive hotel in an upmarket part of Melbourne, and after checking-out, got into the first taxi queued at the hotel’s entrance.

“Where you going?” the taxi driver asked.

“Southern Cross station, please,” said John. Southern Cross Station was about a short ten-dollar trip from the hotel, but with all his bags, there was no way he could walk there.

“I only take people to the airport. I’ve been waiting here for half an hour, and you only want to go down the road?!” 

The taxi driver was irate and complained that John would have to pay cash! Taxi drivers can do it tough – long tiring shifts and having to deal with all sorts of customers. I don't want to rain down on the customer service skills of all taxi drivers, but this taxi driver had a problem!

A smart move

A staff member at Switzer, Andrew, went to Dubbo a couple of years ago and had to travel around in taxis. The distance from Dubbo airport to the town centre is not far, but the taxi driver, instead of getting all upset about the small fare, had a trick up his sleeve. On the way to the hotel, the driver was very polite and talked about things to do and see in the area, as well as providing a bit of a history lesson. He then handed Andrew his business card and said to give him a call should he need to go anywhere. 

When doing business, especially retail or services, it’s important to think about what sort of perception customers will take away about your business.

Take home tips

Here are a few lessons all business owners can take away from these taxi experiences:

  • Don't take out your frustrations on customers no matter how bad your day has been. Think how your actions may affect the future of your business
  • Keep in mind that even though a customer may not buy much on a first visit, they may become a repeat customer in the future. Wow a customer with great customer service and they’re likely to return to spend more in the future

Don't be stingy with your business cards. Hand them out to everyone. 

Published on: Friday, August 14, 2009

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