As more and more stories come out about passengers being endangered or even assaulted by Uber and Lyft drivers, some riders are starting to have second thoughts about the safety of those services, at least when traveling alone. In addition, the public at large is learning that Uber and Lyft’s weak driver background checks are putting some very dangerous drivers on the road.
I recently worked as an Expert Witness on a case in California where a Lyft driver, in his first day on the street, lost control of his car and killed the 8th passenger he ever picked up. The driver came to California from a country where people drove on the opposite side of the street, and he had very little driving experience here in the U.S. He had never driven on an interstate, had never driven in the rain and, tragically, did not understand that drivers need to slow down on an interstate while driving in the rain. He didn’t know any methods of setting a proper following distance, he didn’t know how to use his mirrors, and …. the list of things he did not know goes on and on. The fact is, he barely knew how to drive at all, a fact Lyft would have learned if they gave their drivers an actual road test. As you might know, Lyft and Uber’s “mentor” session is actually designed to make sure the vehicle is presentable and the drivers know how to operate the app. Actual driving skills are never measured. In contrast, taxi drivers generally are vetted, trained, and observed much more closely than Uber or Lyft drivers are, and the taxi industry has been wise to make that a big part of their marketing campaigns over the past couple of years.
Meanwhile, you need to do your part to make your passengers feel safe, and to understand that safety is the most important thing on their mind. When I visit taxicab companies around the country one of the things I like to do is to ride as an observer, and I often find a cab driver willing to take me with him or her for the day. I try to spend as many hours riding along as I can, and during this time one of the things I enjoy doing is interviewing the passengers. It is surprising how frank some of the passengers will be,even with the driver sitting right there. Although there is occasionally some variation, most of the feedback I get from these riders tends to be the same from city to city. Here is a summary of the type of things that most taxicab passengers, maybe even yours, say is important to them.
Passengers are worried about safety.
Put yourself in your rider’s position!!! Many taxi drivers don’t realize they might not be driving safely from the passenger’s point of view, and that is the only point of view that counts. You spend your whole day immersed in traffic, so certain road conditions that may frighten your rider may seem perfectly normal to you. Your riders do not necessarily know what you know, and they most likely don’t have nearly the amount of driving experience that you have. In other words, you need to remember that your passengers may very well have a different comfort level than you do regarding road safety, driving speed, and traffic conditions; so take it
easy and put yourself in their shoes when you are driving them to their destination.
Look at things from their perspective, not from yours.
Drive a safe speed, avoid abrupt stops and drive the way you would if you had your own family in your cab.
Passengers do not feel safe when cab drivers talk on their cell phone while driving- Using your cell phone while transporting a fare is not only rude, but may also cause you to drive unsafely. This is one of the worst things a cab driver can do. Not only is it rude and unsafe, but it’s a very poor business practice.
How would you like your dentist to be talking on the phone when examining your mouth with a sharp instrument? What about your hair stylist talking on the phone when she is using a scissor around your ears? What about a waitress putting your food on the table while she was talking to someone on her cell phone? Those examples are ridiculous, you say? True, but they are no different from a cab driver talking on the phone while driving.
Recent traffic statistics show the huge connection between accidents and people talking or texting on their cell phone. Start thinking about this as a complete No-No!! When you are on the phone you are not just ignoring the customer, which is highly rude, but this is also a bad business practice. What if the passenger has a question? What if they want you to wait and return them to their place of pickup? Do you think they would want to take a round-trip with a driver who was driving unsafely and ignoring them? No way!! Get off the phone until the passenger is gone. Then make your call from a safe, off-the-road location.
Passengers often do not feel comfortable with unfriendly drivers.
You are a transportation provider, but you are also part of your city’s tourism and hospitality industry. Therefore, you must have some degree of customer service skills. When a passenger gets in your cab, treat them in a friendly manner. Open the door for them, get their bags or their luggage, be polite when you speak to them during the trip, then thank them graciously when they depart.
And learn to professionally handle the situation when your customer is upset. It is very likely that the customer is upset because the cab
arrived later than they expected, so they might have a right to be upset. Even if the passenger does not seem to realize that they called a cab at the busiest possible time (bad weather, rush hour, etc) this does not give you a reason to be rude. In fact, your ability to handle this particular situation says a lot about you as a professional.
First of all, you must allow an angry passenger to vent. Don’t take their anger personally. They are not mad at you; they are just mad. Sympathize with the person. Tell them that you feel bad that they are upset, and that you know how they feel. Tell them that you wish that the issue that has upset them had not occurred. Even if your company has done anything wrong, go ahead and apologize anyway. The customer will appreciate your apology and it will calm them down. That is the professional thing to do, and that is what you should do. Apologize on behalf of you and your company and you will be surprised how quickly the rider will stop complaining and calm down. Offer to help them. If they are late for an important appointment, offer to walk inside with them to explain the problem to the person they were meeting with. This is a sincere gesture that will mean a lot to the customer. Act like a professional and never be rude.
*Reprinted with permission from J.M. Rubino Consulting